Jessica Savitch
Television journalist
Jessica Savitch
Jessica Beth Savitch was an American television broadcaster and news reporter, host of PBS' Frontline and New York weekend anchor of NBC Nightly News during the short-lived Roger Mudd/Tom Brokaw era.
Biography
Jessica Savitch's personal information overview.
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Greens, government target Mainers - Washington Examiner
Google News - over 5 years
In 1983, "PBS Frontline with Jessica Savitch" ran an expose titled, "For the Good of All," tracing the Cuyahogans' hopeless struggle to keep their homes and heritage. Many viewers never forgave the parks service, but the National Parks Conservation
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Google News article
Writer tells Sunrise Rotary: 'Find your story' - Minuteman News Center
Google News - over 5 years
Bergman's credits as a writer and producer of TV feature movies include stories about Michael Landon, Barbara Mandrell and Jessica Savitch. In 1991 she received a Screen Writers Guild nomination for her two- hour TV production “Matters of the Heart
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Google News article
Author, screenplay coach at Westport Sunrise Rotary - Westport-News
Google News - over 5 years
She has also written films about celebrities, including Michael Landon, Barbara Mandrell, newscaster Jessica Savitch and writer Pearl S. Buck. The public is welcomed as guests with a $12 fee per person, which includes a breakfast buffet
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Google News article
Fame won't protect car crash victims like Sean Kingston, Macho Man, Lady Diana - Torque News
Google News - over 5 years
Jessica Savitch, an NBC News reporter, died Oct. 23, 1983, after the car she was riding in plunged into the Delaware Canal. When a head-on collision left heartthrob actor James Dean dead on Sept. 30, 1955, Americans, especially young girls,
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Google News article
Wayback Machine To Bad Houston Fashion And Even Worse Ads - Houston Press (blog)
Google News - almost 6 years
There are some famous faces: Dan Rather, Jessica Savitch, a very young Bill Worrell and Mattress Mac -- and there is also the woman above, who, bless her heart, looks to be wearing Bozo's biggest tie. Also included: An ad for Woolworth's "Stereo
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Google News article
THE MEDIUM; Listen to Me!
NYTimes - over 7 years
''We don't need Michael Jackson,'' insisted Peter King, a congressman from New York, in a recent publicity video shot in front of a small-town American Legion Hall. As birds chirped and cars whizzed, King slammed Jackson, newly dead, as a lowlife, a pervert and a pedophile. King's prosecutorial attitude, his tumble of loaded words, his redundancies
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NYTimes article
URBAN STUDIES | OVERHEARING; Where the Walls Have Big Ears
NYTimes - over 8 years
IN a city as big and complicated as New York, many buildings have their shares of urban legends, tales of ghosts walking, lurking in the service elevators or haunting the storage areas. Imagine what life must be like in the Dakota on West 72nd Street near Central Park, where fiction (''Rosemary's Baby'' was filmed there) merged with
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NYTimes article
In Bed With 'Runway': A Lifetime Story
NYTimes - almost 9 years
THE guys from Project Rungay are worried. You read right. Tom Fitzgerald writes a gay-themed blog with Lorenzo Marquez about their favorite reality show, ''Project Runway.'' Last week they learned that the show, about aspiring clothing designers, would be moving from its home on the Bravo network to Lifetime. ''Bravo is known for its sharp, urban
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NYTimes article
FILM REVIEW; Some Not-So-Funny Business Involving Two Comedians
NYTimes - over 11 years
Plumbing the secrets of celebrity, its furtive ups and dirtiest downs, has been a favorite human endeavor for so long (psst, I hear Alexander swings both ways), it's a wonder that anyone can work up indignation about it, much less an interesting story line. We dish the dirt partly because it's a social lubricant but mostly because it's pleasurable,
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NYTimes article
The Talk: Perfect Bound; Anchor Steam
NYTimes - about 12 years
There are days when I wonder whether the people in TVnews ever read fashion magazines, venture into stores, travel to exotic lands or even walk down city streets. Judging by the state of what's happening behind news desks, on sofas and out in the field, my hunch is a firm no. It strikes me that the executive producer at NBC uses his mother as a
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NYTimes article
Lending a Friendly Ear to the New Anchor at NBC
NYTimes - about 12 years
When Brian Williams slides behind the anchor desk of the ''NBC Nightly News'' tonight for the first time as its permanent host, the voice through his earpiece will be comfortingly familiar. It belongs to Stephen Capus, the executive producer of ''Nightly News'' since May 2001, who first worked with Mr. Williams in 1986 at WCAU, then the CBS station
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NYTimes article
John Gregory Dunne, Novelist, Screenwriter and Observer of Hollywood, Is Dead at 71
NYTimes - about 13 years
John Gregory Dunne, the brashly insightful novelist, journalist, and screenwriter who wrote novels and successful works of nonfiction crammed with pungent dialogue, lavish brutality and vivid glimpses of the Hollywood demimonde, died on Tuesday evening in his Manhattan apartment. He was 71. Joan Didion, his wife and frequent collaborator, said he
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NYTimes article
John Gregory Dunne, Novelist, Screenwriter and Observer of Hollywood, Is Dead at 71
NYTimes - about 13 years
John Gregory Dunne, the brashly insightful novelist, journalist, and screenwriter who wrote novels and successful works of nonfiction crammed with pungent dialogue, lavish brutality and vivid glimpses of the Hollywood demimonde, died on Tuesday evening in his Manhattan apartment. He was 71. Joan Didion, his wife and frequent collaborator, said he
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NYTimes article
THEATER; Where There's a Will, or Two, or Maybe Quite a Few
NYTimes - over 13 years
ASK the question ''Who wrote the works of Shakespeare?'' and eyes either widen with interest or glaze over. Amy Freed was well aware of that fact when she wrote ''The Beard of Avon,'' a satirical play on the subject. Her husband would be ''dead out at the dinner table,'' she recalled, while she could talk about nothing else with the friend who
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NYTimes article
Without You I'm Nothing
NYTimes - over 13 years
THE COLONEL The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley. By Alanna Nash. Illustrated. 394 pp. New York: Simon & Schuster. $25. ELVIS PRESLEY and his hustling manager, Col. Tom Parker, have become an American fable: the apple-cheeked plowboy and raw sexual dynamo who is born to the throne but can never escape the nefarious grasp
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Jessica Savitch
    THIRTIES
  • 1983
    Age 36
    On October 23, 1983, approximately three weeks after her problematic NBC broadcast, Savitch had dinner with Martin Fischbein, vice president of the New York Post, in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
    More Details Hide Details Savitch and Fischbein had been dating for a few weeks. After eating at the restaurant Chez Odette, they began to drive home about 7:15 p.m., with Fischbein behind the wheel and Savitch in the back seat with her dog, Chewy. Fischbein may have missed posted warning signs in a heavy rainfall. He drove out of the wrong exit from the restaurant, and up the towpath of the old Pennsylvania Canal's Delaware Division on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. The car veered too far to the left and went over the edge into the shallow water of the canal. After falling approximately 15 feet and landing upside down, the station wagon sank into deep mud that sealed the doors shut. Savitch and Fischbein were trapped inside as water poured in. A local resident found the wreck at about 11:30 that night. Fischbein's body was still strapped behind the wheel, with Savitch and her dog in the back seat.
    Shortly before her death in October 1983, Savitch also became known for her live broadcast of a short NBC News update in which her delivery was erratic and she appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    More Details Hide Details The incident caused widespread speculation that she was abusing drugs. She died three weeks later by drowning when a car in which she was a passenger accidentally drove into a canal during a heavy rainstorm. No drugs and very little alcohol were present in her system at the time of her death. Savitch was renowned for her audience appeal and her skills as an on-camera news reader, although she drew criticism for her relative lack of news reporting experience. Prior to joining NBC News, she was a popular local anchorwoman in Philadelphia, and before that, while working at a Houston television station, she was the first female news anchor in the South. After her death, two biographies were written about her and she was the subject of a television film, Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story, as well as television documentaries. The 1996 feature film Up Close and Personal starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford was very loosely based on her life, with many details changed in order to produce a film more upbeat than Savitch's troubled personal life. Her experiences as a pioneer female news anchor also helped inspire Will Ferrell to make the 2004 film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
    On October 3, 1983, during a live NBC news update, Savitch was incoherent on the air, slurring her speech, deviating from her script and ad-libbing her report.
    More Details Hide Details She performed a later update the same evening without issues. Her flawed delivery fueled speculation that she was using drugs, specifically cocaine. However, Savitch blamed the problems on a teleprompter malfunction, while her agent said it was due to the effects of pain and medication from her recent facial reconstructive surgery following a boating accident. While some of her NBC colleagues said they had seen evidence of drug use, other friends and associates expressed skepticism that she had a drug problem. NBC correspondent Linda Ellerbee later said that she had asked network management to intervene, telling them, "You have to do something. This woman Savitch is in trouble." Ellerbee said that a network vice president responded, "We're afraid to do anything. We're afraid she'll kill herself on our time." When management failed to act, Ellerbee and other correspondents had tried to reach out to Savitch, who died before anything could be done.
    In January 1983, in addition to her work for NBC, Savitch began hosting a new public affairs documentary program on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Frontline.
    More Details Hide Details She continued as host until her death later that year, at which time Judy Woodruff took over as host. Savitch's hiring by NBC was part of a controversial trend for networks to hire high-profile news presenters, including physically attractive women, who appealed to the viewing public but lacked significant past reporting experience. Correspondents with many years of reporting experience in broadcast and/or print media were often overlooked for promotion in favor of the new "performer" model of anchor. Some critics viewed this as emphasizing image over substance and awarding lucrative anchor positions to persons who had not earned them. Savitch was perceived as having been hired and promoted beyond her ability based on her looks, and treated more like a Hollywood star than a reporter, as evidenced by her contract's inclusion of personal service perks, such as limousine service, a hairdresser, and a secretary, that were not normally present in contracts for network correspondents. Savitch's time at NBC also coincided with a period of upheaval for NBC News marked by declining ratings and four changes of management, creating an unstable work environment.
    On October 3, 1983, approximately three weeks before her death, Savitch delivered a live 43-second NBC News update segment in which she was incoherent and appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol on the air.
    More Details Hide Details The incident sparked rumors that Savitch had a drug abuse problem, although she and her agent denied it.
    From then until her death in October 1983, Savitch's only regular appearances on NBC were on the NBC News update segments.
    More Details Hide Details
    In June 1983, NBC removed Savitch from her regular Saturday evening anchor slot and replaced her with Chung, who also accepted the Early Today anchor position that Savitch had rejected.
    More Details Hide Details
    Despite her competence and success as an anchor, Savitch was criticized for her relative lack of competence as a reporter, and faced troubles in her personal life. By 1983, Savitch was anxious about her job and showing signs of emotional instability, and NBC was beginning to shift its focus to other anchors, particularly the newly hired Connie Chung.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1981
    Age 34
    Her second marriage in March 1981 to Dr. Donald Payne, her gynecologist, lasted only a few months.
    More Details Hide Details It ended when Payne, who had substance abuse problems and suffered from depression (attributed to liver disease), committed suicide by hanging in their Washington, D.C. townhouse. Savitch, who was in New York on business at the time, found his body when she returned to the house. Although she was upset by his death, she returned to her work at NBC just three weeks later. Savitch had a long-term intermittent relationship over many years with TV news executive Ron Kershaw. Kershaw had substance abuse problems and physically abused Savitch during their relationship. In the early 1970s, while she was working for CBS in New York City, Savitch also had a romantic relationship with CBS News journalist Ed Bradley, who was then a WCBS radio reporter. According to Bradley, after the relationship ended they continued to have a "non-romantic, social and professional relationship" until her death.
    She also contributed commentary to NBC Radio Network and worked on a 1981 espionage documentary called The Spies Among Us.
    More Details Hide Details Following her death, the network's decision to make Savitch a reporter was criticized on the basis that her skills were best suited to the news presenter role for which she had primarily been hired.
  • 1980
    Age 33
    She was elected to the college's Board of Trustees in 1980.
    More Details Hide Details The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia posthumously inducted Savitch into their Hall of Fame in 2006. Jessica Savitch published her own autobiography, Anchorwoman, in 1982. After her death, two posthumous biographies were written about her. According to The Washington Post, each of her biographers interviewed over 300 people in order to write their respective books. Although both biographies contain similar material, Savitch's family and friends have challenged as untrue portions of the books regarding her reporting skills and controversial aspects of her personal life (see Personal life). The first biography, Almost Golden: Jessica Savitch and the Selling of Television News (Simon & Schuster, 1988) by Gwenda Blair, told Savitch's story within the broader context of the history of network news. It was later made into a Lifetime Network made-for-TV movie starring Sela Ward, called Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story. When first aired, Almost Golden earned the second-highest rating ever for a cable television film up to that point. The television film was criticized for omitting or downplaying controversial aspects of Savitch's life and career that were discussed at length in Blair's book.
    Savitch was married twice and had no children. Her first marriage in 1980 to Philadelphia advertising executive Melvin "Mel" Korn ended in divorce after 11 months.
    More Details Hide Details Korn reportedly divorced her after learning that she had a significant drug problem.
    In 1980, she was one of the 12 most popular speakers in the United States.
    More Details Hide Details Savitch's ambition was to replace John Chancellor as regular weeknight anchor, a goal she never achieved, partly because of backlash over her lack of reporting skills. Savitch constantly worked on improving her news reading delivery, using a voice coach and other techniques. Network executives and colleagues praised her skillful narration of film showing the murders of Congressman Leo Ryan and several others in a mass shooting by members of the Peoples Temple at Jonestown. There had not been time to view the film prior to its broadcast, so Savitch had to improvise her narration while viewing the graphic film for the first time. In addition to her regular anchor work on weekend news broadcasts and daily news updates, Savitch appeared on many other NBC News programs over the years. She served as a regular panel member on Meet The Press and contributed to the news magazine programs Prime Time Saturday and Prime Time Sunday. She substituted as anchor on the Today and Tomorrow shows. She was offered the anchor position for an early-morning news program Early Today (which later became NBC News at Sunrise), but turned it down.
    Thereafter, although she was a general assignment reporter and helped to cover the 1980 Republican and Democratic national conventions, she was primarily known as an anchor.
    More Details Hide Details She was the network’s second woman to anchor a weekend national newscast; Catherine Mackin had previously anchored NBC's Sunday evening newscast beginning in December 1976, before she left for ABC News the following year. Savitch later became the first woman to anchor the weeknight NBC Nightly News, periodically substituting for the regular anchors John Chancellor and David Brinkley. She was also assigned to anchor short NBC news updates (initially called "NBC News Update", later called "NBC News Capsule" and "NBC News Digest") that ran approximately one minute and aired in between regular prime time programs each evening, thus drawing a high number of viewers. As a network anchor, Savitch had a charismatic presence on camera and an extraordinary rapport with viewers, and became very popular with network affiliates and the viewing public. A 1982 TV Guide poll named her the fourth most trusted news anchor in the country, above many of the most established male anchors of the era. Another 1982 poll named her the "sexiest" female anchor in the country. Affiliates agreed to run the NBC News update segments largely because she would be presenting them. Her success influenced numerous aspiring female newscasters to model themselves after her look and delivery.
  • 1979
    Age 32
    By 1979 she was demoted from the Senate assignment due to poor performance (see NBC reporter).
    More Details Hide Details
  • TWENTIES
  • 1977
    Age 30
    In 1977, when her contract with KYW expired, Savitch joined NBC News as a weekend news anchor and U.S. Senate reporter.
    More Details Hide Details Savitch spent most of her national news career with NBC News, becoming best known as a popular anchor of weekend news broadcasts and short news update segments. In order to counter criticism that Savitch had been hired for her looks and image and promoted ahead of skilled journalists, NBC also assigned her to do reporting work, including a brief stint as U.S. Senate correspondent. Savitch was an extremely competent anchor, but she had relatively little reporting experience and struggled as a network reporter.
    Savitch did her last newscast for KYW in August 1977.
    More Details Hide Details Savitch got along well with some members of the KYW staff, including her regular location shooting crew and her co-anchor Mort Crim. Crim later admitted that he was initially "not nice to her" due to his own male chauvinism, but the two later became good friends. (Crim delivered the eulogy at her memorial service after her death.) However, other staff members found her difficult, especially towards the end of her KYW contract when she was planning to leave the station for her next job at NBC. Shortly before she left KYW, Savitch exploded in an angry tantrum during a commercial break because the pages of her news script had been provided out of order. The crew recorded it without sound, added background music from Aram Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance", and circulated the resulting tape to industry contacts, causing the tape of Savitch's tantrum to arrive at NBC before she began her new job and present her in a negative light to her new colleagues.
    Impressed with her performance, NBC offered her a three-year contract starting in September 1977 as a Washington, D.C. correspondent and anchor.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1976
    Age 29
    In 1976, Savitch came to the attention of NBC executives while reporting from a Presidential campaign debate between President Gerald Ford and Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter held in Philadelphia at the Walnut Street Theatre.
    More Details Hide Details An audio line failed, delaying the debate and leaving Savitch to fill 27 minutes of air time before the audio could be restored.
  • 1972
    Age 25
    In 1972, she joined KYW-TV, the former NBC affiliate (now CBS) in Philadelphia, as a general assignment reporter and weekend anchor under a five-year contract.
    More Details Hide Details Unlike KHOU, KYW was unionized, so Savitch was not permitted to do work other than on-camera news reading and reporting. At the time KYW hired Savitch, it was under pressure from the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) to place more women in then-non-traditional roles on the local news, or face a possible legal challenge to its broadcast license. When she was initially unable to obtain a weeknight anchor shift, Savitch attempted to break her KYW contract and take a job offered by CBS in New York. KYW refused to release her from her contract, but agreed to raise her salary and (partly to satisfy NOW) make her a weeknight anchor. She soon began to anchor noon news broadcasts as well, and eventually became part of a popular team of three anchors with Mort Crim and Vince Leonard on the 11 pm news. Philadelphia viewers responded enthusiastically to her on-camera presence, which was perceived as "magical" and triggering an "almost emotional bond" with the audience.
  • 1969
    Age 22
    In 1969, Savitch was hired as an administrative assistant at WCBS, the CBS Radio flagship news station in New York City, where she also did freelance production work.
    More Details Hide Details WCBS would not hire her as a reporter because she had no professional experience. She used the WCBS facilities to make a television audition tape and sent copies to many TV stations around the country, seeking an on-air position. Despite her lack of broadcast news experience, she was hired by KHOU-TV in Houston as the station's first female reporter. Dick John, the manager who hired her, said he did so because he was impressed with her ambition and drive as well as her copywriting and speaking skills. The station had also been ordered to hire a female reporter in order to avoid any legal challenge to its broadcast license based on gender discrimination. When Savitch arrived at KHOU, she was the only female working in the news department other than one secretary, and faced a work environment hostile to females, although some male colleagues did help her learn the basics of her job. Because KHOU was non-union, she participated in many aspects of production as well as reporting on camera. A few months after joining KHOU, she auditioned for and won a weekend anchor shift, becoming the first female news anchor in the South and beginning to develop the severe, mannered style of news delivery for which she later became known. Her report on a train derailment and fire received national exposure on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.
  • 1968
    Age 21
    She graduated from Ithaca College in 1968.
    More Details Hide Details
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1947
    Age 0
    Savitch was born February 1, 1947, in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, about 35 miles west of Philadelphia.
    More Details Hide Details She was the eldest daughter of Florence (née Goldberger), a navy nurse, and David Savitch, who ran a clothing store. Her father and maternal grandfather were Jewish, and her maternal grandmother was Italian American and Catholic. After her father died at age 33 in 1959, her family moved to Margate City, New Jersey (a suburb of Atlantic City). According to her two biographers, Gwenda Blair and Alanna Nash, Savitch was haunted throughout her life by her father's untimely death, and pursued a career partly to compensate for the loss. While in high school in Atlantic City, Savitch got a job co-hosting a show for teenagers on radio station WOND in Pleasantville, New Jersey. She enjoyed the work and soon became a news reader and disc jockey for WOND as well. She was the first female disc jockey in that area.
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