By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed Sunday, May 1, 2016
11 Alive employees past and present showed up Friday evening to fete 15 departing WXIA-TV employees who took a recent early retirement package.
At Tavernpointe, a stone’s throw from 11 Alive’s old headquarters in Midtown, 11 Alive reporter Doug Richards gathered what former reporter Paul Crawley dubbed the largest gathering of 11 Alive alum in his memory. Some traveled in from out of state to be there. Collectively, the news experience in that restaurant spanned more than 1,000 years.
Among those who came by: 11 Alive anchors Brenda Wood and Valerie Hoff; current reporters Matt Pearl, Jennifer Leslie, Jaye Watson, Jerry Carnes and Bill Liss; meteorologist Chesley McNeil, former sports anchors Fred Kalil and Randy Waters, retired anchor John Pruitt, beloved former meteorologist Johnny Beckman, chopper/reporter veteran Bruce Erion, former news director and current CBS Atlanta GM Mark Pimental, former community specialist Evelyn Mims, former sports anchor Joe Washington and former reporter Kay Flowers.
Keith Whitney, who came to the station 23 years ago and took the retirement package, said he was initially reluctant to show up, saying he was not a big fan of parties. But ultimately, he said had a good time because so many old-timers came by. At age 55, he just made the cut for the early retirement package and plans to find another job.
Donna Lowry, who looks like she’s in her 30s but is actually in her 50s, had been at 11 Alive as an education reporter for a whopping three decades. She took the buyout as well. She said she had a tough time the last week, the sentimentality washing over her. “It’s an amazing journey to be in this business at the same place for 30 years,” she said. During that final week, “I cried again and again. It was waterworks! It’s bittersweet.”
She plans to do media consulting and possibly go into teaching.
Kevin Rowson, 62, who joined 11 Alive in 1994, said he has post-11 Alive plans but can’t reveal them just yet. He said he is deeply grateful for how the station treated him. “They allowed me to do what I love, which is tell stories,” Rowson said. “I especially enjoyed crime stories. They appreciated that and supported me.”