Changing Lanes at Any Age: From Sportscaster to Media Mogul, Tim McNiff

by | Sep 2015

Tim McNiff headshot

Photo: Tate Carlson

Former KARE 11 sportscaster shows it’s OK to change the lineup, and the job, in any inning of the game.

It’s silly to think that the career choice we all make at age 22, right out of college, is what we’re “stuck with” until retirement. It’s never too late to change lanes, and White Bear Lake native Tim McNiff has done just that.

Growing up, McNiff, a White Bear Mariner High School graduate, wanted to become a professional athlete. “Plan B was to become a sportscaster,” he says. “I had an amazing recall for useless stats and information,” which he knew would be a helpful skill in the industry. He didn’t truly realize what he wanted to do until becoming a sports intern at KARE 11 in 1986.

In 1993, McNiff was hired as a sports producer and spent 11 years as a sports anchor for the station, and then moved to the morning anchor position in 2004.

But earlier this year, a lane change appeared. “I wasn’t really looking to leave,” McNiff says. He was introduced to Kristi Piehl, founder and CEO of Media Minefield and former reporter for KSTP-TV. They discussed her business, which had been up and running for three and a half years, and McNiff started being able to see himself with the company. “I went to KARE and told them I was thinking of leaving,” McNiff says. “And they were very generous in trying to get me to stay.” But it felt like the right time for a change, so McNiff said goodbye to his position at KARE and two decades of journalism.

Media Minefield is a non-traditional, news-driven public relations firm. They create opportunities for their clients to appear in TV news settings, “talking about timely topics to educate the public on a topic,” McNiff says. It’s a win-win-win situation, because “the viewer is educated, the news entity gets informed guests and a way to advance the story, and our client gets to up their ‘brand.’ ”

As executive director of media relations, and a well-known public figure, McNiff is the voice and face of the company. He gets to choose who he represents and has “an opportunity to influence public opinion,” he says. The difference, McNiff says, is “now I’m not intending to be impartial.”

That change in his job is what drew him to change lanes—along with most of his coworkers at Media Minefield. “I like to say we’re all TV refugees,” McNiff says. “We’re all former TV journalists.”

This change was what was right for him at the moment, which is the case for many middle-aged individuals. But these decisions should not be taken lightly. “If you are contemplating a change, do your homework and really apply yourself,” he says, “because the grass isn’t always greener.”

For him it’s been a wonderful reboot, allowing him to learn a whole new set of skills, and applying them to something he cares about. “People get hung up on numbers,” McNiff says. “It’s not about what your driver’s license says. It’s about what makes you happy.”

Karen Carr, owner of Revitalize Life Coaching, offers tips on changing lanes:

  • Do some soul searching.
  • Prioritize your values.
  • Talk with a counselor/life coach.
  • Visualize yourself in the job.
  • Reflect on past successes.
  • Gather your support team.
  • Network.
  • Eat well and exercise.

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