NEWS- Sleepin' in: Duffy signing off at 29

One rumor posted on a local blog is true: Beth Duffy is leaving her post as anchor on NBC29 News at Sunrise.

The other speculation on the website– that Duffy will be joining one of the new TV stations– is not.

"I'm exploring several options," says Duffy, but those will not include on-air work. "I'm moving away from the 2am wake-up call. I'm looking for more regular hours and looking for a more normal life. I go to bed at 6 or 7 o'clock and I've been doing that for nine years."

"It's fun," she adds, "but it's time for a change."

Duffy does a regular feature called "Take this job and love it," and admits to some teasing about whether she's used that to further her own job hunt.

She doesn't have a new job lined up, but she says she's had a couple of interviews. Duffy won't drop any hints about where she's interested in working, saying only, "I want to learn new things and have different challenges and goals." She does plan to stay in Charlottesville.

Duffy has been doing the morning slot at NBC29 since 1999, and before that for two years at a station in Missouri.

She sat at the anchor desk with Bill Duval for six years before he left NBC29 last year. Duval, too, cites the strain of the early morning shift.

"We'd both walk in exhausted," he says from Strasburg, Virginia, where he moved to be closer to his parents. "I don't think people can do it for long periods of time– unless they're [longtime weatherman] Norm Sprouse or making $50 million like Katie Couric."

Despite the toughness of the early-morning shift, Duval looks back fondly on his time at NBC29 and working with Duffy. "Beth and I had a brotherly/sisterly relationship," he says. "We had no secrets, and she was a sounding board for me."

The loss for the station is more than a seasoned reporter and anchor. "There's a certain equity in face recognition," explains Duval. "Certainly she's recognized and has a good rapport with the community. For a TV station, that's a valuable commodity and what some people tune in for. When you lose those tenured people, it levels the playing field."

Duval now sells real estate and sleeps in– until 7:30 or 8:30am.

Even before Mark O'Brien took on the morning anchor job five months ago, his desk had been beside Duffy's since he started at NBC29 in June 2004.

"For anybody coming in, she was the best person to be beside," says O'Brien. "She's grounded in the community and in the workplace. She made my transition to anchor so much easier because she's more like a sister or mentor."

His favorite Duffy story? "We do nerdy things like word-of-the day," he says. The two anchors learn a new word and try to use it in a sentence, and Duffy gave him a word-of-the day calendar for Christmas.

And he's still chuckling over the time Duffy said on-air without realizing it, "They've finally done it. The White Sex won the World Series."

"I love Beth Duffy," raves Dr. John Hong, who does a medical segment for NBC29 and a medical column for the Hook. "I'm really sad she's leaving. She's one of the nicest people I know– even if she is a Republican."

And if you're having a bad day at NBC29, "Everyone goes to Beth," reveals Hong. "She's so compassionate."

Television station employees typically must sign a no-compete contract that keeps them for being on the air in the same market.

But Duffy is clear that she's looking for a new career with an 8-to-5 job. "In fact, there's no normal shift in TV," she points out.

And after her last day on the air March 2, Duffy will be sleeping in– until 5 or 6am at least.

Beth Duffy's days of getting up before the chickens end March 2.