Last April, Laurie Jennings looked into the Local 10 camera and delivered some news about herself.
The 30-year TV news veteran, who had spent half of that time at Local 10, told viewers she was stepping down.
“After about a year and a half of soul searching, I’ve decided it’s time,” she said on-air.
She described “this wild, wonderful 24/7 intense TV news world” she’d worked in, and now she wanted to make sure she had time for her twin sons, who were 13, and her parents, who were 80 and 87. She worked through the spring and then, amid many goodbyes, stepped aside.
Now eight months after that first announcement and about half a year since she left, Jennings remains active around South Florida. She’s maintained the work with charities she became known for at channel 10 and she’s become an entrepreneur, launching Laurie Jennings LIVE, a company that offers both media training and spokesperson services from a name that built up trust over the years in South Florida.
“It’s been six months away from the news desk, and I finally own my face and voice,” she says. “It sounds strange, I know, but it feels good to know that I’m able to use my face and voice and the trusted brand I’ve built all these years to have my own company, Laurie Jennings LIVE, and to be the spokesperson for some wonderful organizations. It’s all about flexibility and owning my time in this ‘next chapter,’ and the plan is definitely to stay in beautiful South Florida.”
There’s always uncertainty in a big move like this. But for Jennings, the day-to-day perks and lifestyle changes have been just what she’d hoped they’d be.
“I get much more sleep!” she says. “I’m still super busy, and my family keeps saying ‘We thought you weren’t working anymore?’ But even as I grow my own company, doing TV projects, it’s a wonderful change to be able to look at my calendar and my boys’ school calendar and know that I can actually be at all their events and plan family trips without any of the constraints of ratings months, hurricane seasons and NBA playoffs that controlled my schedule for as long as I can remember.”
That ability to control a schedule is particularly sweet at this time of year. The world of television journalism isn’t always kind to family-friendly planning.
“As I was climbing the news ladder, I can remember having to work on Christmas many times, but I always got home for at least a couple of days sometime before New Years’,” Jennings says.
Now she gets to spend the holidays in the way that’s most important to her.
“Christmas is that special, sacred family time when everyone comes together no matter what,” she says. “And now, my husband and I celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas with our boys and our families. It’s all about being together, keeping as many traditions as you can, and adding some new ones along the way.”
That’s not to say there weren’t great Christmases when the workload was more hectic. Jennings remembers one year when her boys were about 2-and-a-half and her sister bought them red-and-white Velcro Santa outfits. “Watching these two identical little Santas bringing gifts from under the tree to each of their aunts, uncles and grandparents was absolutely adorable,” Jennings recalls. “That age is so precious when little ones don’t think about what they’re getting for gifts, they’re just happy with a cardboard box and being the center of attention.”
Her new role also allows her to focus energy on something she’s cared about for a long time. “My first TV news job in Youngstown, Ohio, got me involved in United Way, and I’ve been volunteering and donating to them for 28 years,” she says. “I’m known for ending up in tears at some point during most of the charity events I emcee, but the tears just flow when you hear of the devastating ordeals that people have endured.”
The familiar TV face, who will most definitely have time with her family this year, plans to be a fixture on the local charity circuit. She’s proud of the work she’s done in journalism, but she’s also looking forward to days filled with good news and happy stories.
“In news, we cover so many tragedies and often report on the worst of humanity,” she says. “But at every charity luncheon, gala or work day, you get to highlight the very best of humanity and feel so proud of our community.”