Jim Vance, the anchorman who has been synonymous with local TV news in Washington for more than 40 years, will step down as the co-anchor of the 11 p.m. newscast for WRC (Channel 4) at the end of May, the station said Wednesday.
Vance, 73, has been a fixture at NBC-owned WRC, known as “News4,” since 1969, and became an anchorman at the station in 1972. He is also a living link to a formative era of local television; Vance was among the first wave of African Americans to anchor a local broadcast as stations across the country began to integrate their ranks in the early 1970s.
His departure from the late newscast will be the partial end of an era. Vance has appeared on the late broadcast for 43 years, or about two-thirds of the station’s existence. He has also been a local celebrity whose battles with, and eventual conquest of, drug addiction were well chronicled in the news media in the 1980s.
Vance will remain at the station through 2017 and will continue to co-anchor News4’s 6 p.m. broadcast with Doreen Gentzler, his on-air partner since 1989. Gentzler will also continue at 11 p.m., but without Vance.
Jim Handly, who has anchored the station’s 4 and 5 p.m. newscasts, will take over Vance’s spot at 11 p.m. Handly has been with News4 since 1992. He, in turn, will be replaced by Chris Lawrence at 4 p.m.
Since the early 1990s, Vance and Gentzler have been the most popular anchor team in the Washington area, regularly beating local competitors, and often by a wide margin. Their 20-plus-year run atop the ratings is virtually unprecedented across the nation.
Local newscasts tend to wax and wane in the ratings, driven by multiple factors, including the popularity of programs airing before and after a newscast. But the Vance-Gentzler pairing has thrived despite the ups and downs of NBC’s prime-time programming.
The partnership has remained solidly popular even with the departure over the years of veteran supporting players, including meteorologist Bob Ryan, entertainment reporter Arch Campbell and the late sportscaster George Michael.
People at the station said Vance began discussing his departure from the 11 p.m. news last year. At that point, he expressed a desire to eliminate late working hours, although not necessarily to retire altogether.
In recent months, Vance has gradually pared back his workload, taking some Fridays off.
Gordon Peterson, Vance’s long-running anchor competitor, retired last year after 45 years at WUSA (Channel 9) and WJLA (Channel 7). Peterson’s longtime co-anchor, Maureen Bunyan, who began her career in the 1970s, remains on the air at WJLA.
Although local news has declined in popularity in an age of many TV channels and virtually unlimited digital choices, it remains the single most popular source of daily news for Americans, according to surveys.
This story has been updated to reflect that Vance will remain at WRC through 2017 and that Handly will replace him at 11 p.m.