August 8, 2017

On July 22, the Washington area lost one of its greatest voices with the passing of Jim Vance. Vance served as the longest-running anchor in the DC area, co-hosting the news desk for more than four decades at NBC. He was one of the first black anchors in a major news market, won 17 Emmy Awards, was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame and was named “Washingtonian of the Year” by Washingtonian Magazine.

His incredible career was defined by honesty and by a voice that was both clear and profound.

Vance’s on-camera style was marked by a sense of ease with a no-nonsense delivery. ~ The Washington Post, July 22, 2017

Vance was willing to address the most sensitive issues, including race. He was candid about his own struggles with addiction and depression. When he spoke to important topics, he did so with considerable intention and attention.

I remember sitting in my hotel room in Northern Virginia many a night, eager to hear Vance give me his flavor of the 11 o’clock news.  To me, he was a mashup of Walter Cronkite integrity with the unvarnished truth-telling of a football coach. I recall a piece he reported about an elderly citizen beaten up by a group of teens. As he finished the report, he looked right at the camera and spit out the word “punks”.  I was elated – he had said exactly what I was thinking in a voice that resounded with authority. Yes!!! Then he turned to his co-anchor Doreen Gentzler and yielded to her without another word.

Who would do that? And who could do that? Why, Vance, of course. We loved him.

Not always serious, his laugh was contagious and sometimes uncontrollable. Perhaps his most remarkable trait was that of grace – a calm, deliberate respect for the news, his viewers, his co-workers and himself.

The influence he had among the DC audience earned him an exclusive segment called “Vance’s View” in which he shared his own commentary on life’s events. This was a remarkable honor for a journalist – the opportunity to distinctly separate an objective reading of the news with a monologue during which he could be subjective and share his opinions. The respect people had for his voice and his candor was tremendous.

As anyone who has lived in the Washington DC area will tell you, the local news stories are the news of the nation, and local politics are the politics of the world. Vance’s delivery of the important news of the day to his local audience carried global impact.  We have lost a valuable voice in Washington.  I hope his news reports are required viewing for every aspiring traditional, cable, and digital news reporter.