Legendary Washington, DC, news anchor Jim Vance died Saturday. “To everyone in the Washington area who is heartbroken today, please know we grieve right along with you,” NBC4 President Jackie Bradford wrote in a statement.
“Washington loved Jim Vance,” says Bob Ryan, who worked with Vance at Channel 4 for decades. “He was loved not because he was a TV anchorman, a celebrity or a ‘personality.’ He was loved because of his life, his continuity in our lives, and the trust we had in him.” Beyond those assets, Vance had tremendous skills as a newsman, Ryan says: “Every day for 30 years I would watch him edit bad grammar or a poorly written news story on the fly, as he read it. No one I ever worked with could do that.”
When Ryan retired from television, Vance paid a tribute to him that not only opened a window on their friendship but showed his own remarkable gifts as a broadcaster.
Vance was on the air in Washington for more than 45 years. In a frank 2014 interview with Mark Segraves, Vance talked about his philosophy and the direction of the news business, which he felt had moved “way more toward the science at the expense of the art.”
It’s hard to overstate the place Vance occupied in this region (he’s featured on the wall at Ben’s Chili Bowl, and the Foo Fighters, front by Springfield native Dave Grohl, even made a video tribute to him). Washingtonian featured him on the cover many times, named him a Washingtonian of the Year in 1976, and wrote about him obsessively. Viewers always stayed with him. “You can’t bullshit people through that camera,” Vance told Segraves. “It will detect and magnify disingenuousness in a minute. You can’t fake it.”
“What a life. What a journalist. What a friend,” Ryan says. “Knowing and working with him enriched my life, and also I ‘had a ball,’ as Vance would say. He’ll always be with everyone who loves him.”