Martin Savidge's dream job as a broadcast reporter has not always left him feeling like the best dad and husband.
Savidge, a Alpharetta resident who once worked as a reporter for CNN and NBC, was often sent to cover world events far away from the family he loves. So, in August he decided to do something drastic: he gave up his Atlanta-based NBC job and accepted a new position in New York as an anchor for a show that airs on public television.
That change came with a 5-hour commute twice a week, but it allows him to be home more than he ever has before.
"We have a normal life with many extraordinary moments," said Savidge's wife Blis. "And now he's here for more of those extraordinary moments."
One Saturday morning Savidge sat down and talked about his life, career and family and how intertwined those elements are.
Q: Why did you leave NBC for public broadcasting?
A: Well, I didn't necessarily look at it as going from commercial to public television, although that is what happened. I saw it as going from being in the role of a full time reporter to now being a reporter/anchor of a brand new program.
Q: How different is what you do now from what you did when you were with CNN or NBC?
A: It's actually better, if that can be said about any long absence away from your family. This time it is at least more structured. When I was a reporter, my family never really knew when I'd get the call and have to race off. It could have been right after breakfast, on a weekend or just as you are settling down thinking you're going to have dinner. And then when I left, it wasn't always clear when I was coming back. Sometimes that wouldn't be for more than a month, or longer. So, I think that wears on you as a family, when you try to plan anything and even when we did it was with the added line of, "barring breaking news."
Q: Why is your program, "Worldfocus," so important to you?
A: Because it is about a subject matter about which I feel very strongly, and that is international news. I feel like that's a subject Americans get too little information about. And it is vitally important whether it is, like now, trying to work out the global financial crisis we find ourselves in or dealing with the war on terror. We found out, tragically, what other countries, what other people, thought of us when airplanes began slamming into buildings, the Pentagon and into Pennsylvania.
Q: Why are you so passionate about international news?
A: I think it is because of where and how I grew up. Both of my parents were British, I was born in Canada and we would regularly go back to England and visit with family. So I always felt that I grew up in a household that was very aware that there was more to life, beyond the U.S. border. I guess I just grew up with this idea of wanting to travel and see more of the world because I was aware of it.
Q: How has your family adapted to your chosen profession? How have your children dealt with your absence?
A: There were so many times when I would disappear and go off to cover wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, which are just two of at least 10 wars — I think that's the count we came up with as a family — that I've covered. Whenever the kids wanted to see what their dad was doing they could turn on the TV. And a lot of times their dad was wearing body armor and reporting from places far away and from places that were very dangerous. I think from a young age they realized their father was doing something very different, and it was something important, but something that took him very far away from them. So there were times when they would come to me, if it was possible, or we'd meet in a neutral, safe place like London or Paris. Because I struggle with the balance of the job I have versus wanting to be the father and husband you want to be. There's no question that this profession puts a strain on your family.
Q: What were some of the most stressful aspects of your job?
A: It wasn't just the absence, but it was the unpredictable nature of when you might go. Birthdays are missed. Holidays are missed. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and all of the dates that are very important in a young person's life as they grow up. I guess like any parent, you try to make up for it by saying, "Well, let's go somewhere neat when we've got time to ourselves." But the reality is, that doesn't make it square with the child. They'd rather you just be there on an ordinary day, than you take them to far away or exotic places.
Q: Does your current job allow you to be at home more?
A: Actually, yes. Now at least, even though I'm gone all week, there's an understanding that I will be home on Friday night and I will be there for weekends.
MARTIN SAVIDGE FILE
• Age: 50
• Residence: Alpharetta
• Family: Wife, Blis; children, Stehl,16; Blis, 15
• Last movie seen: "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa"
• Last vacation: Barnsley Gardens (in August)
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