MIRAMAR – News of popular TV anchors leaving coveted positions usually comes with stories of contract disputes or other scandalous reports.
Not so with Julia Yarbough, who has resigned on her own terms, with no other immediate opportunity in sight.
The NBC 6 anchor's decision, essentially to take the road less traveled, is sending shock waves throughout South Florida.
Although she has yet to announce her decision on the newscast, bloggers are already buzzing with rumors of what she might do next.
In a telephone interview with the South Florida Times on Tuesday, however, she said she just wants to take it easy for a while.
“My first and foremost priority is to just not think for a chunk of time, to let my mind wander and my body rest,” the Emmy Award-winning journalist said. “I’ve been in the business for almost 22 years, working a break neck pace that whole time. And simply put, I just need to take a break for myself. I've decided that now is a good time.”
Yarbough, 43, of Miramar, is one of the most prominent African-American anchors in South Florida.
She announced her resignation from the station to her colleagues and managers on Aug. 19. She told them she plans to stay until early October, giving them time to find a replacement.
Her announcement comes only months after another prominent black journalist, Yvette Miley, the station’s former news director, was promoted to a job as executive editor of MSNBC in New York.
Yarbough, who also writes a travel and outdoors column for the South Florida Times, currently co-anchors the NBC 6 News at 6 p.m. and South Florida Tonight at 11 p.m. with co-anchor Jackie Nespral.
Her colleagues and managers will miss her.
“She is leaving, getting out of the industry, and we are terribly sad about it,’’ said Ardyth Diercks, the president and general manager of NBC 6. “She’s been with us 12 years. She’s been searching her soul for the last few years, and she feels the time is right to pursue a lot of things. We support her 1,000 percent. She has been an employee with class and elegance and an excellent journalist. We do nothing but wish her well. We’ll begin searching for her replacement immediately.’’
Yarbough, an avid amateur athlete who enjoys kayaking, running, weight training, snorkeling, skiing and biking, said she is mindful of how her decision might look to others, but she said she is more concerned with what’s right for her.
She will be successful at whatever she decides to do, said Nespral, her co-anchor, because "first and foremost, she's a good person."
Yarbough said the team at NBC 6 was "shocked, but not entirely surprised," by her decision. "My co-workers know that I'm a bit quirky and not like everybody else in a lot of ways."
In addition to Yarbough’s quirkiness, Nespral said, she is also the consummate professional.
"She is one of the most professional, generous people I've ever worked with. If you could say perfection, she would be it," Nespral said.
Clues that Yarbough’s life journey might be other than “traditional” surfaced earlier in her life when, after earning a degree in Economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara, she landed a reporting internship at a local TV station. She parlayed that opportunity into an impressive broadcasting career.
Two decades later, stepping off the beaten path continues to be a factor in Yarbough's life.
“Traditional thinking is you don't leave one thing before you have something else going,” Yarbough said.
Although she expects to continue her involvement in storytelling of some sort, she said, the details of how and when will have to wait.
“I just need to get myself rested so that I can think straight. How do I know what I really want to do? I’m so tired internally, I can’t think straight.”
Over the years, she said, she has found herself drawn to people who similarly think outside of the box. And she has become adept at seeking her own counsel.
“I’m not a religious person. I don’t go to church. I’m not a believer in organized religion at all. I've just always had a sense of listening to what my inner voice is telling me,’’ said Yarbough, who covered the 2008 Olympics in China and writes frequently about her love affair with the great outdoors.
The California native who began her career as an intern in Santa Barbara, came to NBC 6 in April 1998 as a general assignment reporter. She has also held positions in Pensacola and Louisville, Kentucky.
She came to NBC 6 from KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she served as weekend anchor and general assignment reporter. Prior to that, she worked in South Florida at WSVN-TV as morning and noon anchor. She also studied at Richmond College in London, England.
She is currently studying at Nova Southeastern University toward a Master of International Business Administration, according to her profile on the NBC Miami Web site.
Contemplation about leaving NBC 6 began swirling around in her head a couple of years ago, she said, when she acknowledged to herself that "you feel this tiredness bubbling up in you."
To make certain that she was fully prepared when and if she chose to step away, Yarbough said she decided to "clamp down…so that on that day when you wake up and go, ‘This is it, this is your time, you can do it.’"
What she described as her “very, very basic” lifestyle was a factor in her ability to walk away from her six-figure salary.
“I've never been a materialistic person. Despite what my public image and my job of what people think, I’ve lived really simply,” she said.
Despite loving her job as a TV anchor, Yarbough said, “I feel like I'm watching my life go by while I'm spending all these hours working.”
So, she said, after “soul searching and praying and meditating and talking to myself, I just decided, ‘You know what, Julia, you get one shot at this thing, life, and do you want to do something besides just work with your time?’’’
The door is open both ways, Yarbough said of her willingness to help the station beyond her departure, and of the station's willingness to take her back should she decide to return.
"My general manager, Ardy Diercks, she's wonderful. Very supportive, very understanding," she said, adding, "I could not have asked for a better situation at NBC 6. The experiences that I've had have been priceless. I flew in an F-16. I went to Beijing. I went to Torino. What I do for work has shaped…how I see the world."
Embracing a now-or-never philosophy, she said, "Life is short. Why don't I go experience life and see what happens."
Pictured above is Julia Yarbough.