Wendy Rieger: Popular TV Anchor in Washington for More Than 30 Years

From a Washington Post obit by Travis M. Andrews headlined “Wendy Rieger, longtime Channel 4 anchor in Washington, dies at 65”:

Wendy Rieger, who co-anchored the popular 5 p.m. newscast on Washington’s NBC station WRC-TV (Channel 4) for more than 30 years, winning a loyal audience with her good-humored and well-crafted reports, died April 16 at a hospice in Montgomery County. The cause was glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer.

A fixture of broadcast journalism for more than four decades, Ms. Rieger won local Emmy Awards, including one for a report on Vietnam 20 years after the war. She made news herself when she had open-heart surgery in fall 2020 to address a rapid heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) and a defect in a mitral valve. In May 2021, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had most of it surgically removed, and she retired in December after 33 years at WRC.

Ms. Rieger was an actress in Norfolk when she made her journalism debut in the late 1970s, earning extra money as a news reader for a Tidewater-area radio station. She was advised by a station colleague to “sound” like a news person — “You know, serious,” she was told. “Like Walter Cronkite.”

After assessing her less-than-flourishing stage career — “There’s no closer way to get to Broadway than to do dinner theater in Norfolk,” she joked — she changed paths. Ms. Rieger spent much of the 1980s in public and commercial radio, with stints at WAMU, WLTT-FM and WTOP, and earned acclaim for her engaging personality and thoughtful handling of hard news and community features.

She also worked as a weekend reporter at CNN’s Washington bureau and, in 1988, joined WRC-TV as a nighttime street reporter during the crack epidemic. She began anchoring weekend evening newscasts in 1996 and moved to the 5 p.m. weekday slot in 2001, sharing the table initially with Susan Kidd and later with Jim Handly.

Four years later, Ms. Rieger reported on a woman who had discovered she was allergic to chemicals in her house and found environmentally friendly ways to remedy the problem. The episode led Ms. Rieger to launch a weekly segment and accompanying blog called Going Green.

“It’s easy to change a couple of things — change a few lightbulbs, wash clothes in cold water,” she told Washingtonian in 2008, when the magazine awarded her a prize for her commitment to environmental safety and preservation. “We want people to do this joyfully.”

Going Green, with tutorials on ways to save energy and commit to healthier lifestyles for people and pets, proved so popular that many stations in the NBC network began airing her segments, and NBC Nightly News launched a similar feature.

On the air, Ms. Rieger was inclined to show a personally revealing, self-deprecating side when the mood felt right. Lashed by wind and rain while covering a hurricane, she quipped to the audience, “Note to self: waterproof mascara!” She followed with her observation after that maelstrom had tempered down and was only producing tiny waves in the Atlantic Ocean: The wondrous storm “goes all flat,” she said, “kinda like my dating life.”

Wendy Bell Rieger was born in Norfolk on April 18, 1956. Her father was an airline pilot, and her mother was an English teacher and later a polygraph examiner. Ms. Rieger was 8 when they divorced.

She graduated from American University in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her first marriage, to Sol Levine, a CNN producer, ended in divorce. In 2021 she married retired WRC-TV news photographer Dan Buckley. In addition to her husband, survivors include three brothers.

As a flaxen-haired former actress, Ms. Rieger often appeared on lists of Washington’s most attractive local celebrities. She grew weary of the flattery as her career progressed, saying she wished to keep attention on her work. She was proud of having found a personal style of delivering the news, which The Post once described as “self-effacing, opinionated and humorous by turns.”

She called it merely a reflection of herself.

“You have to be yourself on the air, you can’t go in there and project some fake personality, some front and expect people to believe it,” she said. “Eventually the real you comes through and it better be comfortable for you, since that’s what people see on the other side of the camera.”

Travis M. Andrews is a features writer for The Washington Post. He is also the author of “Because He’s Jeff Goldblum,” a rumination on the enigmatic actor’s career and an exploration of fame in the 21st century. He joined The Post in 2016.

Also see the obit by Doreen Gentzler, a News4 anchor, headlined “Wendy Rieger, Beloved NEWS4 Anchor, Dies Following Cancer Battle.”

Wendy Rieger, longtime News4 anchor and reporter, died Saturday morning after a battle with Glioblastoma. Wendy was holding the hand of her husband, Dan, as she passed away.

For almost 35 years, Wendy had a way of lighting up the screen. You’d never quite know what you were going to get.

Except….yea, you’d know exactly what you’d get.

For all these years, Wendy was Wendy: Smart, funny, compassionate and authentically herself.

She shared a lot of her life with us over the years talking about her homes, her cats, her boat, her love of wine and her love of the area from the waters of Maryland to the mountains of Virginia. And, of course, the culture of Washington.

Wendy came to Washington to study at American University in D.C. Her career began in radio with her strong, euphonic voice emanating from the airwaves at WAMU and WTOP.

When she started at News4, however, it was clear that Wendy belonged in front of the camera.

You may remember Wendy’s unique coverage of hurricanes up and down the East Coast. She also reported from the Olympics in Brazil, a royal wedding in England and she chased news from New Zealand to Vietnam.

And, for 20 years, she was that fun engaging friend to check in with every evening at 5 o’clock. Her first desk partner was Susan Kidd and then she spent 14 years with the guy she calls “Handly.”

The chemistry between Wendy and Jim Handly was magical from the start. The News4 Team could hear their howling laugher from the makeup room to the newsroom.

Wendy was spontaneous and fun, but she also knew her stuff.

Producers always knew Wendy could adlib complicated foreign policy news or a breaking political story. She was one of the first television journalists to regularly cover the environment through her breakthrough series, Going Green.

And oh, could she write. Her scripts were the standard that her colleagues aspired to reach. Jim Vance, our late colleague, described Wendy’s talent as “finely skilled.”

The last story Wendy wrote was a heartfelt reflection on our late colleague Joe Krebs. She was going to miss his funeral that week because she wasn’t feeling well.

It turned out that a brain tumor was the cause of her symptoms. The diagnosis came just a few months after Wendy had open heart surgery. Wendy talked about that surgery with News4 viewers because she wanted to warn people to pay attention to their symptoms.

Through all of that — on TV and off — Wendy showed us just what kind of strength she had. When she signed off the air after 33 years, we saw our strong, smart, creative and curious friend look back with pride and ahead with hope.

Her cancer returned just a few months after that magical day.

In a note to the newsroom, she wrote this: “As you know, I have lived my life big and loud. It is my nature. And I’ve had a blast. But a stillness has come over me that is profound and potent. I didn’t know I could be this quiet. Life is not always a test. It is a teaching. I must learn this lesson with grace.  And I will.”

And you did, Wendy. You did with the grace and dignity we will never forget.

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