Just one word captured the departure of longtime Buffalo television anchor Jodi Johnston from the airwaves Wednesday: Bittersweet.
"It's bittersweet to leave people's lives," Johnston said a few hours after wrapping up her final stint on the "Daybreak" early morning program on WGRZ, Channel 2.
"I am grateful for people who've watched me all these years," she said. "It‘s hard to say goodbye."
Johnston, who had been at Channel 2 for 12 1/2 years and in broadcast journalism for 16 years, is moving on to an executive position at First Niagara Bank.
A longtime anchor of the "Daybreak" program, in recent years Johnston also hosted an evening newscast for the station.
Johnston, who is married and the mother of an 8-year-old son, said she felt unable to continue with the difficult schedule demanded by broadcast news.
"He's just the highlight of my life," Johnston said of her son, Max. "But he's getting to an age where he's getting busy. We've got sports, we've got school activities, the homework is mounting up. He needed me with him in the mornings and the evenings, and that's what I was missing."
"I don't want to miss out on that," she said. "These years are just so precious."
Max, a third-grader in a local Catholic school, came on to the "Daybreak" program Wednesday to appear with Johnston for a final time – and to read a moving personal letter.
"He actually wrote a goodbye to Western New York," said Johnston, who relocated from Hamburg to Amherst with her family not long ago.
"He had written a letter, saying thanks everyone for watching my mom, and now we have time to spend together," said Johnston. "I knew Max was coming on – I didn't know what his letter would say."
She said she was touched by the moment, as well as by her experiences over the past few weeks since she announced her departure from the station, with fans and viewers who told her how much she had meant to their lives.
"I have made some incredible friendships from people who are just great members of this community, over the years," Johnston said. "The biggest honor of this job has been telling the stories of incredible people. I'll miss that."
Johnston called her new job in banking an extension of, not a break from, her job in journalism and communications.
"This opportunity that I've been presented with at First Niagara is really a natural extension of my career," she said. "It will allow me to use my unique skill set. I feel like I have a great opportunity."
Johnston, who for years has risen before dawn to make it on time to the "Daybreak" set in Buffalo, said she looks forward to one aspect of her new job: more predictable hours.
"I'm hoping," she said, laughing, "it will be much more normal."