By Lenore T. Adkins, Special to the AFRO
After spending 37 years anchoring and reporting at WUSA Channel 9, Andrea Roane, a familiar face to Washingtonians for decades, has called it a career.
Roane, 68, retired July 27 and told the AFRO she’ll spend the next phase of her life championing causes that are close to her heart, including raising awareness for the early detection breast cancer, domestic violence prevention and working with The Links’ Metropolitan D.C. Chapter to expand a community service project on ending human trafficking.
Andrea Roane is retiring after 37 years on the on the air at WUSA Channel 9. (Courtesy photo)
Traveling and reconnecting with her longtime husband Michael Skehan, their two children and grandson are also on her agenda.
“I want to keep white spaces on my calendar — time for me,” Roane said two hours before her final television hit at 5:30 p.m. “Bored won’t be a word I will use a lot.”
Roane originally announced that she was stepping down in April. She said she’s heading into retirement because she’s been working since 1971 and it’s time for her to take a break, especially while she’s in good health.
“I felt it was time — my time,” Roane said.
The winner of multiple Emmy Awards, Roane got her start on local public television in New Orleans, the place of her birth. In 1971, she started teaching English to middle and high school students in the New Orleans Parish Public School System. Four years later, a parent urged her to apply for the open education reporting slot at WYES, the local public television station.
Roane won the job and took on the responsibility of raising money to keep the program alive. She and her husband relocated to Washington, D.C. five years later and Roane began work hosting Metro Week in Review on WETA TV before joining Channel 9 in 1981.
At WUSA, Roane covered stories that mattered in Washington, including the blizzard of 1996, the Million Man March, the fatal Amtrak/MARC collision in Silver Spring, the 1999 Baltimore Orioles exhibition game in Cuba against the national team there and Super Bowl XXII in 1988, where the Redskins defeated the Broncos and Doug Williams was named its most valuable player, the first Black quarterback to earn the title.
The biggest personal story of Roane’s career was the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Roane’s daughter Alicia Skehan was attending the Parsons School of Design in New York City and lived in a dorm near the World Trade Center.
On that day, Roane was unable to reach her daughter and co-anchored the newscast about the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, not knowing if her daughter was safe.
Keeping it together on the air wasn’t easy.
“Knowing you had a job to do, you continue doing your job, you don’t get emotional, Roane said, adding that she finally heard from her daughter at 1 p.m. local time.
Roane says her most important work has been her stories from breast cancer survivors. Black women have the highest mortality rate for breast cancer in the United States because access to health care continues to be a problem, Roane said.
In 1993, she launched the “Buddy Check 9,” a breast cancer awareness program to remind men and women to perform monthly breast self-examinations, to go in for annual mammograms and take regular clinical exams to aid in the early detection of breast cancer.
She realized many women of color weren’t touching themselves for cancerous breast lumps, citing cultural and language barriers. Many women put their own health on the back burner to focus on family and other issues.
“We felt people listen to their doctors just so much and then they listen to a friend even better,” Roane said. “We were starting at the beginning making women aware of what was going on.”
Roane served as a buddy for her viewers on Channel 9 and used her television platform to profile survivors and others invested in finding a cure. She received the 2006 Washingtonian of the Year Award for her work in breast cancer awareness.
The accolades for Roane continue.
In June, the AFRO awarded the retiring anchor as a “Woman in Excellence Reaching Higher” at its inaugural Washington, D.C. high tea.
When it comes to advice for young journalists, Roane said they shouldn’t be afraid to take chances in life, because you never know what they can lead to.
“If the door opens, don’t be afraid to walk on the other side,” Roane said, adding that she was happy teaching high school, but jumped at the opportunity to try reporting. “You might like what you see.”
Meanwhile, Roane’s not ruling out making a journalistic comeback of her own. She’s open to doing voice or voiceover work or even on-camera work.
“Can’t say never,” she said.