Former anchor is at home in Ariz.

Posted: August 31, 2003

In the here-today, gone-tomorrow world of TV news, on-air personalities often go out the door feet first.

But former WPVI-TV (Channel 6) anchor and reporter Robin Garrison left under her own power.

In fact, the popular TV newswoman had to persuade WPVI management to give her an early release her from her contract.

They did, and Garrison, who came to WPVI from a TV station in Fresno, Calif., in May 1981, left "Action News" - and Philadelphia - in September 1994.

She and her husband had decided to pack up their belongings and their two young sons and move to Arizona.

Nine years later, that's exactly where Garrison, 46, is most of the time - her Arizona home.

After five years as an anchorwoman at Phoenix's KSAZ-TV (Fox10), Garrison, decided in 1999 that it was time to become a "stay-at-home mom."

At the time she made that decision, she was anchoring the 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. news. At the family's home in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, "the kids would get off the school bus, and I'd kiss them goodbye. I'd come home, and they'd be asleep. I wasn't seeing them enough, and it got to the point where I was able to retire."

Her sons are 13 and 11 - a difficult stage of life. "My primary responsibility right now is making sure they don't kill each other!" Garrison said in a phone interview last week.

That phone interview was conducted at a time of day when Garrison once would have been preparing for the evening news. Instead, she was in the middle of painting some cabinets.

And loving it.

Don't get her wrong - she didn't sour on TV news and has only good memories of her time working in Philadelphia.

"I loved Philadelphia, rave about Philadelphia to people here," Garrison said. "Channel 6 was a phenomenal place to work; the people there were great. . . . I had real good friends there, and I've stayed in touch with them."

Her experience at KSAZ was equally positive. It was just that after nearly 25 years in the business - she first broke into TV when she was 18 - Garrison decided "it's important to have at least one parent at home, Mom or Dad."

Because Dad's construction business was booming in the booming Southwest, the choice was easy. Besides, it wasn't as if she were going to be watching daytime TV and eating bonbons. "This is just a difficult job," she said. "I'm still working hard, but I'm doing it for a greater cause, I think.

"I don't have any media involvement anymore. I cut my ties." But, she stressed, "I didn't burn any bridges. I'm just done with that."

It was much the same when she decided to leave Philadelphia. At the time, she was co-anchoring the noon news with Monica Malpass and doing health reports for the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. news.

Her career was going strong, but business was slow for her husband, Robert. Whereas in the Phoenix area, where her husband's parents lived, construction opportunities abounded.

The first reaction from her WPVI colleague was shock, she said at the time, "because people don't leave Channel 6."

Here, she had been covering such epochal events as the 1991 death of Frank Rizzo - a story that Garrison was on the air with first - and the 1985 MOVE siege, bombing and fire, in which 11 people were killed and 250 people were left homeless.

She still thinks of those events and is proud of the reporting she did, even as she is now transporting her sons to and from school and their various activities.

But she said she doesn't dwell on the past, because her current life is very good. "It's paradise out here; it really is." Well, "not in August - it's supposed to hit 104 today - but from September through May, it's pretty nice."

Back in 1994, when she was still working at WPVI, "we came out here to visit in March after a very nasty winter in Philadelphia. We asked ourselves: 'Why aren't we living here?' "

In answering that question, Garrison and family clearly voted with their feet.

Inquirer researchers Denise Boal, Frank Donahue and Ed Voves contributed to this article.

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