In a surprise announcement Wednesday by one of New York TV news' best-known figures, Lori Stokes said that she will leave WNYW/5 by the end of the month and retire from TV journalism. The anchor and pioneering newswoman announced her retirement via Instagram, saying in part, “After much consideration, I have decided to retire from the anchor desk and the business I have been dedicated to for the past 40 years." She said her last day will be Sept. 30.
Stokes, who turns 60 on Friday, said in both the post and a phone interview that the departure is amicable.
"I've gone through a lot the last 10, 11 years with family matters, coupled with holding down jobs here and at ... [WABC/7]," she said by phone Wednesday. "After my mom passed, it was the beginning of me really feeling that I needed to take time for myself. I hadn't been processing a lot because I had been flying back and forth taking care of her and my dad in different situations in hospice while also raising two children," daughters who are now adults.
Her mother, Jay Stokes, died in October at 83. Her father, Louis Stokes — the civil rights leader who served 15 terms in the House of Representatives — died in 2015.
Stokes' uncle, Carl Stokes, was the first elected Black mayor of a major American city, Cleveland, and the first Black TV anchor in New York — likewise, his niece was the first African American anchor at MSNBC, which she joined at launch in 1996. She was also the first Black solo anchor for Channel 5's 6 p.m. newscast.
Stokes said that after she leaves broadcasting she'll curate her father's vast store of memorabilia collected over a long career "beginning as an attorney in Cleveland through to his work as the lead attorney in Terry v. Ohio, which we know today as 'stop and frisk.' " Louis Stokes opposed the Supreme Court's landmark 1968 decision.
She added, "There's also travel I want to do and things I don't even know yet — there's a bucket list that I hope will be presented to me."
Lori Stokes — who currently anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts for Ch. 5 — joined the station in 2017 as "Good Day New York'' co-host, after a 17-year run at WABC/7 as co-anchor of "Eyewitness News This Morning." Before Ch. 7, she was an anchor and reporter for "NBC Nightly News Weekend" and anchored for "NBC Sunrise" and "Weekend Today."
In an interview with Newsday earlier this summer, she said: "You always want to have a few of the old-school reporters and anchors [in local TV news] because once again, in a time of crisis in the city, when something really blows up, you want those dinosaurs sitting there because that's the person viewers know and trust."
She then added with a laugh, "But I do see that — yeah — I'm a dinosaur."
Lew Leone, Ch. 5's general manager, said in a statement, "[H]er incredible combination of kindness, caring, dedication and sense of service will be truly missed."