I wrote about CBS3′s Katie Fehlinger four years ago when internet trolls were shaming her for appearing on air while pregnant with twins.
What stunned me back then was how so many of the critics were women and just how nasty they were. They critiqued everything from Fehlinger’s formfitting maternity dresses to the fact she was working on air. Lately, the critics have moved on from her body to the meteorologist’s thick blond hair.
“I know that when I’m trying to just get on the air at 4:30 in the morning that sometimes my hair can be way over teased or that it’s out of place or the part isn’t right or whatever,” Fehlinger explained. “People have just been crazy upset over how I’ve been styling my hair lately."
Digital harassment is real. I’ve experienced more than my share of it but nothing like what Fehlinger has gone through. Studies show that female journalists are harassed way more than their male counterparts. But the trolls won’t have Fehlinger to nitpick anymore. She quit. Tuesday was her last day. But it wasn’t because of the online jerks who critiqued her appearance. Fehlinger had gotten tired of the daily grind of getting up at 2:30 a.m. five days a week to do weather forecasts for morning TV.
“We wish Katie the best,” said John Wilson, vice president and news director of CBS3, KYW-TV, and CWPhilly. “She put a lot of thought into the decision and we respect it.”
It must have been a tough decision to make. The Allentown native had managed to snag her dream job, without having to move all over the country as many broadcasters do to gain experience. She spent eight years in the country’s No. 4 TV market doing live weather updates and was hugely successful. But Fehlinger wanted more time with her daughters, who are now 4. Then, a year ago, a dear family friend died from brain cancer.
“That was like a mental flame starting to burn in me,” Fehlinger told me. “Because I looked at my life and realized that she was fostering relationships with her family and making the most of the time she had and here I am getting home at 1 p.m. and too exhausted to even to go and push my kids on the swing."
She now has time to pursue her passions. Earlier this year, she started a self-named DIY YouTube channel with about 15,700 subscribers. It’s “devoted to helping you make your home your happiest place.” Fehlinger, 39, also is about 30,000 words into a book about her decision to leave TV, tentatively titled My Happy Place: How I Became the Hero of My Own Story and she also wants to do media coaching and public speaking.
She’ll miss all the viewers and fans who watched her — but not the trolls. She plans to write a second book about dealing with negativity online.
“It hurts your feelings when someone is just telling you your hair looks terrible,” Fehlinger said. “You feel sometimes like they want all journalists and all broadcasters to look the same.”
Fehlinger’s advice to others: Continue working at your day job while also working on your side hustle — before going solo as she has. Her husband, who works from home, is a vice president of programs and sales for AccuWeather.