While the late Jim Vance of WRC Washington achieved extraordinary success and tenure as a local news icon — a dominant anchor in a Top 10 market at the same TV station for 45 years — his story is also a reminder of the value that local TV news still has across the country. Local TV news remains a vital and highly regarded source of information and a cornerstone of the community fabric, thriving in an age of iPhones, Facebook and Twitter.
In a city of news junkies and scores of high-profile figures in politics and the media, the most-watched journalist in Washington may well have been Jim Vance. For more than 45 years at NBC O&O WRC, he was the region’s longest-serving television news anchor. He presided over the area’s top-rated newscasts and became a public figure in his own right. He gained broad sympathy for his openness about his struggles with drugs and depression. Vance announced his diagnosis with cancer earlier this year. He was 75.
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.”