As layoffs at media outlets increase, there aren't many journalists who would relocate to one of the country's most competitive media markets with no job in hand.
But that's exactly what WTSP-Ch. 10 lead sports anchor Justin Allen will do when his contract ends June 25, moving back to his home state of California with no employment lined up and little idea how he might earn a living.
Longtime anchor Dave Wirth is in talks to take Allen's spot on the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. weekday shows, returning to sportscasting after nearly five years anchoring WTSP's 4 p.m. newscast; the station, now known as "10 Connects," announced last week it will shutter that broadcast on May 25. Weekend sports anchor Angela Jacobs is also still in talks with WTSP, as local TV stations across the country explore ways of cutting back on sports staffing.
Allen shrugged off speculation that he might be leaving to avoid a layoff, saying the station offered him a new contract. But the sports anchor decided to take advantage of the industry's current instability to move closer to his West Coast roots in Los Angeles.
"It's easy to see where local sports news is headed," said Allen, 38, noting how rival WFLA-Ch. 8 has cut back to one sports anchor, using sports reporters from sister outlet the Tampa Tribune to fill in. "A lot of people think I'm crazy turning down a guaranteed job. But as tight as the economy is, I feel something will come my way … and I've always wanted to get back to California."
Wirth, 54, began work at WTSP in 1984 as a weekend sports anchor and sports reporter. He could offer few details on his talks with WTSP, beyond acknowledging that the station may ask him to work one weekend day if he takes the sports anchor job.
"I know we both want to get something done," said Wirth, who saw his longtime 4 p.m. co-anchor Marty Matthews let go in March after nearly 15 years at WTSP. "Like everyone else in the building, we all have to pitch in and do more … and we're talking about lots of things. It's a little unusual."
Allen, who is single with no children, would still like to cover sports, but is keeping his options open for a wide range of TV jobs. "I'm excited about it all," said the anchor, who grew up in the San Francisco area. "I'm sick of missing family events, and I've gotten to a point where I'm ready for something new."