John Roland, Durable Anchor at Fox Flagship in N.Y., Dies at 81

John Roland, the Emmy Award-winning anchor of the 10 p.m. newscast on Fox’s flagship station and a dependable fixture on local television news in New York for 35 years, died on Sunday in North Miami Beach, Fla. He was 81.

The cause was complications of a stroke, his wife, Zayda Galasso, said.

While Fox 5’s nightly newscast began with the ominous query, “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” Mr. Roland was a reassuring presence during the quarter-century that he anchored the weeknight program, from 1979, when he succeeded Bill Jorgensen, who was lured to WPIX-TV, until just before he retired in 2004. The program typically topped the ratings at that hour for TV news.

“John was very likable, not a formidable presence like Bill Jorgensen,” Ted Kavanagh, the station’s news director from 1968 to 1974, said in an email. “He was more a Jimmy Stewart type. An American Everyman that somehow finds himself thrust into the limelight and makes a surprisingly strong impression.”

One of Mr. Rowland’s co-anchors, Judy Licht Della Femina, who described herself as “the first female anchor in Channel 5’s history,” said, “Back when it had a pretty gritty, testosterone-laden newsroom, John was there to protect me. He looked out for me.”

John Roland Gingher Jr. was born in Pittsburgh on Nov. 25, 1941, to John and Marian Gingher. His father was a foundry inspector.

After graduating from California State University at Long Beach in 1964, Mr. Rowland began his career in broadcasting as a researcher for NBC News in Los Angeles in 1966 and abbreviated his name.

As a reporter for KTTV, a Metromedia station there, he covered Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1968 and the trial of Charles Manson, who was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy in 1971 for the deaths of seven people, including the film actress Sharon Tate.

In 1969, Mr. Rowland was hired as a political reporter by Metromedia’s sister station, WNEW in New York (now Fox’s WNYW). He also worked as a weekend anchor and produced a cooking feature before being promoted to weeknight anchor.

In 1983, Mr. Roland made news when he disarmed one of three robbers who tried to hold up a restaurant on East 67th Street in Manhattan opposite Fox’s broadcast center. He shot one with the robber’s own gun, but was hit over the head with a pistol. He needed 36 stitches to close the wound.

In 1986, he became a partner in an Upper East Side restaurant, Marcello, which was awarded two stars in a review by Bryan Miller of The New York Times.

Mr. Rowland was briefly suspended in 1988 after a heated on-air interview with Joyce Brown, a mentally ill homeless woman whose involuntary commitment to a mental hospital for treatment had been successfully challenged by the New York Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Roland had encountered Ms. Brown, who also went by the name Billie Boggs, before her incarceration; she had lived in front of a hot air vent near the television station.

The interview grew combative when Mr. Roland challenged Ms. Brown’s assertion that she had never needed any hospital care; he cited her behavior in the streets that he had witnessed and found offensive. The station was flooded with complaints, as well as calls of support for Mr. Roland.

He was suspended, a spokesman for the station said, because during the interview “his emotions prevailed over objectivity.” He later apologized on the air and in a phone call to Ms. Brown and said his interview had been “very insensitive.”

Mr. Roland won two local Emmy Awards, in 1976-77 as a writer on the Sunday 10 p.m. news, and in 1981-82, which he shared with colleagues on the weeknight news broadcast.

He appeared as an anchor in the films “Hero at Large” (1980), “Eyewitness” (1981) and “The Object of My Affection” (1998), and as himself in “The Scout” (1994).

Mr. Roland was married four times. In addition to Ms. Galasso, he is survived by a brother, Ronald; a stepdaughter, Natasha; and a step-granddaughter.

He left the 10 p.m. slot in 2003, anchoring newscasts at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. until he retired in 2004.

“I want to thank you for inviting me into your home for all these years,” he said from the anchor desk on his last broadcast. “It’s an invitation I never took for granted and always considered an honor.”

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