Tammie Souza becomes chief meteorologist at WTSP-Ch. 10
By about 3 p.m. Wednesday, it was official. All the papers had been signed and okays given, allowing WTSP-Ch. 10 to acknowledge they were hiring Chicago meteorologist Tammie Souza as their chief meteorologist — taking over a job held nearly 30 years by local legend Dick Fletcher until his death following a stroke in February.
What Souza and her new bosses at WTSP didn’t know, was that she would also be making local history, becoming the first female chief meteorologist in Tampa Bay area TV history.
Already, Souza, who said she starts at WTSP on Oct. 27, is part of a select group. According to a recent poll of more than 1,200 TV stations by the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Hofstra University, just 21.6 percent of weather forecasters at local stations nationwide are female.
Laura York, a former meteorologist at WTSP and WFLA-Ch. 8 who now owns her own PR firm, had a succinct interpretation of the station's strategy. “I think WTSP had to pull a McCain,” she said, referring to the way GOP candidate John McCain changed the presidential race by tapping Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
“Dick Fletcher was an icon, so they needed to hire someone who could shake it up,” added York, who worked at WFLA and WTSP from 1987 to 2000. “I like to see more women the in workplace, especially in the field of meteorology.”
Officials at WTSP denied they were overtly targeting female viewers in the hire, though they did show Souza to focus groups in an effort to gauge her impact on viewers. Serving on the board of the American Meteorological Society, Souza will also help the station complete its revamp of the weather department -- which let go morning and noon forecaster Anna Allen last month. Rosenwasser declined to comment, but forecaster Randy Rauch also expects to leave the station when his contract expires Sept. 29.
News of Souza's move initially broke Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times, but officials at WTSP couldn't confirm until the deal was finalized. Now, Souza’s biggest hurdle may be introducing herself to Tampa Bay area viewers who had grown used to Fletcher over the years — though the eight-month gap between his death and her arrival may help ease the transition.
“Nobody’s going to fill Dick’s shoes . . . he’s a legend and rightly so,” said Souza, who hopes to pay some tribute to her predecessor on air when she joins the newscast. “I’m here to pick up the torch and carry it forward. Hopefully, people will like your style and want to follow you.”