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June 13, 2018 08:00 AM

Elizabeth Vargas‘ career at ABC has spanned nearly two decades, so when she decided to leave her long-time job, the decision wasn’t easy.

“It was difficult to say goodbye to my friends and colleagues,” she says in the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday. “A lot of us cried, but it’s the beginning of a new chapter and I’m excited.”

Perry Hagopian

After hosting World News Tonight and 20/20, Vargas officially left ABC at end of May to start a new role as the host of A&E Investigates, where she’ll be working on the network’s new documentary programs.

Taking just two days off between jobs, her first project for the network, Cults and Extreme Beliefs (Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET), focuses on controversial groups including NXIVM and The Family. For Vargas, having the the opportunity to devote more time to projects like 
this was one of the deciding factors in
 leaving ABC.

  • For more on Elizabeth Vargas, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

“I love doing live breaking 
news, but I’ve been doing that for 25
 years,” she says, having reported live
 from disaster zones and covered unforgettable tragedies like 9/11 and Ronald
 Reagan’s death. “The storytelling we’re 
doing now involves that in-depth, long-term digging.”

A&E

But mostly, Vargas says she feels grateful for her many years at ABC and her new beginning at A&E.

“It’s a tough business and I realize that a lot of talented people don’t make it,” she says. “So I feel very fortunate that I’ve had the long career that I’ve had.”

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