Jessica Beth Savitch (February 1, 1947 – October 23, 1983) was an American television news presenter and correspondent, best known for being the weekend anchor of NBC Nightly News and daily presenter of NBC News updates during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Savitch was one of the first women to anchor an evening network news broadcast alone, following in the footsteps of Marlene Sanders of ABC News and Catherine Mackin of NBC News.
She also hosted PBS's public affairs documentary program Frontline from its January 1983 debut until her death in an automobile accident later that year.Shortly before her death in October 1983, Savitch also became known for her live broadcast of a short NBC News update in which her delivery was erratic and she appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The incident caused widespread speculation that she was abusing drugs.
She died three weeks later by drowning when a car in which she was a passenger accidentally drove into a canal during a heavy rainstorm.
No drugs and very little alcohol were present in her system at the time of her death.
Savitch was renowned for her audience appeal and her skills as an on-camera news reader, although she drew criticism for her relative lack of news reporting experience.
Prior to joining NBC News, she was a popular local anchorwoman in Philadelphia, and before that, while working at a Houston television station, she was the first female news anchor in the South.
Posthumously she became the subject of two biographies and a television film, Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story, as well as television documentaries.
The 1996 feature film Up Close and Personal starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford was very loosely based on her life, with many details changed in order to produce a film more upbeat than Savitch's troubled personal life.
Her experiences as a pioneer female news anchor also helped inspire Will Ferrell to make the 2004 film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.