TAMPA — On a recent Saturday morning, WFLA-Ch. 8 news anchor Rod Carter stood in the fellowship hall of Ybor City's Allen Temple AME Church talking about his job as a newscaster as part of the church's Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Program.
He offered an animated and engaged presentation, as if hosting a black-tie gala. And he has hosted a few of those.
Carter knows a few of the folks in the room. Perhaps he just saw them at a fraternity function, cookout, or some other social event. But it's also likely that he just saw them the night or weekend before.
Over the past six months, he has appeared at events for the Sisters Network, the Hillsborough County Library Council and the American Diabetes Association, a group that he's particularly close to. And his volunteer work will continue throughout the year.
While some spend their time reading to the elderly or cleaning out cages at the animal shelter, Carter said emceeing dozens of events a year — fashion shows, pageants, retirement celebrations — is his way to give back.
"I only have a limited amount of skill sets," he said. "And one of those is talking."
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Carter's mission to be "community-minded" also extends to his church, Beulah Baptist Institutional, where he serves as the church's webmaster, helped organize its 150th anniversary bash last year, and occasionally sings a solo, said pastor James Favorite.
"He was a blessing before he left and when he came back, he was a bigger blessing," Favorite said.
Carter said his mother, Catherine, was instrumental in rooting him in the church while growing up in Tallahassee. It's a source of his giving spirit.
And, it's all done from the heart. Carter said he purposely does not charge to host an event.
"I don't think I should get paid," he said. "If people are kind enough to ask me, then I should be kind enough to do it if my schedule allows."
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Carter hosts dozens of events across the Tampa Bay area, a large number of which are for charity and nonprofit organizations, but he's particularly committed to the Tampa and Southwest Florida Chapter of the American Diabetes Association, where he serves as a member of its Community Leadership Board.
Carter's affiliation with the association began while living in Birmingham, Ala., when he volunteered to emcee an ADA event. Shortly after, he was asked to serve on the association's Alabama board of directors. Carter agreed.
His appointment to the board would prove to be timely: just a few days before accepting the board position, Carter had learned his mother was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Since becoming active with the Tampa chapter, Carter has emceed the Tour de Cure, Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes and other association events. And he has used his position at WFLA to promote awareness about the association and diabetes.
"That platform is an opportunity to connect the organization to the audience," he said. "It's fun."
Carter has helped raise the association's profile in the community, said associate director Heather Figueroa.
"He's done a great job with fundraising," she said. "He's really all in."
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After graduating from Florida A&M University's well-regarded School of Journalism in 1990, Carter went on to establish himself in the business, crisscrossing the southeast with stints in Tallahassee, Gainesville, Augusta, Ga., and Birmingham.
He landed a spot at WFLA in 2000 and spent seven years at the station as a reporter and fill-in anchor. He returned to Birmingham in 2007 for an anchor position, but WFLA lured him back, giving him the coveted morning anchor spot.
Carter became the center of controversy when the station moved him from morning anchor to weekend anchor last year, a decision that drew scrutiny from the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists.
He said he was stunned when he first was notified of his new role but is now "embracing the change."
"I was not happy, but I was not unhappy," he said. "I am still employed and I get to do what I love to do."
After a period of uncertainty and confusion, Carter said he's at peace with the decision and understands that it "was made in the best interest of the newscast."
"It happens a lot in this business," he said. "I'm just trying to do the best job I can where I am."
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Aside from emceeing, another way Carter gives back is by mentoring young people, particularly journalists.
Since 2007, he has returned to his alma mater to assist with its annual multimedia short course, a four-day workshop where students are given hands-on experience and guidance from media professionals.
When the time is right, Carter said he would like to teach broadcast journalism at the university level, perhaps even at his beloved Florida A&M.
For now, he is committed to his current dream job.
"I still love creating and editing stories," he said. "After 25 years, I still love what I do."
Contact Kenya Woodard at [email protected]