Jim Vance, award-winning anchorman for WRC (Channel 4) news, has taken his second leave of absence this year to seek treatment for problems he has described as a dependency on cocaine and prescription drugs, the station announced yesterday.
"We respect Jim's forthright recognition of his problem. We feel his contributions to Channel 4 and the Washington community certainly warrant our further support," said Fred DeMarco, vice president and general manager of Channel 4, yesterday. In a statement DeMarco said Vance was taking an "indefinite leave of absence" from his anchoring duties "to continue treatment to overcome a dependency on drugs."
Vance, who has been on vacation since June 13, released his own statement that said, "I need time to straighten out things in my personal life that I fear could affect my professional responsibilities. I am grateful to WRC-TV for giving me the time I need."
Six months ago Vance, 43, went to the Betty Ford Center, a well-known nonprofit rehabilitation clinic in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for treatment of problems described as "exhaustion, depression and a dependency on drugs used to overcome these problems." He returned to the air Feb. 18.
The station did not announce where Vance would be treated this time but DeMarco said, "I would assume that it will be for longer than four or five weeks."
On the station's 5 p.m. news, which Vance has coanchored since last August, newscaster Lea Thompson announced his leave and quoted DeMarco as saying, "He is a gifted and caring journalist and his involvement in our daily newscast will be missed. We sincerely hope he can overcome this terrible problem, which affects so many people in our society today."
A few weeks ago Vance delivered an emotional report of his battle with addiction at a dinner organized by RAP Inc., a local drug rehabilitation group.
His chemical dependency, he said, had led to a lack of confidence. "I suffered self-esteem that was so low it was unbelievable. The question might be asked -- and it was certainly asked of me by me -- how in God's name with all that I have apparently going for me -- the career, good health, wonderful children, fulfillment, a life full of rewards -- how in the world could I suffer low self-esteem?"
On that same occasion, Vance said the decision to seek help had been "the most difficult thing I have ever had to deal with -- or ever hope to go through -- in my life." He said he was attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Vance, a native of Ardmore, Pa., taught school in Philadelphia before becoming a broadcaster in 1967. He joined WRC in 1969 as a general assignment reporter, moved to weekend anchor in 1970 and two years later became coanchor of the nightly newscasts.
His personal commentaries, which often matched the opinions of ordinary Washingtonians, gained him respect and popularity in the area. He received a local Emmy award in 1977 for his coverage of the Hanafi Muslim takeover of the B'nai B'rith and District buildings here.
The station said yesterday that other members of the Channel 4 news staff will fill in for Vance on the air while he is on leave.