TAMPA — Longtime news anchor Denise White let her viewers in on a secret during her Monday evening newscast that she'd been wanting to share for a while.
After 25 years at Fox's WTVT-Ch. 13 and 40 years in the broadcasting business, she's retiring at the end of the month. And don't mistake her on-air sniffles for grief.
"As a matter of fact, that was me doing cartwheels down Kennedy Boulevard earlier today," she said with a laugh.
"I'm happy for you," said co-anchor Cynthia Smoot. "I'm really sad for us. You're just irreplaceable."
"People always say, 'What are people like on TV?' But you, what people see on TV is what they get," said meteorologist Paul Dellegatto. "There is nothing fake. Your laugh will never be forgotten."
In 1990, White left a Miami station to begin her career at Ch. 13, joining Kathy Fountain in the 5 p.m. slot — the first female anchor duo in Tampa Bay television.
The pair quickly bonded and, for nearly 20 years, charmed audiences with their camaraderie. They finished each other's sentences and complemented each other's personalities: Fountain, gentle, and White, direct.
For some time in the 1990s, White was the highest-profile minority anchor in the local market, the sole black journalist anchoring a weekday evening newscast. Then, many minority reporters were relegated to the "weekend ghetto," White told the Tampa Tribune in 1998.
"I've always been impressed that my station was the first to break with the status quo and open the doors of opportunity on its main news shows," she told the St. Petersburg Times in 1998. "I can only hope that wisdom continues to prevail."
White has covered hurricanes, homelessness, drug abuse and social issues. After a fatal police shooting involving a white officer and a black motorist sparked unrest in St. Petersburg, White co-hosted a live town hall meeting in the city.
In 2013, she interviewed first lady Michelle Obama at the White House.
"We were all a little emotional tonight," said John Hoffman, WTVT's vice president of news. "It was classic Denise White. … She was funny and professional and emotional, all in one."
Some of White's most compelling work, Hoffman said, were her Black History Month profiles of local history makers.
"She was a great advocate for the black community, both behind the scenes and on the air," he said. "She worked very hard on them, and she researched them deeply, and I think a little bit of her own life was reflected in those."
White, who just turned 60, called her work a privilege.
"I hope that I've done it with credibility and with professionalism and with dignity, and I just want to thank you for watching," she said on air Monday.
When she signs off Nov. 25, she leaves a hole in the noon and 5 p.m. newscasts. The station has not yet announced her fill-in.
White said adjusting to retirement won't be easy, but she told Hoffman she won't be returning to television any time soon.
After 40 years, and a brief role as a drug informant in a 1980s episode of Miami Vice, she's ready for life off-camera.
Contact Claire McNeill at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.