This post is by David Sutta, the CEO of Clutch/David Sutta Photography. He worked in the television news business 2001-2020 as a reporter, investigative reporter and special projects reporter for NBC and CBS News
There are three ways you leave the news business. An email announcing you are moving on to another station in a bigger city, an email stating you are no longer welcome in the building, and silence. Yes, silence. You simply disappear from the broadcast. Poof! I’ve seen all three happen to colleagues over my nearly 20 year career in news. I can tell you none of them predicted how decades of spectacular work would end. It is an eye-opening experience to watch 20, 30, 40 year careers shown the door, often replaced by someone willing to do the same job for a third of the pay. At the end of the day you realize that yes, this is journalism – the fourth estate, but it is also a business. I quickly learned that the news business “owes me nothing”. And yet it gave me everything.
Over the past two decades I have been on the front lines of some of the biggest stories. I’ve perfected the art of safe hurricane coverage with front row views of Hurricanes Charley, Irma, Wilma and about 40+ others. I have been on the campaign trail with three presidents, four governors, dozens of mayors and more local seats than I can remember. Some have inspired me. Many let me (us) down. I was able to bring important issues to light. We told stories that motivated people to action. Their actions changed laws and society was better for it. The news took me to new depths including swimming with giant tiger sharks, exploring underwater caves, and going places only a handful of people have seen.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunities the news business gave me, but beyond the cool and/or impactful stories was the true gift. Talent. Everyday I stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the brightest people on the planet. Creatives. Geniuses. Analytical thinkers. Quick-Witted stars. They are photographers, editors, producers, reporters, and managers who shared their gifts with me. I soaked it all in like a sponge. Learning from the best how to be the best.
Many years ago I learned that sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself. It’s more than a saying. It is truly about taking on something you know nothing about. Going to unfamiliar places. Leaving your safe space. In those moments you discover what your made of, what your capable of, and what is possible. Thirteen years ago I started a photography company knowing nothing about the industry. Through many sleepless nights, seven day workweeks, and constantly “grinding” we took a passion of mine into a full fledged company. We met many remarkable people along the way who gave us an opportunity. We never looked back.
The news business taught me that:
In 2018 we celebrated 10 years in business. It was clear the little company I built was not so little anymore. What started as some portraits and weddings had exploded into major corporate work. We were competing with the big boys. Multi-million dollar production companies were trying to keep up with us?! All that experience in news, all those talented people I worked alongside, working on tight deadlines day after day had given me a truly unique experience… or as some might call it… an edge.
This year David Sutta Photography became CLUTCH. No, not the gear shift in your car. And no, not a handbag. The adjective of clutch: “Successful in a crucial situation.” The word was a good fit for me and the team I have assembled. CLUTCH is the next chapter for me as I “retire” from the news. I want to give the talented people I meet real opportunities to learn and grow. I want to help great companies reach beyond what they think is possible. And I want to get lost. Time to leave the safe space; go new places and discover what else is possible.
There are three ways you leave the news business: move up, move out, or disappear. Today I am inventing a fourth option. On my own terms.
Thank you to all the incredible people who have helped me along this journey (too many to write here). And thank you to my wonderful family and friends for supporting me through countless hours of working, building, and grinding.