He was much a part of the weekend as buying bagels on a Sunday morning. John Cameron Swayze Jr (who went by Cameron Swayze on the air), the veteran WCBS-AM anchor, retired last month after selling his house.
Separating Swayze (left, with WCBS afternoon anchor Wayne Cabot in 2006) from the rest of the pack was the decades of experience he brought to listeners.
“Because of all the news he covered in his career, he knew more about most stories than almost anyone else on the radio,” Tim Scheld, WCBS-AM news director, tells FishbowlNY. “There’s no substitute for context and experience.”
Swayze was also a wordsmith of the highest order. His delivery was as crisp as the autumn air on one of his early morning weekend shifts.
The longtime newsman, who started at WCBS in 1988, had lineage on his side. He is the son of John Cameron Swayze. In 1949, the elder Swayze was tapped to anchor NBC News’ first foray into evening news with the 15-minute Camel News Caravan.
As for junior, Scheld reflects on a standout moment working with him (as a reporter) when the Rodney King verdict was announced.
“He was always at his best in breaking news situations and he knew how to draw the best of his supporting cast.”
Scheld says Swayze kept listeners informed with fair reporting of a complicated story.
“I was honored to have been on the air with him that day.”
Scheld joined Swayze for another difficult day, when the World Trade Center bombing took place in 1993.
“He was the very definition of an anchorman in that story–smart, calm, and rock solid.”
That longevity would lend itself to a well-deserved farewell from New York, WCBS, and the business. But Scheld says Swayze wanted to keep it low-key.
Looking to the future, Scheld has no immediate plans to fill Swayze’s seat on weekend mornings.
“We have a very talented staff of part time anchors who will help fill those shifts for the near term.”
Scheld says after so many early morning wake-up calls, he’s earned a chance to sleep in.
“I count him up there with the great journalists who have made WCBS 880 a special place to work,” Scheld says.
Photo Credit: Ted David/NY Broadcasting History Board