Reinvention is key to angst of the axe

When Tracey Spicer was dumped from Network Ten six years ago, her former colleague Bill Woods was quick to offer support on the phone.

''He said these lovely things about my professionalism, my talent, my ability,'' Spicer recalls. ''It was so nice to hear that from a colleague who I admired immensely.''

Last month it was Spicer's turn to support Woods when the Sydney newsreader was shown the door. He was one of about 40 newsroom staff who were fired when Ten failed to find 100 voluntary redundancies after shows such as Breakfast and Everybody Dance Now bombed.

Spicer has become something of a poster girl for reinvention in the cut-throat world of television.

''I was flattered that a lot [of people] asked me for advice. I told them this is the best thing that will ever happen in your career, you will diversify, you will reskill,'' Spicer says.

Spicer carved out a new career for herself editing a family travel magazine, broadcasting on 2UE and Sky, and writing opinion pieces - all of which she fits around her children, Taj, 8 and Grace, 6.

''I would never go back to working full-time for one organisation,'' Spicer says. ''I have more flexibility, I am happier, I'm earning more money and I have more time with my kids, which is the important one.''

While news of high-profile television industry casualties makes headlines, their future career paths are less scrutinised.

But delve into ''what happened next'' and, whether it's being embraced by another network, diversifying or heading overseas, most careers changed course for the better.

''People who have got talent and can use that talent will eventually succeed in the right environment,'' says Peter Meakin, Channel Seven's departing news and current affairs boss. ''Sometimes management gives people the wrong vehicle, sometimes they choose the wrong vehicle.

Larry Emdur has had his disappointments [Nine cancelled The Price Is Right twice when he was host] but he's certainly doing well now [hosting The Morning Show at Seven].

While being axed is bruising, it isn't fatal for a TV career. ''You generally end up reborn or reinvented,'' one industry veteran says. ''It's a small talent pool.''

David Hurley, the former executive producer of A Current Affair and close mate of Nine boss David Gyngell, has seen many careers reinvented during his 25 years in television. ''If you've made it at one of the networks, you're likely to be reasonably regarded at the other networks,'' Hurley explains.

Seven is a pro at revitalising discarded talent. It picked up Jessica Rowe as a Weekend Sunrise newsreader when she was infamously ''boned'' by then Nine boss Eddie McGuire, gave Kerri-Anne Kennerley a new lease on life as a Dancing with the Stars contestant after Nine canned her long-running morning show, and offered John Mangos work when he was sacked from Sky News.

Like Spicer, many commercial TV presenters find new life on pay TV at Sky News, including Leigh Hatcher, Tim Webster, Helen Dalley, and Terry Willesee. But for some people, reinvention will prove difficult, if not impossible. The Kiwi host of Ten's short-lived Breakfast program, Paul Henry, is unlikely to work in this town again. Naomi Robson's television career never recovered from reporting on Steve Irwin's death for Today Tonight with a lizard perched on her shoulder. In 2010 Robson refashioned herself as an online relationships guru, but shut down her website The Naomi Show after 14 months to focus on her corporate media training business.

Often an overseas posting provides respite from the Australian media fishbowl. Stan Grant fled to CNN when Seven fired the then Today Tonight host after knowledge of his affair with colleague Tracey Holmes became public on the eve of the Sydney Olympics. After 11 years spent mainly overseas, Grant will be back on Australian screens in the new year, hosting a new program, Newsnight, for Sky.

Similarly Anna Coren, who was frequently sent up by The Chaser when she hosted Today Tonight, escaped to CNN Asia in 2008, and has been awarded for her work at the network the past two years in a row.

There is always work going for experienced TV hands. Mike Willesee is back doing stories for Seven's Sunday Night and Ray Martin is on a retainer at Nine.

''A lot of people still do good work and they're pretty old,'' Meakin says. ''Two things come with age: experience and senility. As long as management can pick the difference we're OK.''

This story Reinvention is key to angst of the axe first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.