WFLA-Ch. 8 weather forecaster Jennifer Hill leaving the station later this year
Many people do all they can to focus on keeping their jobs in an uncertain time. But others use the circumstances as an opportunity to do more -- to reach for something new in their careers and lives.
WFLA-Ch. 8 morning meteorologist Jennifer Hill says this is the spirit which motivated her to announce her departure from the station, at a date to be determined, amid plans to move with her husband and 5-year-old son to the West Coast.
In television, leaving a job with no new one in hand is often a euphemism for a layoff. But Hill says she's instead following a similar path blazed by former WTSP-Ch. 10 sports anchor Justin Allen, who left the local CBS affiliate last year for a move west with no job in sight.
"I was talking with (evening anchor) Gayle Sierens, and she said,. 'I just realized I’ll never be a stay at home mom,' because her youngest child was going to college," said Hill, who came to WFLA in 2002 as a weekend forecaster, moving to morning in 2007 after the suicide of forecaster John Winter. . "I realized time can pass really quickly, before you know it. Which doesn't stop me from having total panic attacks all of the time (about the decision)."
Hill says the decision was many months in the making, sparked by thinking about alternative career options after the widespread layoffs and cutbacks at WFLA owner Media General's Tampa outlets last year. She expects to stay at WFLA at least until mid-March, unless the station finds a replacement sooner.
The retirement of morning anchor Bill Ratliff last year led to Hill, traffic reporter Alicia Roberts and anchor Gayle Guyardo gaining increased roles -- and though Guyardo is leaving the station Feb. 26, Hill has agreed to stay longer as WFLA looks for a new forecaster and brings on new morning anchor Rod Carter.
"It's hard to argue with people when they want to get off a morning show because the schedule is wearing them out," said WFLA news director Don North, who added the station might promote from within and hire a new forecaster to work another timeslot. "She's wanted to go the West Coast -- which is home for her -- and she finally did it."
Hill expects to do some work with MDi-TV.com, an Internet-based company which prepares stories on medical issues for industry professionals.
She admits that it feels odd to move toward a job outside meteorology after so many years. "But the other thing about following your heart, is that you have to take fear out of the equation," she said. "So I'm going for it."