Bill Jorgensen, Authoritative New York TV Newsman, Dies at 96

Bill Jorgensen, a serious-minded broadcast journalist who for 12 years anchored the pioneering, street-smart 10 p.m. newscast on New York’s Channel 5, died on March 13 at his home in Franklin, N.C. He was 96.

His daughter Rebekah Jorgensen confirmed the death.

Mr. Jorgensen, who came to New York from Cleveland in 1967, had some of the traits of a veteran anchor: a mane of graying hair, a deep, measured baritone and a tendency to lean into the camera with an intense gaze, as if to meet viewers head-on.

“He was kind of a giant, aloof, powerful figure,” Victor Neufeld, who rose from production assistant to producer of the program, said in an interview. “He was the model of the Walter Cronkite style of anchoring — he carried himself with deep authority.”

“The 10 O’Clock News” on WNEW-TV (now Fox 5 New York) was a gamechanger. As an independent station owned by Metromedia, it is believed to have been the first news program in the New York market to compete in prime-time against the entertainment programs on network stations. (WPIX, Channel 11, a rival independent station that had long started its newscast at 11 p.m., moved it to 10 clock in late 1967.)

When “The 10 O’Clock News” debuted in March 1979, Channel 5 ran a full-page newspaper ad that proclaimed, “Jorgensen Can’t Wait To Give You The News,” and promised, “This man is going to change TV viewing habits.”

And it did. With hard-hitting tabloid stories, with a significant focus on crime, covered in just 30 minutes by savvy reporters like Bob O’Brien, Chris Jones and Bill McCreary, “The 10 O’Clock News” found a strong audience against network shows and eventually expanded to an hour.

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