Not many people can say they worked at the same station for 4 years.
How about doing it for 40! And in the number 1 market no less.
Chuck Scarborough, the longtime news anchor for WNBC/Ch. 4 has reported on six mayors, seven Yankee Championships, two terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, multiple financial meltdowns and countless other tragic and triumphant New York stories in four decades before the camera at 30 Rock.
Tuesday, Scarborough marks his 40th year at WNBC in one of the most remarkable runs in television news history. Through it all, his reliable presence and reassuring personality have remained as constant in New York as the Empire State Building or Midtown traffic.
“It’s astonishing to me that I have lasted this long,” says the still-youthful-looking, 70-year-old Pittsburgh native turned New York institution.
But it wasn’t quite love at first sight between Scarborough and New York when he arrived as a 30-year-old reporter from a small Boston station back in 1974.
“I remember being amazed to be interviewing for the job at Rockefeller Center, which was the epicenter of television history,” he recalls. “And I walk out afterwards and see this well-dressed guy jump in a cab. There was another car behind him blowing the horn and the guy calmly gets out of the cab, walks back to the car … and viciously kick it. That’s when I thought to myself, ‘Welcome to New York, Chuck!’ ”
Despite the scare, Scarborough took the gig at the struggling station, which was running a distant third in a three-horse race with WCBS, and the dominant Eyewitness News of the era. “The guy who hired me assured me that there was nowhere to go, but up.”
He wasn’t instantly correct. “My first night on the air we checked the ratings and not only was there no lift, but there was an asterisk indicating no measurable rating.”
Scarborough was behind the desk for the groundbreaking introduction of the 5 p.m. news show, designed to get a jump on the competition. And while this new format helped turn around the fortunes at Channel 4, it was the unforgettably tragic crash of Flight 66 at JFK in 1974, that introduced Scarborough’s skills as a newsman to the New York market — along with the station’s new commitment to in-the-field reporting.
“We had a truck on the scene and nobody else could get near it,” he says. “So we had a live feed and being a pilot, I was uniquely equipped to cover the story. It was a turning point for us, but we had to build on that to be competitive … and we did.”
Since then, there have been many award-winning stories, but none bigger than the one that affected not only New York, but the entire world. “The 9/11 attack was the most memorable and difficult moment … not only of my life, but anyone who lived through it,” he says soberly. “The world changed that day and we’re still covering that story. It lives with me daily, as does the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and the disappearance of Etan Patz. But there have been many joyful stories to tell as well.”
In an industry of incredible turnover and turmoil, Scarborough’s unprecedented run seems even more remarkable when you consider he shared 32 years of it with a longtime co-anchor, Sue Simmons.
“We complemented each other in a lot of ways,” he says “I’m an analytical guy and Sue added a human element. She was a free spirit who never had an unspoken thought. But it was her unpredictability, sense of humor and warm side that people loved.”
Since then, he’s already had two partners (Shiba Russell and Sibila Vargas), but for Scarborough, the beat goes on.
“When I arrived here, it was even-money that New York was finished,” he recalls. “The city was bankrupt. People were fleeing for the suburbs. The city has rebounded dramatically on almost every level for the four decades I’ve been here.”
And while he’s been there to tell that story, he says he’s not ready to sign off yet. “I’ve got no plans to retire. The news is my life. I may write my memoirs, but my broadcasting days are far from done.”
H/T NY Daily News