Chuck Scarborough: New York's Long-term Anchor
November 25, 2008
Chuck Scarborough, 64, has anchored the WNBC-TV evening news for 34 years. He and co-anchor Sue Simmons are the longest-running anchor team in New York television history. Simmons joined forces with Scarborough at WNBC in 1980, where she was soon assigned the seat next to Scarborough at the flagship station's 6 and 11 p.m. broadcasts. They have been side by side in the studio ever since, complementing each other's personalities and interests.
"He's there as a steadying influence to curtail my craziness at times," Simmons said. "He doesn't have to work hard at it—just has to look at me with the eye and say, 'It's not time to play. You've gone far enough.'"
Simmons, meanwhile, loosens up the controlled Scarborough. Perhaps the anchor is moderate on the air, but not in the breadth of his pursuits. Scarborough is also a U.S. Air Force veteran, has a commercial pilot's license and has written three novels.
As a young journalist, Scarborough rose quickly. By age 23, he was promoted to production manager at WLOX-TV in Biloxi, Miss., where he directed the station's on-air operations and acquired a detailed knowledge of the broadcast industry.
He then worked nights as a reporter and anchor at WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, Miss., while completing his B.S. at University of Southern Mississippi. After working as a reporter, anchor and managing editor for two-and-a-half years at WAGATV, Scarborough in 1972 joined WNAC-TV in Boston, where he excelled in reporting major breaking news stories, such as the 1973 Delta Air Lines plane crash at Logan Airport.
Scarborough was one of the first journalists on the scene.
"I used the news film cameras to create a broadcast that, when it was shown on air at 6 p.m., would look live," he said.
Live on-the-scene reporting had not yet been established, he added. Scarborough joined WNBC in 1974, where 27 years later he covered what he calls the biggest story of his lifetime—the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
"In that instance, I felt like I was precisely where I needed to be—at the apex of the coverage, talking to the audience I knew so well and that knew me," he said.
Scarborough's WNBC colleagues call him especially skilled at ad lib and at always keeping them on the ball. The seasoned anchor is known at WNBC for his unrelenting perfectionism. But he himself and his colleagues say that he has evolved over the years.
"I've become less temperamental with my coworkers. I'm less obnoxious of a perfectionist than I used to be," he said. In addition to his two daily broadcasts with Simmons, Scarborough is solo anchor of WNBC's 7 p.m. "New York Nightly News."
It was the region's first 7 o'clock local newscast in 14 years. It was rolled into the broadcast in September 2007 to replace a syndicated show and as an alternative to one-hour news shows at 5 p.m. Kari Patey, an evening news producer, said that when it came to choosing an anchor for the local nightly news program, WNBC immediately turned to Scarborough, who has won more than 30 Emmy Awards. "Chuck is the franchise, the big dog. He is one of the major faces" of New York television, she said. —Aline Reynolds