After 34 years as an investigative reporter, news anchor, and consumer advocate, WCVB-TV’s Susan Wornick will bid viewers goodbye Friday during Channel 5’s midday newscast, which she anchors. Wornick, 64, had announced her retirement last July.
“I’m working on it in my head, and have been for 34 years,” Wornick said Thursday, when asked how she might sign off. “But I know I’ll have to write it down and read it. Otherwise, I’ll get too emotional.”
Mostly, she said, “What I want to say is thank you.”
Wornick informed station management two years ago about her intentions. She arrived at that decision while reporting on the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she said Thursday, and the death of Britney Gengel , a young student volunteer whom she’d befriended.
“I realized I didn’t want to do any more stories about dead children,” Wornick reflected.
On Wednesday, Channel 5’s “Chronicle” paid homage to Wornick with a career recap and lighthearted look at her personal life, including her four marriages and dozens of different hairstyles (all blond). Wornick appeared on camera with ex-husband Bob Lobel , with whom she’s maintained a close friendship. The two are exploring cohosting a talk show. Among the many VIPs paying on-air tributes to Wornick have been Red Sox slugger David Ortiz , Governor Deval Patrick , and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh .
Over the decades, Wornick built a strong bond with viewers, succeeding in a highly competitive industry and becoming a sought-after fund-raiser for local causes, including Rosie’s Place and many others. An Emerson College graduate and Natick native — she jokes about being “living proof” that Natick existed before Doug Flutie — Wornick joined Channel 5 in 1981.
“I never really looked like everybody else on TV,” she said, laughing. “Colleagues used to tell me I had not-ready-for-prime-time hair. Yet I always believed that if I were a good, solid reporter, Boston audiences would accept me.”
She also learned to shrug off snarky comments, she added. At one point her answering machine instructed callers wishing to leave nasty comments about her hair to “press 3 and hang up.”
In September, Wornick, a three-time regional Emmy winner, was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame. She’s proudest, she said, of her role as a consumer watchdog. Biggest change in the TV news industry? Technological advances and “news managers and station owners recognizing those behind the scenes, the producers and writers, are as important as the people on-air,” she replied.
For Friday’s farewell, colleagues and friends have planned a pair of parties at the station for Wornick, the first built around her love of cooking and her famous bolognese sauce.
Channel 5 president and general manager Bill Fine said Thursday that if one theme runs through the many tributes pouring in, “It’s that Susan is someone they’ve come to trust and respect. And yes, love, too.”
Joseph P. Kahn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.