Jim Hartz, a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show for two years in the mid-1970s who also was a local news anchor in New York City and on WRC in Washington, D.C., died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at a hospital in Fairfax County, VA. He was 82. Portions of his obit in The Washington Post follow:
In New York, Hartz helped make WNBC’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. programs the top-rated newscasts in the city. Broadcasting from the same building that housed the national headquarters of NBC News, he made a name as a dependable news reader and on-the-scene reporter and drew the notice of network executives.
An old-school newscaster with a deep voice that had hints of his native Oklahoma, Hartz became one of the country’s youngest local news anchors when he joined New York’s WNBC-TV in 1964, when he was 24.
His mentor at NBC News was Frank McGee, a veteran reporter and fellow Oklahoman who was host of the “Today” show from 1971 until his death from bone cancer in 1974. When Hartz was chosen to succeed McGee as co-host of “Today” alongside Barbara Walters, he reportedly beat out Tom Brokaw and Tom Snyder for the job.
In June 1976, Walters left the “Today” show, and as NBC executives reconfigured the program, Hartz was soon replaced as host by Brokaw. He stayed on for several months in a diminished role as a roving correspondent.In 1977, he came to Washington as co-anchor with Jim Vance of the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts on the NBC-owned WRC-TV. He was reportedly paid $200,000 a year, the highest salary of any local newscaster at the time.
After two years, WRC-TV brought in Gordon Peterson from competing station Channel 9 (then known as WDVM), and Mr. Hartz’s contract was not renewed.
He later became co-host, with Broadway star Mary Martin, of “Over Easy,” a PBS program about aging gracefully that originated in San Francisco and featured interviews with celebrities such as comedian Bob Hope and actress Jane Fonda. In the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Hartz had a long tenure as host of the PBS science program “Innovation” and worked on other shows, including a joint PBS telecast with a Japanese network about Asian news.
In addition to broadcasting, Hartz had a public relations consulting business and contributed articles to National Geographic and other publications. He won five Emmy Awards throughout his career and retired in his mid-60s.
He resided in Alexandria, Va., for more than 30 years.