Longtime NBC4 anchor Doreen Gentzler announces retirement
Gentzler may be Washington’s last connection to an era of local TV in which anchors were nearly civic institutions and newscasts were widely watched — a time rapidly fading in the internet age. Her contemporaries included a long list of familiar figures, particularly Jim Vance, with whom she co-anchored WRC’s newscasts for 28 years until his death in 2017.
In an interview on Friday, Gentzler said she planned to spend time with family and to travel in retirement; her announcement coincided with the retirement of her husband, Bill Miller, a public information officer at the US attorney’s office in the District and a former Washington Post journalist.
“I thought, ‘Why not step away while I’m healthy enough to enjoy [retirement]?’ ” she said, adding, “I am very much going to miss it, especially the people I’ve worked with.”
But Gentzler also acknowledged that she’s been worn down by the news of late. “It’s difficult reporting on children in the crossfire, about hateful speech and behavior toward each other, about all the personal and political attacks,” she said. “It weighs on you night after night.”
NBC4’s decades-long run atop the local news ratings began in 1989 after the station’s then-general manager, Allan Horlick, hired Gentzler to share the anchor desk with Vance. She was a surprise choice: At the time, Gentzler had been working at a station in Philadelphia that had demoted her from anchoring on weeknights — the marquee shift — to weekends.
Vance was already a familiar figure to local viewers, but the station had struggled to find a co-anchor who countered his cool, almost aloof persona. Gentzler, then 31, offered a softer counterpoint not only to Vance, but to the station’s all-male team of sportscaster George Michael, weatherman Bob Ryan and entertainment reviewer Arch Campbell.
Helped in part by the popularity of NBC’s “Must See TV” lineup, “Jim and Doreen” gradually became the preferred local news team in a news-obsessed region. During their long run on the air, Gentzler-Vance drew more viewers throughout the Washington area than CNN, Fox News and MSNBC averaged together among local viewers in prime time.
The station’s popularity endured until Vance’s death in 2017 after 48 years on the air — and continued afterward as well. Gentzler’s early evening and late-night broadcast — now co-anchored with Jim Handly — continue to lead local stations.
Gentzler grew up in Arlington, Va., although she spent the latter years of her childhood living near Charleston, SC She attended the University of Georgia and worked as an anchor and reporter at stations in Chattanooga, Tenn., Charlotte, Cleveland and Philadelphia before she was hired to anchor with Vance, whom she’d watched growing up.
Gentzler said on Friday that the death of another co-anchor, Wendy Rieger, influenced her thinking about retirement. Rieger retired from WRC at the end of 2021 after battling health issues; she succumbed to brain cancer in April at 65, the same age as Gentzler.
“How could it not” affect her thinking, she said. “Wendy started [at the station] a year before I did, and we just about grew up together. I miss her very much. It was very tough to watch what happened to her. It certainly makes you think.”
Gentzler said she will continue on the air until Thanksgiving week. The station has not named a successor.
“I’ve been working here for more than half my life now,” she said on the air on Friday. “Those [two] babies that I had back in the ’90s … they’ve grown up and moved out now. It is time for me to retire. Or maybe evolve, like Serena Williams.”