One of the most familiar faces on WFAA/Channel 8 is leaving after nearly 19 years with the station.
Janet St. James, the station’s medical reporter, announced her departure early Tuesday afternoon via Facebook.
UPDATE: We spoke with St. James on Wednesday morning. She is leaving the station to become the assistant vice president of strategic communication at HCA North Texas. She’ll begin that gig in April, according to an HCA North Texas release that you can read here.
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“I’ve been ready for a new adventure for a long time,” St. James, a Grapevine resident, said Wednesday. “I was just waiting for the right opportunity at the right time, and this is it. I’m not going to lie to you — I’m really going to miss the great people here at WFAA. Working in a newsroom is a very unique experience. I don’t know that there’s camaraderie like that anywhere else on the planet.”
St. James says that her last day in the newsroom at WFAA will be around March 17. While recent departures such as longtime sports reporter George Riba and longtime anchor Gloria Campos received affectionate sendoffs from the station. St. James says she doesn’t know whether anything is planned for her.
“We haven’t talked about it,” she says. “[Tuesday] was so crazy. My Facebook and my Twitter account blew up, so I haven’t even had a chance to talk to anybody about it. I feel a little awkward about saying goodbye on the air, to be honest. I’ve never thought of myself as the story.”
Even getting to say goodbye on social media is still relatively unusual in modern media, when layoffs have affected journalists across the board and departures aren’t always voluntary. St. James says she’s happy to be going out on her own terms.
“There’s nothing here that made me say, ‘That’s it, I’m leaving,’ ” she says. “I’m leaving under great circumstances and happy times for me. I actually re-signed a contract last year, so that wasn’t [it]. Things are very good for me right now, so this is my choice to go on to a new journey.”
According to her station bio, St. James came to WFAA in July 1996 as a general-assignments reporter, and became the medical reporter in 2000. She was heavily involved in the station’s coverage of last year’s Ebola scare at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, and has lately been covering Ebola survivor nurse Nina Pham’s lawsuit against Texas Health Resources and the Hospital.
St. James has won numerous awards including Emmy Awards, Edward R. Murrow, National Headliner's, Associated Press, Texas Medical Association, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Association of Women Journalists, and more. Other big stories have included Hurricane Katrina evacuations and the immediate aftermath of 9-11.
WFAA colleagues congratulated St. James on social media.
“It is bittersweet day for me,” reporter Rebecca Lopez posted on Facebook. “I know she will be a success at anything she does. I am sad because I will miss seeing her every day. We started almost at the same time and have been though so much together as the 2 longest veteran female reporters at WFAA. Love you Janet!! This is a big loss for journalism. You are simply one of the best.”
St. James has also worked in Oklahoma City and Abilene, per her bio, which also says that she earned a teaching certificate and is certified to teach journalism, speech and English in secondary school.
“When you leave someplace, that’s when suddenly there’s an outpouring, and you know that you’ve made a difference in people’s lives,” she says. “What an honor for me to have heard from all those people. That has been my privilege.”