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New York TV anchor John Roland dies

Roland anchored the evening news at WNYW for three decades.

Roland anchored the evening news at WNYW for three decades.

One of New York City’s most-recognizable television news anchors died over the weekend, according to his former employer.

John Roland spent three decades anchoring “The 10 O’Clock News” for Fox-owned station WNYW (Channel 5), where he was widely known for his gritty style of delivering “if it bleeds, it leads” news stories.

Roland was 81 at the time of his passing. No cause of death has been revealed.

Roland started his broadcast career in the mid-1960s, where he worked at the NBC News bureau in Los Angeles. He later moved to a reporting role with MetroMedia-owned KTTV (Channel 11) in the city, where he covered local and national news for three years.

In 1969, Roland packed his bags and headed east, joining MetroMedia’s WNYW, which was an independent station at the time. A strong local news contender, Roland immediately had an impact on both viewers and colleagues, some of whom adapted his straightforward style of reporting.

Occasionally, his personality got the better of him. In 1988, he was suspended from WNYW following an on-air argument with Joyce Brown, a mentally-ill woman who spent nearly three months in a local hospital as part of a city-led program to remove homeless individuals from the streets.

During the interview, Roland recounted his own apparently negative interactions with Brown on city streets and asked the woman if she had paid anything for her treatment at the hospital. He later said Brown was “making sense now, you didn’t do that before,” suggesting her hospitalization had done more good than harm.

Hundreds of angry viewers flooded WNYW with phone calls immediately after the interview, leading to his suspension without pay for the remainder of the week.

“Unfortunately, in Roland’s interview, his emotions prevailed over objectivity,” a spokesperson for WNYW said in a statement at the time. “The management of Channel 5 considered Roland’s behavior to be totally incompatible with the station’s news standards of objectivity, balance, and fair reporting, as well as his responsibilities as an anchor person.”

Roland later issued a taped statement of his own, in which he affirmed that his interview style was “very insensitive.”

“I called Joyce Brown and apologized to her,” Roland said. “I let emotions replace the objectivity I am known for. For that, I am sorry.”

Roland continued to anchor the late local news on WNYW, long after the station’s acquisition by Fox Corporation, until his retirement in 2004.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).