Richard Ray is going out on top as a TV news anchor, and it worries him.
After 48 years in TV, he will retire April 21 with KDFW/Channel 4 at or near the top in the ratings, and with Fox 4 also leading WFAA/Channel 8 in a recent study asking local residents where they turn for news.
“It distresses me that people are getting their news primarily from TV,” he said last week, beginning a farewell run as he ends 36 years at Fox 4 and 26 years anchoring what might be the single most watched newscast of all: the Sunday news at halftime or after a Dallas Cowboys game.
“People should be reading the newspaper,” he said.
“It distresses me greatly that people are not reading newspapers.”
TV is “great for hyperlocal stuff, weather, local stories,” he said.
“But if you’re getting all your information from TV — wow.”
Only one trend could be worse.
“The same people who get their news off TV will tell you they get a lot of their news off Facebook,” Ray said.
“My god, what a terrible thing that is.”
Ray’s retirement is of particular interest in Fort Worth because, like recent WFAA/Channel 8 retiree John McCaa, he worked a couple of years reporting in Fort Worth.
Back then, Fox 4 had anchor desks in three cities, with Ray often leading off the news from a Fort Worth set inside the Star-Telegram building. Sometimes, he’d even stand in the newsroom reception area as copy editors worked behind him.
(The Star-Telegram was originally KXAS/Channel 5’s news affiliate for 44 years, then hosted Channel 4. Since 2014, we’ve been pals with WFAA/Channel 8.)
“i just enjoyed Fort Worth,” he said: “It’s a saner place. Dallas, you can take any other major city and they’re all the same. But I really enjoyed Fort Worth.”
He also agreed that news stations carry less and less Fort Worth news. When he started in the 1980s, TV and radio stations were careful to treat the two cities equally — “like two beautiful ladies, and you didn’t want to slight either one,” radio executive Ron Chapman used to say.
“Channel 5 used to be the ‘Fort Worth station,’ and that’s in part why we came over and tried to appeal to Fort Worth leaders,” he said.
“Over the years, what’s happened is you have less and less ‘Fort Worth viewers’ or ‘Dallas viewers,’ “ he said.
“What you have is a lot more ‘North Texas viewers.’ It’s all become part of this big Metroplex.”
Ray left his mark on Fort Worth with his wildlife and adventure coverage. When he named old-school Burger’s Lake in west Fort Worth as the fourth best swimming hole in Texas, crowds came from miles away,
Ray’s coverage of the Fort Worth Zoo and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center helped introduce those attractions to newcomers.
Fort Worth Zoo spokeswoman Alexis Wilson said the zoo was often on Ray’s “Lone Star Adventures” segment.
“His deep love for wild things and wild places drove him to make powerful contributions to conservation,” she said, “whether feeding stingrays at the zoo or filming the release of horned lizards in the wild.”
He covered other wild things, like the 1993 Branch Davidian standoff at Mount Carmel near Waco and at least 10 national political conventions.
He coveed six Democratic and Republican conventions when KDFW was the local CBS affiliate, connecting him with CBS News’ resources. (In 1995, after a sale, KDFW became Fox 4 Texas.)
Ray plans to continue working but not in TV news.
In an online message, he said he has “other adventures planned.”
Of course, he posted it on Facebook.