Hey- that’s not my name…

There were a few surprises during our top-secret day-long visit to WXIA Monday.  Two of them stood out.

The first was the climate.  It was odd hearing day-laboring reporters and photographers speak of their mutual respect with management, a quality sadly lacking in much of my previous Atlanta TV experience.  It was as if I’d departed Burma, went into suspended animation briefly, then landed in Holland.

jaye watson wxiaThe second was a story told by Kenny Hamilton, the respected photog with whom I spent the day.  Hamilton is married to the reporter known as Jaye Watson.  Many have heard this story, but somehow I hadn’t:

A few days after Jennifer Watson joined the ranks at WXIA, she was called into the office by its famously erratic then-news director, Dave Roberts.  It seemed Roberts was troubled with the fact that he now had two blonde women reporters with the first name of Jennifer.

Because Jennifer Leslie had seniority, Roberts told Jennifer Watson to change her first name.  Watson resisted, then stalled.   The name has meaning, and she comes from a family that shuns nicknames.

Roberts pressed.  Irritated but uneasy, Watson finally said (something like):  “If you think the viewers are that confused, why don’t you just call me J. Watson?”  The standoff in the ND’s office ended when Watson was called to cover something at the airport.

Hours later, Watson hooks up to an earpiece to do a live shot.  From the control room, a producer remarks:  That’s an unusual spelling.

Of what?  Watson asks.

Your new first name, the producer replies.  J-A-Y-E.

The reporter is unamused.   Her face is rapidly changing colors.  The voice shakes with anger.  Hooked to a microphone, she struggles to keep her language G-rated.

Then the anchor tosses to Watson’s live shot.   Watson delivers her story, and tags with her new sig out:  Jaye Watson, Eleven Alive News.  That was in 1999.

Today, Jaye Watson answers to both names.  In the newsroom and among friends, it’s Jennifer.  On the street, she answers to a name made up by a squirrelly news director whose shelf life was much shorter than the name he created for Jennifer Watson.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

9 thoughts on “Hey- that’s not my name…

  1. Josh R.

    When I got my first full-time radio job, the PD asked me to change my last name. I picked my mother’s maiden name because it was easy to remember and it sounded good with my first name.

    Reply
  2. Javaguy

    Another tidbit. Earlier in the day she appeared on-air as Jennifer Watson.
    Meeting with Roberts, then boom, later in the day she’s all of a sudden Jaye Watson.
    I’m sure some were wondering if WXIA had hired the Watson twins Jennifer and Jaye.

    Reply
  3. scott hedeen

    Doug. maybe it’s the drugs (sinus surgery yesterday… ) but i thought yr story was really good. Hanging out at thrift stores basically got me my wardrobe and styling glassware in the 80’s… but the car thing was a great insight. Cool presentation for the whole special… yr story definitely a highlight… lucky for XIA that there wasn’t a Swine Flu case in Atlanta or the Nutty Professor got brought down within 60 minutes previous to the newscast starting.

    Reply
  4. Bad White Trash Memories

    I didn’t know that her name was Jennifer, until I met her husband, a local photog who told me that his wife had the same name as me. His wife- Jaye Watson. Since then, I’ve fanticized about dropping Jennifer and going by Jaye myself. From Jennifer Waller to Jaye Sibley. Upgrade, right? Except the only person I know that changed their name as an adult changed it from Todd to Vlad, and I just can’t get past that. I don’t want to be in that camp.

    Reply
  5. Juanita Driggs

    When the powers-that-be squandered Denis O’Hayer’s considerable talents to the point that they finally drove him back into the arms of radio and P.M. drive at WABE, that’s when this viewer finally opted full time for 46 instead of 11. Far more than Watson, the O’Hayer thing is the real marker for some serious disconnects in the Eleven-not-so-alive-anymore newsroom these days.

    Reply

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