Jennifer Hill Named to Succeed WFLA Meteorologist John Winter
After more than a month with no permanent successor named for John Winter, the personable meteorologist who took his own life in April, officials at WFLA have named longtime weekend forecaster Jennifer Hill to join the weekday morning crew.
But since Hill’s appointment will simply continue her stay on the morning shift she’s been working for the last two weeks, station officials have been careful not to trumpet the change too loudly. News director Don North announced the move in a memo to staffers Friday, though he doubted anyone mentioned it on air.
And even though the move represents a step up for Hill, everyone at WFLA is aware of the tragedy which precipitated the change.
“Jennifer would be the first one to tell you she’d wished things had worked out differently,” said North, who added that Hill’s ease working with morning anchors Bill Ratliff and Gayle Guyardo over the past few weeks made the case for her appointment.
Winter, who died at age 39 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, inspired a deluge of condolences and tributes from viewers all over the Tampa Bay area. His death also left WFLA with just three full-time meteorologists weeks before the June 1 start of hurricane season.
Currently, reporter Peter Bernard – who once worked as a substitute forecaster at rival WFTS-Ch. 28 – is filling in on weekend mornings. WFLA hopes to hire a fourth meteorologist soon, North said.
“I don’t want to characterize (diversity issues) as why she got the job…(but) I think a staff that represents the community is a good thing,” said North. “Jennifer deserves the opportunity. She’s worked hard.”