For a quarter-century, Vic Miles was a steady rock at WCBS/Channel 2. His delivery was simple, not flourishing. His looks weren’t of a matinee idol; he appeared at times to have a suit too big for his slender build. Miles was a newsman, whether in the field or at the anchor desk.
Miles’ son Vincent Levy confirms to FishbowlNY that his father died last night. Miles, who had been in declining health, was hospitalized Saturday in New York. He was 79.
“I think he liked reporting a lot, because he was naturally suited to it,” former WCBS anchor Carol Martin recalls.
Martin had 20-year career with WCBS, so she got to know Miles very well. Before anchoring the evening newscasts, Martin, who started at Channel 2 in 1975, was the late-night street reporter.
“I was the rookie… [and] Vic was always just somebody who was generous with his time and advice,” Martin tells FishbowlNY. “He wasn’t somebody that you stood back and said, ‘I better not bother Mr. Miles.'”
Current Channel 2 anchor Dana Tyler echoed the same sentiment for her longtime cohort.
“When I started at Channel 2 News 21 years ago, I was in awe of Vic. This veteran reporter and anchor welcomed me here; he was kind, smart and so real and we all learned from him,” Tyler recalls. “He could cover any story and he made it all seem effortless.”
Miles started at WCBS in 1971 and stayed through various managements until 1995. Along with Tyler, his career overlapped with reporter John Slattery, with the station since 1984.
“Vic was a consummate professional, anchoring the weekend news broadcasts, and giving viewers an ‘up close’ view of the city he loved through his Our Block features, which won many awards,” Slattery says. “But mostly, Vic won the hearts of those who knew him by offering friendship and sound advice. God bless my old buddy, Vic.”
As with Slattery, and millions of viewers, Miles’ Our Block series impacted Tyler.
“He connected with people with such ease taking us all over New York. He set the bar high giving us insight as his stories jumped through the screen and into our hearts and minds. Vic Miles was truly one of a kind,” Tyler says.
Martin cites an important reason that Miles rose to become a top notch anchor and reporter for so many years.
“He was an excellent writer, really had an affinity for the word, at a time when it mattered more,” Martin says.
Miles was known for many years as the weekend anchor. However, when Dave Marash left Channel 2 in 1978, it was Miles who joined Rolland Smith at the anchor desk for a year (see video below).
“He was a delight as a co-anchor because I knew he did his homework,” Smith says. “So you weren’t left out there if you needed help.”
Smith, who anchored at WCBS from 1970 to 1986, says Miles ascension to weeknight anchor was groundbreaking.
“I don’t think there was a black anchor …in the chair Monday through Friday that I can recall,” Smith says.
In an era when the black anchor was rare even in the progressive North, Miles perserved, although he received some scrutiny.
New York magazine in the late 1970s did a piece about the city’s Black Establishment: A Guide for 1979. Under the category of Newspeople there were three TV personalities: Gil Noble, the WABC/Channel 7 Like It Is giant (Noble suffered a severe stroke during the summer ending his long running public affairs program), Melba Tolliver with WNBC/Channel 4 at the time and previously at WABC—and Vic Miles.
The article says that Miles “rarely moves in the established black circles and is often criticized for his aloofness and non-involvement.”
“He was very good at the role he played,” Martin says. “My sense of him was that he understood that.”
While his on-camera persona did not cross racial lines, Miles was not totally disconnected from people of color.
“He once taught me something that I hadn’t realized. In a black community, when someone dies in a tragic sort of way, until they get interviewed on television and/or radio, there is little validation for that person’s life,” Smith says.
Smith, a veteran anchor in his own right, had a successful 16-year run at WCBS.
“[Miles] was a solid, professional anchor,” Smith remembers. “He knew his stuff, particularly in the field. He was a very good field reporter.”
Prior to the Smith/Miles nightly partnership, Martin was hired. During her 20 years at Channel 2 she spent many times with her good friend.
“He was a touchstone for me,” Martin says. “He had extraordinary character and integrity.”
Mike Schneider, an anchor at WCBS from 1986 to 1989, also has fond recollections of his former colleague.
“Vic was that rare combination of a real pro and a true gentleman,” Schneider says. “[He was] an outstanding figure and a pleasure to work with.”
It would appear that the phrase “what you see is what you get” was written for Miles.
“In person, he was a quiet, dignified, professional journalist,” Smith recalls.
Miles is survived by his three children, two step-children, and his wife, Karen Levy.
Plans are for the veteran anchor to be cremated. Memorial services are pending.