Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Broadcaster Aims Skills at New Market; Mike Liff Decided to Try Something Else, So Next Spring He'll Be a Teacher

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Broadcaster Aims Skills at New Market; Mike Liff Decided to Try Something Else, So Next Spring He'll Be a Teacher

Article excerpt


Last May, right around the time he turned 60, Mike Liff went to the funerals of two younger colleagues.

It occurred to him that after 25 years of successfully managing television stations, it might be time to do something else with his life.

"You never know when someone is going to punch your ticket," Liff said. "I knew I wanted to do something different while I still had time."

So Liff, who in 10 years as general manager of what is now WJCW TV-17 turned a small, underperforming former ABC affiliate into the highest-rated WB affiliate in the country, announced this month he'll be leaving in the spring.

Next fall, Liff, a divorced father of one, begins his new career as a high school teacher.

Last June, when Liff began to think about the change, he contacted Vicki Reynolds, the Duval County school system's assistant superintendent of human resources. Her first question was, "Would you like to start this year?"

Reynolds said there is a general shortage of teachers, particularly male teachers, in Duval County. To have somebody who has been successful in business move to the classroom is a bonus, she said.

That's one reason the state loosened its requirements for teacher certification. Liff was able to get temporary certification on the basis of his college degree, Reynolds said.

Because Liff wanted to give Media General, the station's owner, plenty of notice, he decided to spend one more year in the job.

"We're going to miss his leadership," said Jim Conschafter, senior vice president of broadcasting for Media General. He said Liff should bring a lot of energy to teaching.

There was also one more challenge for Liff at TV-17. The WB network ceased operations in the spring, merging with UPN to become the CW network.

"I realized I like launching new brands more than I like the day-to-day operations of a station," he said.

So he spent the summer and fall working to make Jacksonville aware of the new network.

Once his replacement is named, he'll begin figuring out how to make high school history students aware of the Constitution (a document he so admires that he carries a bound copy around in his brief case).

He won't find out until spring where he'll teach, though he's hoping there's an opening at Fletcher High School because he lives at the beach.

When Liff enters the classroom next fall, it won't be a first for him.

After growing up in Cleveland and graduating from Shaker Heights High School, Liff attended Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school in Ohio, where he majored in history with a minor in political science.

Then he went to the University of Texas, where he planned to earn a master's in journalism and become a magazine sports writer like his idol, Tex Maule of Sports Illustrated. …

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