WFLA-Ch. 8 medical reporter Irene Maher laid off after 23 years
Maher, 52, is the longest-tenured on air personality to be claimed by layoffs at Tampa's NBC affiliate; meteorologist Mace Michaels and reporter Claudia DoCampo also were let go earlier this year. WFLA owner Media General is cutting staff at all its media outlets, particularly in Florida, with a total 250 positions expected to be eliminated at their properties in the Sunshine State by the year's end.
Maher couldn't say when her last day at WFLA would come -- she hadn't yet worked out the details of her departure with superiors. She admitted surprise at the news, given that she has practiced multimedia journalism at WFLA for years, penning a column for the Tampa Tribune and items for TBO.com in addition to her on air work.
Other on air folks laid off at WFLA have been allowed to seek work at other area TV stations, their contract's non-compete clauses waived by Media General. But Maher couldn't say if she'd seek another position locally -- admitting that the idea of starting as a newbie elsewhere has little appeal.
She also couldn't say what WFLA would do for health news once she leaves. The station exercised an option in her contract allowing them to notify her in advance that they would not renew it.
"It's such a disappointment," she told me by telephone from her home, where calls of consolation have been coming all day from friends and colleagues. "I felt I was a productive person and brought a lot to the table. And I'm sorry for all the people out there who relied on my medical reports and now may not get that information. I can't tell you what a privilege it has been to have this job."
A native of Virginia, Maher came to WFLA in 1985 from WAVY-TV in Portsmouth/Norfolk, hired as a medical reporter and eventually serving as weekend anchor.