Eight years after popular sportscaster Jeff Hullinger left WAGA-TV in a bit of a cloud, the Emmy-winning broadcast veteran has found his way back on Atlanta TV news on WXIA-TV.
“I’m grateful to [WXIA-TV news director] Ellen Crooke and I look forward to being part of the Channel 11 team,” he said. He starts his job tomorrow and will be on air for the first time Monday, June 21.
“I’m really glad to hear that,” said Pete Combs, a former colleague at WSB-AM, when told the news. “He’s one of the fastest guys in the world, a real news junkie.”
“It’s about time,” said Gabe Hobbs, his former boss at WGST-AM. “Glad to see them take his value and equity and leverage that against the market.”
Hullinger’s departure from WAGA-TV in 2002 was a less than happy one. After he left, he freelanced for ESPN, worked briefly in Tampa and did news at WSB-AM, but he had been unable to find another gig in local news in Atlanta. I wrote a piece about him in February pondering why he was unemployed and quoted several folks saying the very same thing.
His fans and supporters extol him him as a great broadcaster and an utter pro. Critics found him, at worst, arrogant and remote, especially in his younger, brasher days. WAGA-TV management reportedly was unhappy that a decade ago, he was juggling multiple jobs, including a radio job and subbing work at CNN. He seemed to be everywhere at one point.
After his WAGA departure, some fans believe he was blackballed in Atlanta for many years.
Hullinger’s new boss Crooke, who read the February article, noted that two of his defenders in the story now work for her: Doug Richards, a former WAGA-TV vet and blogger behind Live Apartment Fire, and former WSB-AM newsman Kerry Browning, who she hired very recently. Although Crooke wasn’t in Atlanta during his heyday, she heard Hullinger was a great live broadcaster and “smart as a whip.”
She plans to make him a political correspondent. “Sports and politics aren’t all that different,” she said.