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Jerry Hayes announces new role in the newsroom

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - There comes a time in one’s life when you say to yourself, “It’s time to hang it up and go to the house.” I’m not there yet. No, I’m not retiring and no, I’m not ready to take off the microphone one last time and walk out of the newsroom. But I am ready for a change.

For most of the more than 37 years I’ve been blessed to work at WHNT News 19, I’ve been on the night shift. I come in at 2 p.m. and don’t leave most nights until 11:30 p.m. Those of you who work the evening shift know what I’m talking about. It can be tough. It can be challenging. You miss little moments in life that you can never get back because you’re working. I’m at the point in my career and my life that I need a change.

When I started working at WHNT, I was anchoring weekends and reporting three nights a week. A few years later, I was moved to co-anchor the 10 p.m. newscast.  After leaving the 10 and co-anchoring the noon and reporting dayside, I finally felt like I had a normal life. That didn’t last long.

Jerry Hayes, early in his career as a journalist

Jerry Hayes, early in his career as a journalist

In November of 1983, I was offered the chance to anchor the 6 and 10 weeknights. It was a big move. It was what I had worked so hard to achieve. I couldn’t pass it up. It has been a part of my life for the past 33 years. Well, other than the brief time I asked my news director at the time to let someone else do the 10 so I could report during the day and anchor the 6. That lasted a couple of years before I went back to the 10. I also anchored the 5, 6 and 10 for 7 years along the way. And then I added the 6:30 to my anchoring duties after the horrific day of April 27, 2011. After 28 years on the 6, I told my boss that I would love to do the 6:30 and 10 and Greg Screws moved into the anchor chair at 6. With the addition of the 4 o’clock newscast now, Greg is adding that to his duties and I’ve picked up the 5 again. So now, I’m anchoring the 5, 6:30 and 10. Did you get all of that? I have enjoyed every minute of sitting at the anchor desk and bringing the news home to our viewers all those years, but I need some Jerry time.

Several months ago, I went to my boss, Denise Vickers, and asked her if she would consider letting me go back to a dayside/early evening shift so I could have a life outside of work. It was a big step for me, but one I needed to take. She told me she would think about it. I had talked to my daughters about the move and they both encouraged me to have the conversation. I’m glad I did. So, more than 37 years into my career at WHNT, I’m making another change. This one will allow me to live a more normal lifestyle, if there is such a thing in the television news business. Starting September 12, I will be moving dayside to help out in the newsroom and anchor the 5 and 6:30 with Melissa Riopka weeknights.

I was on the track team in high school. I ran the half mile, low hurdles and second leg on the 880 relay. So in that spirit, I’m handing off to Greg Screws who will be joining Clarissa McClain on the 10 p.m. newscast. My part of that race is over. I’m not leaving, slowing down and again, I’m not retiring. I just want to hand the baton to someone who will continue to run the race. You will be in good hands.

I am excited about the move and so are my family and friends. It will allow me to get back to doing what I enjoy most about this business - telling stories. I’ll have more to say about that down the road so stay tuned.

So many times when I’m grabbing something for dinner or shopping, people will ask me, "shouldn’t you be at work?" I always smile and reply, "I’ll be there at 10." Starting next month though, if you see me shopping or having dinner in a restaurant, I’ll be living life just like you rather than racing back to the station and eating at my desk while I look over scripts. I’ll be enjoying my evening. But of course, I’ll try to be home in time to catch WHNT News 19 at 10.