Alumni Award Profile: Doreen Gentzler

Alumni Award Profile: Doreen Gentzler

April 19, 2023

The following is one installment of a series recognizing alumni and friends who will be honored at the 2023 Grady Salutes celebration on April 28, 2023. For more details, please see our posts about our Fellowship honorees, Alumni Award recipients and Dean’s Medalist.

Congratulations to Doreen Gentzler (ABJ ’79), this year’s John Holliman, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for sustained contributions to the profession throughout her career. By nature of this honor, Gentzler also will be inducted into the Grady Fellowship.

Gentzler anchored the news on WRC/NBC4 in Washington, D.C. for 33 years before retiring in November 2022. During that time she interviewed presidents; reported from war-torn areas including Bosnia and the Persian Gulf; and, in the words of her colleagues, covered local and regional news with empathy, intelligence and care.

Gentzler won several local Emmy’s and has been long-respected for her award-winning series, “News 4 Your Health,” bringing viewers into hospital operating rooms, sharing medical breakthroughs and explaining the latest technology helping to save lives.

Jim Vance and Doreen Gentzler on the news set
The late Jim Vance and Doreen Gentzler on the WRC/NBC4 set in 2011.

As the late Jim Vance said, “Her compassion for the afflicted and her passion for storytelling…have led her to become the station’s, and indeed the city’s, premiere health reporter. It is a labor of love and in it, she has no fear.”

Gentzler spent her early childhood in Arlington, Virginia, and prior to returning to the area, she held reporting and anchoring jobs in Chattanooga, Charlotte, Cleveland and Philadelphia before joining NBC4 in 1989. Doreen has also filled in on “The Today Show” and “NBC at Sunrise.”

As a student of the broadcast journalism program at UGA, Gentzler had an internship with “Lawmakers,” covering the Georgia State Legislature for Georgia Public Broadcasting.

“This was the best experience and was where I learned about daily deadline reporting, and writing explanations of pending legislation and how it would affect people,” Gentzler said.

The following are responses to an interview with Gentzler:

Georgia College: What class at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your current career?

Doreen Gentzler interviews President Barack Obama
Doreen Gentzler interviews President Barack Obama in 2013 (Photo: Pete Souza)

Doreen Gentzler: I have to say that the classes that made the biggest impact on me were news writing and reporting classes. I worked on my high school newspaper, but never had any news writing training before I started college. But some of the techniques and rules I learned in the J-school writing classes are still in my head 40-plus years later as I write and edit news copy…especially using clear and straightforward language, active verbs and no unnecessary extra words…these all still apply!

GC: What do you miss most about being at UGA?

DG: All the fun I had for four years—of course! The learning experience was wonderful, but all those football game weekends, the parties and the wonderful independence of living on my own for the first time are all still memorable. I made some life-long friends during my time in Athens and today, 40-some years later, they’re still some of my besties.

GC: What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

DG: Writing, writing, and writing. Good writing skills are the basis for everything else you’ll do in your professional life. I know everyone’s got a cellphone camera and you can make YouTube and TikTok videos and host a podcast, and learning how to work in front of a TV camera is important. But, without good clear writing skills, you won’t be as effective at communicating on TV, or public speaking, or responding to emails. I’ve worked with a lot of young people with degrees from good journalism programs, and too many of them are writing news copy like text messages. Get your writing act together to lift up everything else. And don’t forget: proofreading is very important, too.

GC: Do you have any other advice for today’s students?

DG: Yes, stay true to yourself. Don’t try to imitate anyone else. Don’t let anyone try to change your self-image to fit their idea of what you should be. Speak up if someone asks you to report something that you think is wrong or inaccurate. Identify a mentor you respect and ask for their feedback. Even if they’re busy, there are a lot of people in journalism who want to help those coming up behind them. In this era of dis-information, you can play an important role!

Tickets to Grady Salutes: Celebrating Achievement, Leadership and Commitment on April 28, 2023, are available for purchase. Register here.  


WRC/NBC4 celebrates Doreen Gentzler’s retirement in this special from November 2022