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Jaye Watson leaving 11Alive after 18 years: 'My eyes are wide open and my heart is full'

This was posted on Monday, January 9, 2017 by Rodney Ho on the AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Esteemed 11Alive reporter Jaye Watson is leaving the station after 18 years.

She will become Director of Brand Awareness for the Emory Brain Health Center. "I will be doing much the same thing that I do at 11Alive which is to find compelling stories and then tell them and share them," Watson wrote in a text to me today. "It was a position that was tailor-made for me and it's a tremendous opportunity that I could not pass up."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist made the announcement on her blog.

"I’m stepping back — but not entirely away — from this wonderful, insane, beloved career. It ranks as one of the most difficult decisions of my life," she wrote today.

UPDATE: She does plan to return to do some special medical-related stories for the station. Here she is previewing a few of her upcoming stories on her final day as a full-time employee at the station on Friday, January 13. And she said farewell to this chapter in her life.

"I came to 11Alive a kid," she said. "Almost 18 years later, I leave it as a wife and a mother and grateful journalist. Thank you for telling me your stories. Thank you for trusting me. I even want to thank those of who shredded me like the viewer who said I was too old to be hot and said I was an idiot who should not be allowed on TV. You reminded me of something so important, that who we are and how we carry our way through this world comes within our value. It isn't bestowed. It's a birthright. My eyes are wide open and  my heart is full as I begin this journey and I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

General manager John Deushane said she will remain as a contributing correspondent. Here is his statement:

As one of our most-awarded journalists (including two national Edward R. Murrow Awards), it’s difficult to see Jaye leave 11Alive after being an extremely integral member of the our family for nearly two decades. But the passion she’s developed over those years to tell stories of those who have benefited from medical advances has led her to this newly created role at Emory University. There is no better storyteller in the market and she’ll now be able to focus her talents to help the fight against Alzheimers and other brain-related issues.

Jaye and I have shared many espressos and tear-filled hours together as she was making this decision. She’s a good friend and amazing talent. I have every confidence that she will benefit all of us at some time in our lives as she begins her new role.

Watson said she was always unfailingly curious. Broadcast journalism was a way to fulfill that. But she sensed it wasn't going to be the only way.

"I always knew that television would be one of the things I would do in my life, but I knew it wouldn’t be the only thing," she said. "When I became a journalist, I learned that TV allows little room for anything else. It is a calling, a way of life, and the dedication it requires is necessarily staggering and gratifying."

She's also a writer and began blogging to help scratch that itch. But "it made my restlessness almost unbearable," she wrote. "I have more in me that needs to get out, and there are a lot of ways I want to live my life in the years I have left on this wondrous planet. I want to be scared again. I want to be challenged and confused by what I don’t know. I want to stretch until I just about snap. The reality is, I am most comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s how I know I’m growing."

She reviewed some of the great moments in her career then wrote this: "The bottom line is that I'm luckier than I deserve. I have nothing but gratitude for every great and ghastly TV experience of the last 24 1/2 years. None of it was wasted and I learned just as much as I could."

Watson had an MS scare in 2014. My story back then. 

And here's Doug Richards' wonderful thoughts about his former cubicle mate on his blog.

Although she’s brilliant and gifted, Watson is also endearingly abrupt and unpredictable, a well-coiffed, walking non-sequitor in sensible shoes. She’s almost laughably warmhearted, passionate about politics, and has a lovely twisted streak. We are dissimilar enough to make the friendship very interesting.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.