TAMPA - Mike Mason, one of WFTS-Ch. 28's two investigative reporters, is leaving after three years on the job, he confirmed Wednesday.
But Mason refused to discuss why he's leaving the station and what his plans are, saying he has no desire to talk to the St. Petersburg Times because of recent articles that "either criticized my reports or my personal life."
"It is no secret I have scooped the Times on numerous occasions," he said, citing his ongoing coverage of problems with the Expressway Authority's construction over the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway and his coverage of the demotion of then-deputy Tampa police Chief Jane Siling in 2002.
"Therefore I can only conclude the Times considers me a threat to their journalistic endeavors."
The Times in its Oct. 8 Brandon Times edition wrote that Mason "has been at the front of the pack" on the Crosstown story for more than a year. "He has made bold claims - bolstered by engineering reports and field notes - that Crosstown officials knew in advance of a sinkhole near a pier that collapsed in April."
WFTS executives did not return calls Wednesday. But Mason's departure comes on the heels of a tussle with the Hillsborough County School District over access to campuses where he has sought to uncover problems with mold and fire alarms.
And it comes eight months after his arrest on charges that he shopped for doctors to get prescriptions for painkillers including OxyContin. After his arrest in Tampa, Mason entered a pretrial diversion program.
When WFTS hired Mason from WBBH-TV in Fort Myers in November 2001, he joined investigative reporter Robin Guess, making WFTS the only local station to have two full-time investigative reporters.
According to his biography on the WFTS Web site, Mason started out in television at WSVN in Miami, where he was a writer and assignment editor. He then worked as a reporter and news anchor at WXVT-TV in Greenville, Miss., before moving to Fort Myers.
A series on school safety violations in Lee County earned Mason the 2001 National Edward R. Murrow Award.