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Tampa-St. Petersburg

Jennifer Leigh to Replace Gayle Sierens at Tampa’s WFLA

6191888_GTampa NBC affiliate WFLA announced last night that anchor Jennifer Leigh would replace a Tampa Bay local news legend, Gayle Sierens, who has been with the station since 1977. Leigh will assume the role of 11 p.m. anchor in January–though Sierens is off for the rest of the year, so Leigh effectively has taken the role already. She’ll replace Sierens at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. next May.

Leigh told the Tampa Bay Times it’s a humbling promotion:

“It’s still pretty surreal,” Leigh, 42, said. “I’m just really, really honored.”

For the past two and a half years, Leigh has anchored WFLA-Ch. 8′s 7 p.m. news show. She began her career with WFLA in 1993. A fifth-generation Floridian, she grew up in Lakeland and studied mass communications at the University of South Florida.

She said taking over for her mentor is a dream come true.

“It’s not all about me getting a promotion I’ve dreamed of, but filling the shoes of someone that is so beloved in this community,” Leigh said. “The magnitude of that is not lost on me.”

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Tampa Station to Expand Morning News

WFTS_Article2WFTS, the Tampa – St. Petersburg, Fla. ABC affiliate, is adding more local morning news starting January 12.

Viewers will now be able to watch the local morning news a half-hour earlier, starting at 4:30 a.m. The station is also adding a 9:00 a.m. news, after Good Morning America, which airs from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.

The station said Dan Shaffer, Deiah Riley, meteorologist Shay Ryan and traffic reporter Lindsay Logue will anchor the expanded news.

WTVT Anchor Chair to Stay in the Family

wilsons wtvtWhat better gift for an anchor father to give an anchor son than his anchor timeslot?

WTVT made it official, Mark Wilson will take over his father’s anchor chair on the FOX owned Tampa station’s 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. news on November 26.

“I’m very proud to announce that Mark Wilson will follow in his father’s footsteps as FOX 13’s evening anchor alongside Kelly Ring,” WTVT VP and news director John Hoffman said in a statement. “Like his father, Mark is a servant to the community and we look forward to him taking  on this important role at our station and continuing his father’s legacy.” Read more

Rape Suspect Arrested After Approaching WTVT News Crew

A man suspected of raping of fifteen-year old Tampa girl was caught by police after he rode his bike up to a WTVT news crew doing a story about the alleged rape.

Shayla Reaves and photographer Joe Vazquez were at the gas station where a picture of the suspect was snapped by security cameras. The reporter for the FOX owned Tampa station took a picture of the suspect with her cellphone then called police.

The man was later arrested and faces a possibility of life in prison.

[Florida News Center]

Retiring Tampa Anchor to Pass The Anchor Chair to His Son

Wilsons WTVTLongtime WTVT anchor John Wilson announced his retirement from the FOX owned Tampa station in May. The big question left lingering was, who would take his place?

Tonight, during the 6:00 p.m. news, sources tell TVSpy, WTVT plans to announce Wilson’s son Mark will be his replacement.

Wilson is staying true to his word about his retirement date. In May, he said he would step down “just before Thanksgiving.” His last day will be November 26.

The retiring Wilson joined the station in 1993. His son Mark came aboard in 1997.

WFTS Ousts News Director and Assistant News Director

WFTS-304Both the news director and assistant news director Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS have been let go.

The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports, GM Nick Nicholson told staff in an email that news director Bill McFarland and assistant news director Michele Murray “were no longer with the television station. We wish them the best in their future endeavors.”

Sources tell TVSpy the firings come in the aftermath of last month’s story about WFTS reporter Cameron Polom finding a child who had been reported missing.

The day after ten-year-old Paul Fagan was reported missing by his parents, Polom was walking through the boy’s neighborhood and saw him standing near a fence. Polom promptly turned him over to deputies.

Sources tell TVSpy that McFarland and Murray were not happy with how Polom handled the child’s return and thought he should have milked it for more exposure for the Scripps-owned station. An internal review of the situation was launched leading to today’s dismissals. We’ve reached out to WFTS GM Nicholson and Polom for comment but have not heard back. We will update when we do.

Computer Glitch Forces WFLA Anchor Into Extended ‘Tap Dance’

wfla_4PMStacie Schaible was never hired for her dancing, but Monday, the anchor did her best as a computer failure crashed most of the five p.m. newscast at Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA. “Watch @WFLA if you want to see us tap dance through the news,” she tweeted during the technical mess, which the station hashtagged as #equipmentmeltdown. “We are having tech difficulties but plowing through.”

WFLA news director Bill Berra tells TVSpy a computer board failed, leaving producers with no audio, and anchors without IFB. How much fun does that sound like? Berra says it took engineers a while to root out the cause of the failure, and that left Schaible doing her best. “Stacie did a very good tap dance under the circumstances.”

Haley Hinds Leaves WINK

Yesterday was anchor/reporter Haley Hinds‘ last day at Fort Myers, Fla, CBS affiliate WINK. Hinds is leaving the station after five years to join FOX owned WTVT in Tampa. She wrote the following on her Facebook page:

It’s a bittersweet morning for me. Today is my very last morning show on WINK News! In a couple weeks, I’ll start a new job at FOX 13 in Tampa. It’s been an incredible 5 years here in Fort Myers. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for welcoming me into your homes and watching me grow to be a better journalist each day. I’ll miss you all!

Hinds’ co-workers surprised her with the send-off above.

WTSP Promotes and Adds Anchor and Reporter

Lim Roundtree RobinsonWTSP has made a couple of changes around 25 year station veteran Reginald Roundtree.

Roundtree, who anchors the 5:30, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. news at the Tampa Bay CBS affiliate, recently lost his co-anchor Heather Van Nest.

Dion Lim (pictured right) who anchored the 5:00 with Van Nest and 5:30 p.m. with Roundtree is now off the 5:30 p.m., but will co-anchor with Roundtree on the 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. news.

Joining Lim at 5:00 and Roundtree at 5:30 will be Courtney Robinson (pictured left) who comes to the station from WZVN in Fort Myers. She will also report at 11:00 p.m.

Lim started at WTSP in January. Robinson has also worked at WJLA in Washington, D.C. and WSET in Lynchburg, Va.

Heather Van Nest Leaves WTSP

heathervannestWTSP evening anchor Heather Van Nest has left the Tampa CBS affiliate.

Peter Roghaar, WTSP news director, told TVSpy, “Heather has decided to leave the station to spend more time with her family. She will be missed.”

“While I enjoyed working with my friends at 10 News, I am excited for new work opportunities that allow for more flexibility in my family life. Working until midnight with a 1-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and husband at home is not ideal,” Van Nest posted on her facebook page. “I am eager to explore new opportunities as I continue to search for that unicorn we call “work/life balance.”

The Tampa Bay Times reports Van Nest hadn’t been on-air for a few days before the announcement, giving rise to rumors her contract wasn’t renewed.

Van Nest’s bio has been removed from the station’s website. She started her career as an editor, producer and anchor at WAOW in Wausau, Wis. She worked at WJXT in Jacksonville before coming to WTSP in 2002 as a morning anchor.