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John Roland, who served as a reporter and anchor for Channel 5 in New York for more than three decades, died Sunday, a rep for Fox Television Stations announced. He was 81.
In December 1969, Roland left KTTV in Los Angeles to join sister Metromedia station WNEW in New York as a general assignment reporter. He covered politics during the week and anchored the 10 p.m. newscast on weekends before taking over for Bill Jorgensen on the flagship 10 p.m. weeknight edition in 1979. (News Corp. and Fox took control of the station in 1986, and it was rebranded as WNYW.)
Roland left the 10 p.m. post in 2003 to anchor new newscasts at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., then retired to Florida in June 2004.
“I want to thank you for inviting me into your home for all these years,” he said on the air when he departed. “It’s an invitation I never took for granted and always considered an honor.”
Rosanna Scotto, who worked for years alongside Roland, said that “sitting next to John was always a learning lesson. He took pride in his writing and his down-to-earth communicating. It was never more evident than anchoring next to him during the 9/11 attacks.”
A native of Pittsburgh, Roland graduated from California State University at Long Beach in 1964 and joined NBC News in Los Angeles two years later. At KTTV, he covered the Robert F. Kennedy assassination in 1968 and other breaking stories.
In 1983, Roland and a friend were having a late dinner at the former Racing Club near Channel 5 studios in Manhattan when three armed men entered the restaurant demanding money. Roland disarmed one of robbers and shot him in the leg before the other two attacked him.
He argued with a homeless woman on the air in 1988 and was suspended but was back on the air after he apologized. In 2002, he almost died at work after experiencing diverticulitis; he would later share his health scare with viewers.
Roland appeared as a reporter or as himself in such films as Hero at Large (1980), Eyewitness (1981), The Scout (1994) and The Object of My Affection (1998).
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