Kerri Furey Tells All
Kerri Furey Tells All
By Larry Bonko
She never looked better. She never sounded better. She never delivered the news better. And she never was more popular with viewers in Hampton Roads.
At the age of 41, and at the top of her game, Kerri Furey in October up and left WAVY where for 12 years she co-anchored an early morning newscast that was a ratings juggernaut - a mix of news, weather and traffic served up by a perky staff that regularly beat the Nielsens of WTKR and WVEC combined.
Sample household ratings of “WAVY News 10 Today” in the Kerri Furey era: WAVY 9.3, WVEC 5.3, WTKR 2.1.
Why did Furey suddenly and unexpectedly walk away from a job she loved in a profession she’s been committed to since her years as Navy journalist Kerri Mattson? Why is Kerri Furey at home counting the freckles on her kids’ faces instead of sitting at the anchor desk at daybreak helping to make the viewers’ mornings easier?
Why? Why? Why?
Now we know.
In an exclusive interview with Veer Magazine, Furey stripped away the mystery.
“I wasn’t weary of morning news, just plain weary.”
In addition to co-anchoring “WAVY News 10 Today” with Don Roberts – they signed on at 4:30 a.m. – Furey was at the anchor desk for the noon newscast. She hosted the weekly “Kid Talk” and co-hosted the “The Hampton Roads Show” weekdays at 11 a.m., working in the field at times to produce the local postcards feature for that program.
She was a full time TV journalist and a full time wife and mother. Furey has a son who is seven, a daughter who is five.
Before departing, Furey told viewers of “The Hampton Roads Show,” “I have way too much on my plate.”
When she asked to give up the morning newscast, WAVY reportedly said no.
“I approached management in June and said I wanted to stay with WAVY but needed to come off the early morning news,” Furey said.
She hoped to continue with some of her other duties. “I was ultimately told it couldn’t happen. Part -time didn’t work for them. Going full tilt didn’t work for me.”
When asked why Furey could not be released from “WAVY News 10 Today,” and continue on the payroll, WAVY/WVBT general manager Doug Davis had no comment.
However, as Furey prepared to depart, Davis did toss her a salute, saying in a news relase, “Kerri has been a remarkable contributor to serving Hamton Roads in her 15 years at WAVY and WVBT. We are extremely grateful for her outstanding service and feel fortunate to have worked alongside her year after year. We are excited for Kerri and her family as she begins this next chapter in her life.”
Question for Davis: Isn’t some Furey better than no Furey? Why not let her continue on the midday news, “Kid Talk,” the postcards thing on “The Hampton Roads Show”?
News director Jim Gilchriest put into words what many viewers have been thinking since Furey announced that she’d be leaving: “She will be missed.”
“From big breaking stories such as hurricanes and the crash of a Navy jet in Virginia Beach to other hard news stories to ‘Kid Talk,’ and everything in between, Kerri has informed the people of Hampton Roads with flair and a smooth-as-silk style,” he said in the release of Oct. 12.
Question for Gilchriest: Why not have Furey on the payroll part-time? She’s willing.
“If there’s a situation that makes sense to everyone I would certainly be open to that,” Furey said. “I respect everyone at WAVY and don’t want to see the door slammed shut.”
Furey has been a working mother for seven years, trying to never ever miss a beat, trying to never let the pressure of raising two children while working in a highly competitive profession affect her reporting and anchoring. She was striving to be Super Mom, to do it all.
“That person the viewer saw in their house at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. was not the same person in my house at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. I was out of gas by then and that’s not fair to my family or myself. It was simply time to stop living on a different wheel than the rest of the family. My kids don’t realize that it’s not normal for their mom to put on her jammies, brush her teeth and go to bed at the same time as they do,” she said.
Furey’s alarm was set for 3:15 a.m. Her work day started at 4 a.m., ended at 1 p.m.
“When I left the station, I rolled into my second shift – being part of my family. I started that part of the day with a bit of a sleep and energy deficit.” Working moms everywhere will say amen to that.
Here’s more from Furey:
You asked off the 4:30 to 7 a.m. “WAVY News 10 Today.” What about continuing with “The Hampton Roads Show” at 11 a.m., which according to Davis, tapes at 8:15. Could you have handled that?
“I definitely wanted to keep doing that show. But it wasn’t possible on my end. The preparation for the show begins much earlier than its air time. The hosts are in their first pre-show meeting at 7:30 a.m. I asked to have the taping moved to 9 so I could drop the kiddos off at school at 8 – they go to different schools – and have enough time to get back to the station even if I were caught in a bridge lift. The answer was ultimately no. I was told that the production schedule for the show could not be changed to accommodate me, and that’s okay. There is a fine line between defending my turf at home and sounding like a real diva at work.”
There is a non-compete clause in the last contract you signed with WAVY, which keeps you from working for another station in this market for one year. When that restriction expires, would you consider returning to TV news with another local station?
“I can’t imagine being in any other newsroom right now but I am not calling myself retired. In fairness to WAVY, I would bring my concerns about work/family balance anywhere I went.. So if keeping me on the roster in a smaller role didn’t make sense at the station I was with for 15 years, it may not make sense anywhere. The one-year non-compete clause sounds restrictive. But in a way it’s a blessing. Twelve months to make peace and make plans. I might go finish that college degree. I might look for freelance work. I might make my floors shine.”
People leave jobs for any number of reasons that include not being happy with their salary. Did money figure into your decision to depart WAVY? Some viewers believe you walked away from big bucks.
“Big bucks is a relative term. Until someone figures out how to buy time or sleep it just wasn’t going to solve my problems. We didn’t have a negotiation fall apart over some big-headed salary demand. A complete departure wasn’t anyone’s first choice. I know that my sendoff was fantastic. I had 15 years. The last 15 weeks were rough but how could I resent the place that in 1997 took a chance on a 25-year-old with three months of civilian experience? Okay, so I spoke fluent Navy. But come on, I’ve been incredibly blessed.”
If you are not retired, might you seek work in a market outside of Hampton Roads perhaps when your children are older?
“I have no plans to leave Hampton Roads. I had an offer from a station in Boston, my hometown, in 2003 but turned it down because my husband and I wanted to start our life together here and raise our kids here. When we travel to New England, and return to Hampton Roads, we say we’re headed home in both directions. My husband, Kevin, is a transplanted New Englander who is an Old Dominion U. graduate. His transplanted roots are even deeper than mine.” (Kevin Furey is a financial advisor and the resident director of the Virginia Beach office or Merrill Lynch. The Fureys wed in 2004).
Tell us about life after television news. Do you miss being at the anchor desk?
“Yes, but the studio is such a small sliver of the whole experience. I miss the green room, the control room, the newsroom. I think ‘The Hampton Roads Show’ has done a great job in letting the audience get to know the crew a little bit as well as the cast. The smartest, funniest, best-looking folks in the building work in the darkest corners. Trust me on this. I loved doing the morning news on TV, loved the team, loved the viewers. It was very difficult for me not to be part of the coverage of Hurricane Sandy and the November elections. That said, I am enjoying the time at home with my husband, kids and dog. I am checking off things on a list of things to do that are years overdue.”
You’re no longer a daily presence on local television. Where else might we see Kerri Furey?
“I recently emceed a comedy night for the PIN ministry, the Senior Showcase in Virginia Beach, also the Stall Ball for Equi-Kids. I am still very interested in doing volunteer work. Helping charities. I would love to get special assignment status (from WAVY) to take part in April in the annual March of Dimes Walk sponsored by WAVY and Eagle 97.3. (WGH-FM). I like working with school children. I chaperoned my son’s field trip to a pumpkin patch and joined my daughter for lunch at her school. Otherwise, I’m pacing myself and catching up on rest.” (PIN or People in Need Ministry is a Virginia Beach homeless outreach center. The sixth annual Stall Ball benefited the Equi-Kids therapeutic riding program).
Just how hard was it to live the life on a TV personality who starts work at four in the morning?
“Our family’s weekends were pretty short. I was too tired to do anything much on Fridays. Sundays were cut short because I had an early bedtime. There are others in early-morning television who require less sleep. While it became difficult for me, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great situation for others who require less sleep, have family who lives closer or a spouse who stays home. The four-to-one shift is full of parents who are doing fantastic in every arena of their lives.”
Your children attend school today. When they were little how were they cared for while you and your husband were at work?
“We had a woman provide child care in our home until our children started pre-school. We were blessed to find someone we could trust. And we adore her.”
The “Farewell to Kerri” hour of “The Hampton Roads Show” was emotional. Fun, too. What surprised you about the way your colleagues said goodbye?
“The biggest surprise of the farewell show was seeing Tracey Rosa walk in and sit down with me. I had no idea she was coming and was so glad to have her as my wing man. She made a similar (work/family) decision a few years back and has been a constant source of great advice, perspective and humor since then. (Rosa, a graduate of Old Dominion U., is a former reporter/anchor at WAVY where she reported on weather events that included snowfalls and hurricanes. She’s director of marketing and sales for Fit Crew – performance based fitness – in Bradenton, Fa.)
That farewell hour introduced the USS Multiple Mention. What’s that?
“A great going away gift from the crew of ‘The Hampton Roads Show’ was a framed doodle. I didn’t know about this until my last day. Every time I worked the fact that I was in the Navy into a conversation on the air, the crew put an asterisk in an outline of a ship, the USS Multiple Mention. It’s all filled in. I’m telling you that they are wicked sharp. It has been an honor to serve this community. Those who said they were going to miss me the most also offered me the greatest encouragement when it came time for me to decide to slow things down for me and my family. I hope to run into all of them in a grocery store some time.”
Among those bidding farewell to Furey on “The Hampton Roads Show” was Thomas Roberts, MSNBC anchor and a former colleague at WAVY. His advice: “Turn off the alarm clock and go enjoy yourself.”
Furey and her husband attended his wedding in New York City in October when Roberts wed his partner of 12 years, Patrick D. Abner.
“He might have walked into the farewell show, too, but I knew he was on his honeymoon in Rio,” said Fuey.
Furey’s co-workers sent her off with a barrage of praise.
Anchorman Tom Schaad marveled at Furey’s “grace and style” in handling coverage of everything from natural disasters to local elections.” Reporter/anchor Stephanie Harrs remarked how Furey made the job of anchoring a busy newscast look easy.
“So effortless,” she said.
Anchorwoman Alveta Ewell recalls when Furey arrived at WAVY in 1997 far from the polished newswoman she is today. “I remember the day you first walked in the door . . . . . ”
Furey showed viewers a wide range of hair styles and changes in her wardrobe since then.
And now it’s over. Finis.
“In life you are either making a change or accepting one. I am trying graciously to do both. I made the request to leave the early morning show, and now have to accept that I lost all my shows and my connection to the station by doing that. Fortunately, the gains at home are tremendous and that is very healing,” said Furey.
Late dispatch from the Furey household: Daughter Jenny has 53 freckles.
FUREY’S SPLIT WITH THE WAVY/WVBT duopoly was the big story in local television in 2012.
Other notable developments include WVEC losing its general manager and weekend anchorwoman to stations in New Orleans. After Tod Smith left Channel 13 to become general manager at WWL in New Orleans, he was replaced by Brad Ramsey, former general manager of a three-station group in Charlottesville.
Sula Kim gave up her weekend anchor job at WVEC to take a job at WDSU in Louisiana. Channel 13 chose Karen Hopkins to succeed her. Rich Lebensen left the station in October after seven years as news director. WVEC also saw reporter Emily Rau depart for KMOV in St. Louis.
Ever wonder what it takes to be a general manager in this market?
When searching for a replacement for Smith at WVEC, the station’s owner, the Belo Corp., advertised for candidates with these qualifications: “A proven leader in the areas of television operations, strategic business planning, optimizing resources and staff development. Job duties include being responsible for all station operations, its position in the market as well as its growth and profitability. Candidate must have five to10 years broadcast station management experience. Masters degree preferred as well as experience in managing budgets.”
Belo sought candidates who have a thorough understanding of the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. Also required is excellent verbal and written communications’ skills and the ability to motivate all staff levels while “staying focused on key priorities.” Strong organizational and project management skills were required. Also needed: “The ability to effectively resolve issues as they arise.”
It helps, said Belo, for the general manager to be skilled in programming, including news, as well as in sales and marketing.
Wow! You could run for the White House with qualifications like that.
Elsewhere in local TV in 2010, Melanie Woodrow left WAVY for a job as investigative reporter with the “The Doctors” syndicated series. WAVY also lost reporter David Culver to WRC in Washington, D.C. where he works in the Northern Virginia bureau. Reporter Anjali Hemphill moved from WTKR to the KOVR/KMAX duopoly in Sacramento, Calif. Also leaving Channel 3 was reporter Alize Proisy, whose new address is WITN in New Bern/Greenville, N.C.
Three new arrivals are meteorologists. They are Tiffany Savona, who joined WAVY from KXXV in Waco, Tex.. and Jeff Edmonson, who’s also a new face at Channel 10, arriving from KBJR in Duluth, Minn. Dominic Brown joined the WTKR weather gang from WTCI in New Bern, N.C.
In 2012, Hampton Roads slipped from TV market No. 43 to TV market No. 44 with 709,730 households – a loss of 1.25 per cent of TV homes. But heck. We’re still a bigger TV market than New Orleans, Jacksonville, Fla., Buffalo, N.Y. and Green Bay, Wis., all of which have NFL franchises. And we have more TV households than Memphis, which is home to an NBA team.
In 2012, we found proof anew that when it comes to local television, nothing is so constant as change.
Have a comment or question about local TV or radio? Reach Larry Bonko at firstname.lastname@example.org.