2022 marked a sea change in local television news.
Three longtime fixtures on local airwaves, Sue Palka, Doreen Gentzler and Pat Collins, retired during the course of the year. Two beloved veteran reporters, Bruce Johnson and Wendy Rieger, died in April. The five worked in TV news for a combined 200+ years and are some of the final links to what is considered the peak of local news television in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.
Though not a native of the area, Bruce Johnson became a fixture in the community thanks to over 40 years of reporting for WUSA9. After surviving a heart attack while covering a story in 1992, Johnson came back to his job and wrote a book about his experience. He retired in 2020. Johnson died April 3 in Delaware at the age of 71.
Reporter/anchor Wendy Rieger was truly a one of a kind newswoman. Like others in her field, Rieger was a storyteller first and foremost. But unlike most, she often did it with a smirk and a wry smile. After retiring in 2020 due to health issues, Rieger died on April 16 a the age of 65.
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Sue Palka graced the local airwaves since 1984 as FOX5’s popular meteorologist. For the better part of four decades on the Ten O’Clock News, she stood in front of a green screen telling viewers what kind of weather to expect the next day and beyond. And she did it with a friendliness and folksiness that endeared her to viewers. Her final show was March 23.
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For over 20 years, NBC4’s Doreen Gentzler co-anchored, along with Jim Vance, the longest running — and many feel the greatest — news team in local television history. It took a special person to fit in with Vance, George Michael and Bob Ryan. Gentzler, who spent 33 years at NBC4, was the perfect fit and foil for the group. Her final show was Nov. 23.
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The hat. The schtick. The snow stick. But most of all, the storytelling. For 50 years (most of them in his hometown of Washington, D.C.), Pat Collins covered everything from breaking news, murders, features and, yes, snow. In recent years, he became known for the signature Pat Collins Snow Stick. His final show on NBC4 was Dec. 21.