Beth Troutman will leave WCNC (Channel 36) only 16 months after she returned to Charlotte to the anchor desk, the NBC affiliate said Monday.
Troutman, 40, said she would leave the station on Jan. 31 to engage in a series of volunteer initiatives, beginning with an eight-day mission to an orphanage in rural Haiti.
Troutman said the decision to leave a two-decade career in television came after an emotionally tumultuous year following the loss of her mother, Nancy Troutman, 68, of Concord, to ovarian cancer in February 2016.
“I was 24-7 caretaker for the last weeks of her life,” Troutman said, “and was holding her hand when she passed away. It had a profound effect on me and made me change in a lot of ways. It made me realize how finite life is and to find ways to fill my heart back up. I felt like all the love was sucked out of the world.”
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Troutman said in 2015 when she joined WCNC from a job in Arizona that one attraction of the position was that she would have the opportunity to spend quality time with her mother, who was then entering the last stage of her five-year struggle against cancer.
WCNC has been supportive both of her need to spend time with her mother and with the unexpected life change she is now experiencing, Troutman said.
Troutman was teamed with Fred Shropshire on the key evening newscasts, which saw ratings growth during their partnership. WCNC aggressively promoted the pair with commercials and ads on the sides of buses and LYNX light rail cars.
News ratings at the station, purchased in December 2013 by the industry giant Tegna, have been steadily rising in the last year. On the two key newscasts where Troutman and Shropshire are teamed, total audience was up 8 percent at 6 p.m. and 75 percent at 11 p.m. year-to-year in the November ratings, according to Nielsen.
In the important 25-54 age demographic, which advertising sales are based on, WCNC remained third at 11 p.m. but saw a 93 percent increase at that hour in the November ratings versus a 21 percent decrease for No. 1 WSOC (Channel 9) and a 10 percent decrease for No. 2 WBTV (Channel 3). Among women in the 25-54 demographic at 11 p.m., WCNC was up 78 percent year-to-year, according to Nielsen.
WCNC sent Troutman to the Rio Olympics for daily reports on athletes from the region and other appearances. She also hosted the station’s Sunday morning public affairs show, “Flashpoint.”
“It’s a bittersweet day at WCNC,” said Deborah Collura, the general manager, who said Troutman and Shropshire had “perfect chemistry.”
“Beth has been a huge impact player over the last year-and-a-half in helping us catapult our ratings and the personality of this television station into who we’ve become today,” Collura said. “Beth has had a really difficult year personally, so we respect that she wants to do some other things with her life at this time.”
Troutman said she will be volunteering through the Charlotte-based Give Hope Global at an orphanage in Cambry, Haiti, about a five-hour bus ride from the capital at Port-au-Prince.
“It was something I felt called to do and I put a lot of thought and prayer into it,” Troutman said. “It’s the first step in my journey as I try to focus on love and empathy and kindness.”
After that trip, she has other volunteer missions in mind over coming months. “I promised God I would do a lot of listening,” she said. “It’s what I feel like I’m being pulled toward and what the world is trying to teach me.”
Troutman, a Concord native, was prominent in the region long before taking the WCNC job.
Raised in the family that owns Troutman’s Barbecue, Troutman was an honors student and ran track at Concord High School and was named Miss Cabarrus County 1997.
After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill with degrees in political science and women’s studies, she went to Hollywood and landed a behind-the-scenes job on the acclaimed NBC series “West Wing.”
In 2004, she came home to North Carolina and ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Congress against Republican Rep. Robin Hayes. “West Wing” star Martin Sheen came to Kannapolis to campaign for her.
She was on the WCCB (Channel 18) morning show, “News Rising,” for nearly four years.
Troutman later went on to a syndicated show based in Phoenix called “Right This Minute,” which was based on interesting viral videos found on the Web, and made appearances on NBC’s “Today Show” as a social media expert.
Collura said the station has begun looking for a replacement for Troutman.