Jennifer Howe was just a few hours into her shift Sunday, preparing to anchor WTSP-Ch. 10's 5 p.m. Webcast, when the news director asked her to come to his office.
Before long, Howe's concern about seeing the top news manager in the building on a weekend were realized: She was informed the St. Petersburg CBS affiliate was exercising its option to end her contact early, terminating her employment.
Howe says she was told to turn in work-related materials and asked to leave the building. Heather Van Nest anchored WTSP's late night newscast; Howe says she was never told why the station chose to let her go.
"(News director Darren Richards) said they chose to do it on a Sunday because there were fewer people around," said Howe, 42, who worked at WTSP for more than 12 years.
WTSP general manager Sam Rosenwasser said he could not comment on the specifics of Howe's termination and wasn't sure who would replace her in the long term. Peter Nikiel, WTSP's director of marketing and promotion, said such abrupt transitions sometimes happen in the TV news industry.
In the past few weeks, WTSP has let go weather forecasters Anna Allen and Randy Rauch and traffic reporter Meredyth Censullo. But Nikiel said the trickle of departures hasn't damaged morale at the station.
"It's TV — people come and go for a lot of different reasons," said Nikiel, who could not say who would replace Howe on the station's weekend newscasts in the short or long term. "We will continue on, like we always have."
Howe came to WTSP as a morning anchor in 1996, moving to the weekends in 1997. She was married to former WTSP anchor Pat Minarcin, who won almost $300,000 in 2002 after filing an age discrimination lawsuit against the station. He was replaced by current evening anchor Reginald Roundtree in 1998.
Howe said her departure likely had nothing to do with that lawsuit. Her marriage to Minarcin ended in 2006; they have a daughter, 7-year-old McKenna Katrina Minarcin.
A native of St. Petersburg, Howe hopes to develop work voicing commercials and stay in the Tampa Bay area.
"A lot of media outlets are suffering economic difficulties and having to make tough decisions," Howe said. "I just wished I'd had a chance to say goodbye last night."