Josh Rultenberg is a familiar face in the Lehigh Valley. For the past two years, he has been an on-air reporter for WFMZ-TV 69 News, a television station covering the third largest market in Pennsylvania.
From covering local and state elections, to advocating for those in need, to conducting interviews with Saquon Barkley, the Valley native and New York Giants running back, Rultenberg relished his role as a reporter.
Yet, the time has come to move on. Rultenberg made the decision to leave WFMZ, a station he loved, in order to pursue new career opportunities. His last day with the station was April 1.
Rultenberg made the decision to leave WFMZ before the coronavirus hit, unaware that record breaking unemployment rates were right around the corner. Now, he is looking for work at a time when media outlets are struggling and journalists are faced with furloughs and layoffs.
LVB talked to the Montgomery County native and Temple University alum about this turning point in time for journalists, and he shared why he remains positive despite the challenges.
LVB: How does it feel to be independent of WFMZ after a successful two year run?
I feel good. These are unusual times however. We are all going through a rough time navigating this new world.
LVB: With years of experience in broadcast journalism, what has stood out as the most valuable part of the job to you?
For me, it is being able to help the average everyday person who is in need, to advocate for them. I have brought issues that the local public is struggling with straight to the community leaders who can make change. I’ve held people accountable on a daily basis. That’s what good journalism is.
I also love that no two days are alike in this business. I get to meet people from all different walks of life.
What will you take with you moving forward from your time at WFMZ?
I got great coaching from Wendy Davis and Rob Vaughn, the evening news anchors at WFMZ. Both are Temple grads like me. Both very caring people.
Rob was there for me night in and night out for whatever I needed, whether it was writing help or some form of therapy.
Wendy is the director of the reporters. She taught me a lot about how to get to the inside story even when it is a challenge. She was a great mentor, even texting me when I was on air to tell me that I was doing a great job.
LVB: What do you see when you look ahead in your career now? How has the pandemic affected your job search?
Like I said, these are interesting times. I’m looking to contribute however I can to help us get through this pandemic. If there is a way I can help someone, I want to know. The more we do the right thing, the faster we get through this and get back to normal. I’ve been on the phone with community leaders to see where I might be needed.
Of course, finding work is 100 percent harder during a crisis like this. Businesses are struggling and they are not spending money on advertising. It’s no secret that the media is supported by advertising. With media outlets struggling, journalists are being laid off. Hiring has slowed down or stopped.
It’s very concerning for both people with jobs in journalism and people looking for work in the field. We don’t know how long this will last, and the longer it lasts, the more likely there will be job cuts, either temporarily or for good. It’s hitting all industries. Unemployment is at historic highs across the board.
When it’s over, the journalism industry will be looking at how much damage did we sustain, and how can we move forward? It’s in times like these that new inventions and business breakthroughs happen however. What innovations will come out of this time? What is being developed in someone’s basement right now that will change the world? Time will tell.
Overall, I know what I bring to the table and what I can offer business and the community. But realistically, at this time, I don’t have the affordability to be closed minded, I’m open to talking about different opportunities.
LVB: In your opinion, why are journalists a critical part of a society?
Journalists provide the truth. People forget that. Our loyalty is to the citizens. And that is vitally important right now. Journalists are the source of information on what is happening in the community with the pandemic. We serve an important role and sometimes risk our lives to deliver the truth. I hope people remember that. We don’t have an agenda. We are there for the public.
Now is a difficult time to be job searching. How are you navigating that?
Each and every day I am on the phone lines. I’m taking meetings, I’m doing interviews. I’m taking control of my own life and doing it on my terms. Reinvention is a great word for me right now.
I’m eager to find out what lies ahead. I hope to not just contribute, but to make a real difference. That’s what drives me.