At the end of May, the legendary Jim Vance will step down from the 11 p.m. news on WRC Washington, 43 years after he started. His latenight replacement, Jim Handly, will team with Doreen Gentzler, Vance’s longtime co-pilot. Anchor changes are usually ho-hum affairs, but the Gentzler-Handly pairing is significant because it runs counter to an unspoken, if more or less rigidly observed, commandment in the TV news business, to wit: In a racially mixed region such as Washington, thou shalt have a mixed anchor “team.”
The appearance of WRC Washington anchor Jim Handly delivering a breaking news report as part of the cold open of NBC’s The Blacklist post-Super Bowl broadcast did a disservice to him, his station, owner NBC and the viewers. Journalists should avoid putting themselves in any situation that would undermine their credibility. Pretending to be a TV reporter spouting words from a script is one such obvious situation. Local TV news still has a great reservoir of credibility, but it is not bottomless. Producers of that news should be careful not to dribble it away.