It’s been said that great chemistry makes a great morning show, and that radio industry philosophy was used to build what has become the No. 1-rated local television newscast in North America.
Now, after 17 years of early morning wake-ups, Lori Stokes has said goodbye to viewers of ABC’s flagship station, WABC-7 in New York.
In an announcement made by 10+-year co-anchor Ken Rosato ahead of a video retrospective of her time at WABC — including footage of her live coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — Stokes made her final appearance as a WABC-7 staff member.
Making what Rosato called a “special message” at 6:56am Eastern, with Stokes saying she would “try to get through this the best I can,” she commented, “I can only smile, looking at that loving tribute from the place I’ve called home for 17 years. When I walked into this building in April 2000 I knew the legacy, the integrity, the news judgment, the history and the expectations of working for Eyewitness News. Eyewitness News viewers demand the best, and I learned that just days after being hired, when I worked with the legendary Bill Beutel.”
Beutel died in March 2006 after serving as a top WABC-7 news anchor from 1970 to 2001.
Stokes then took a light-hearted tone after thanking staff by admitting, “Funny, I’m not a morning person. People always ask, ‘What time do you get up?’ ‘What time do you go to sleep?’ ‘I don’t know how you do it?!’ I do it because of you, our viewers, and that is the truth.”
Hinting at why Stokes is departing WABC-7, she continued, “As I’ve gone through life changes, your words of comfort and support have meant everything. Thank you for the love you’ve shown me, the wisdom you have shared about raising kids, the compassion you showed when Lisa Colagrossi passed and our hearts were collectively broken.”
Fighting back tears, she also thanked viewers for being there “in my darkest days of losing my father, almost two years ago.”
Stokes’ father is Ohio political icon Louis Stokes, the Buckeye State’s first black congressman and a civil rights pioneer. He died in August 2015 at the age of 90.
“You and Eyewitness News were extraordinary and understanding what that time meant to me,” said Lori Stokes, who took considerable time off both before and after her father’s passing.
Stokes ended her message on “a super-high note.” She concluded, “I am constantly told, ‘Lori, you’re always smiling, even so early in the morning!’ It’s because I love saying, ‘Good morning, I’m Lori Stokes,’ and letting you know that we’re going to get through this, together. It’s also because I love sharing the countless hours I have with my TV family — laughing with [Senior Meteorologist] Bill [Evans], being a big sister to [Traffic Reporter] Heather [O’Rourke], and … who could ask for a better ‘TV hubby’?”
Rosato was first paired as Stokes co-anchor in early spring 2007, as WABC-7 sought to find a replacement for Steve Bartlestein. Rosato joined WABC-7 as a reporter 14 years ago. The two enjoyed instant chemistry at the anchor desk, leading to a rise in ratings that today makes the WABC-7 morning news program, which airs from 4:30am-7am weekdays, the most-watched local morning news show in the U.S.
The search for Stokes’ replacement is now on; fill-in anchors in the recent past have included WABC-7 veteran Sandra Bookman.
In a brief statement on the WABC-7 website, the station said, “We thank Lori for her hard work and commitment, and wish her the very best!”
From 1996-2000, Stokes was an anchor at MSNBC.
Prior to that, she spent four years as a key anchor at ABC-affiliated WJLA-7 in Washington, D.C. From 1990-1992, Stokes was an anchor at FOX-affiliated WBFF-45 in Baltimore.
She began her career as a Production Assistant at WUSA-9 in Washington, D.C. in 1984.