In Tampa Bay, Veteran Reporter Comes Out of Retirement

By Andrew Gauthier 

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St. Petersburg Times

If you saw retired reporter Rod Challenger popping up in stories on WFLA-Ch. 8, last week, it’s not a rerun. Like a few other folks who left the NBC affiliate this year, Challenger has agreed to return on a freelance basis to help the channel get through a period of short staffing.

Challenger, 66, said he’s working four days each week at WFLA through November, filling a general assignment role that sees him preparing a story on St. Petersburg mayoral race one moment and a hearing connected to the Walker Middle School rape case the next.

Years ago, when a reporter or anchor left a TV station, he was usually gone for good. But the current tough economic times have left several experienced broadcasters available when already thin news staffs can be stretched to the limit by vacations, unexpected illnesses or news emergencies.

Before Challenger, laid-off sports anchor Dave Reynolds briefly returned to WFLA and former WTVT anchor Bill Murphy appears as an anchor on Bay News 9, after joining the cable news channel part time to do profiles on local industry hot spots. More…