Retired veteran Rod Challenger returns to WFLA-Ch. 8 . . . for a month
If you've seen retired reporter Rod Challenger popping up in stories on WFLA-Ch. 8, it's not a rerun; like a few other folks who left the NBC affiliate this year, he has agreed to return on a freelance basis to help the channel get through a period of short staffing.
Challenger, 66, said he's working four days each week at WFLA through the month of November, filling a general assignment role which sees him preparing a story on the St. Petersburg mayoral race one moment and a hearing connected to the Walker Middle School rape case the next.
Years ago, when a reporter or anchor left a TV station, they were usually gone. But the current tough economic times have left several experienced broadcasters available at a time when already thin news staffs can be stretched to the limit by vacations, unexpected illnesses or news emergencies.
Before Challenger, former WFLA sports anchor Dave Reynolds returned to help out at WFLA, and former WTVT anchor Bill Murphy has appeared as an anchor on Bay News 9 after joining the channel part-time to film profiles on local industry hot spots.
Challenger voluntarily retired in February, capping 30 years at the station and 47 years in journalism, ready to spend more time with his wife and hobbies such as scuba diving. Now he's back rising with the dawn and chasing stories the same way he was eight months ago.
"They say I'm the Brett Favre of Ch. 8," said Challenger, who had to turn down a request to work three months. "I feel like I have a No. 4 painted on my back. But it's been nice to see everyone again."