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‘Be an Original': Pat Lawson Muse Says Farewell to NBC4, Looks Back on 40 Years

"Learn from but don't imitate anyone else," Pat Lawson Muse said she would tell younger journalists. "Be an original and don't be discouraged by your mistakes. Make those learning experiences."

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After more than 40 years with News4, beloved anchor Pat Lawson Muse retired Friday.

As she made her exit, she shared her journey to and through the News4 station and her favorite moments along the way.

"I came to Washington in 1973, after graduating high school in Las Vegas, Nevada," she said. "And moving to Washington was a culturally exciting experience for me. I'd never been to the nation's capital," or spent time in a predominantly African American city.

Muse arrived to attend Howard University, planning to study political science and then law.

But as she spent time in the District, which was "just getting its home rule legs, just about to elect its first mayor," she realized there were other things she'd rather study.

"I majored in broadcast management," she said. "My intention was to focus on business and to pursue the business side of broadcasting. But during my junior year ... junior into the senior year at Howard, some of the students started a carrier current radio station, WHBC, which stood for 'Howard's Black communicators.'"

After 40 years, our anchor Pat Lawson Muse is moving on to a new era in her life. "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and your support, and for welcoming me into your homes and your hearts for so many years," she said.

Some fellow students in her statistics class invited her to help them set up the station in a trailer behind Howard's Burr Gymnasium. That turned into joining an announcers workshop the radio station put together, and eventually, into Muse hosting her own show as the radio station got its start.

"It was a show that broadcast to the buildings and the dorms on campus," she recalled. "It was a lot of fun."

She found learning about radio and the technical side of things so exciting that she added a new minor: radio production. She worked at WHUR, taking more workshops, and eventually filled in for DJs on the air.

"One thing sort of led to another," Muse said. "I found a niche in radio. It was something that I could do, something I got an opportunity to do and something I really, really enjoyed."

At the same time, Muse was gaining experience in journalism working as a student researcher with the consumer unit for News4.

"I worked there for about three months, [and then] prior to graduation, the unit was disbanded," she said.

But that wasn't going to stop her from working with WRC.

"I came to the human resources director here, and I said, 'Can I get a full-time job?' And she said, 'Honey, let me tell you what you need to do. You need to go away to a smaller market, get about five years of experience and then come back and talk to me.'"

So, get that experience she did -- in radio, working jobs at WOL, WHUR, the former Mutual Black Network, and eventually WTOP.

"Starting your broadcast career in a major market is something that most broadcasters don't get a chance to do," she said. "It's sort of a rarity."

Her work at WTOP, where she became the afternoon drive time anchor from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., led to a call one evening after her shift.

"One evening I got off the air, and I had a phone call from the news director's assistant at WBAL TV in Baltimore," Muse recalled. "And literally, she said, 'Pat Lawson, we don't know what you look like, but the news director, John Petrovich, loves the work that you do and loves the way you sound. How would you like to do TV?'"

Growing up with two parents she describes as "news hounds," Muse had always watched and read a lot of news. By the time she was a student at Howard, the African American women she saw on the air -- "very inspirational women" she hadn't seen on TV in Las Vegas -- made her want to try the same thing.

"Although I liked radio, I saw these beautiful, smart, Black women on TV and I thought, you know, I'd love to do that myself," Muse said.

After more than four decades at NBC4, Pat Lawson Muse is signing off to start her next chapter. The News4 team looks back on her iconic career.

She spent two years in Baltimore as a general assignment reporter and the weekend anchor before returning to News4 in 1982.

"I came back doing the early morning cut-ins, working 3 a.m. to 11, which really wound up being 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. because you weren't done until the news was finished for the day," Muse said.

Soon enough, she was anchoring the noon newscast with Barbara Harrison. One day, the duo got an interesting phone call from a reporter with Entertainment Tonight.

"She said, 'Did you all know that you are the only female local news anchor team in the country?' That's how we discovered we made broadcast history," Muse said. "There were no women working together in a studio anywhere in the nation, and they did a story on us that was a hallmark for the two of us. It was pretty exciting."

There were also the role models she discovered at the News4 station -- like Jim Vance.

"Jim Vance was a big star when I got here, and of course, I was very young," Muse said. "I thought he was sort of a not only a role model, but a little bit of a hero, because he was one of few Black men on local news at the time."

That was equal parts exciting and daunting.

"I thought he was really smart ... And I looked up to him. But I have to admit, I was a little intimidated by him."

Muse found her home with the other News4 legends, reporting on a lifetime's worth of stories along the way.

Her reporting career led her to cover "everything," from school board hearings to the cherry blossoms to crime to hurricanes. She met Bishop Desmond Tutu and covered the arrival of Pope John Paul II in the United States when he visited.

Sometimes she traveled to the other side of the country.

"I got a chance to cover the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco," Muse said. "And that stands out in my mind, because it was at the time when Geraldine Ferraro, a representative from New York, was running for vice president. She was the first woman nominated by a major party as vice president of the country. So, her candidacy was historic."

Less flashy moments stuck in her mind just as long, she said.

"One local story that I do remember that touched me, was a story about a baby that apparently stopped breathing on 295," Muse recalled. "And his mother got out of the car and tried to get help. And just about everyone passed by her."

The baby had had a tracheotomy, and the breathing tube in its throat had somehow malfunctioned. But no one would stop to help.

"Finally, someone did, and it was that motorist that saved that baby's life," Muse said. "That baby's name was Key, and I never forgot how grateful his mother was."

The baby's mother called Muse after the story aired, in tears, and the two developed a friendship. Muse received pictures of Key as he grew up, and his mother wrote her "for years after that."

Her work in the community spread beyond her stories. She began her work on Food for Families in the mid-1980s, coming back to the assignment year after year, in wet weather and freezing temperatures, helping senior citizens, veterans and other people in need.

"We did it because it was so important to help needy families at Thanksgiving," Muse said. "I'm so proud of the fact that, with the help of our community partners and viewers in the Washington area, which are the best and the most generous viewers in the world, that we have been able to -- over the past three decades or more -- feed tens of thousands of families at Thanksgiving."

That meant as much to her as the rest of her journalism career.

"I was very proud to be able to be the face of that campaign for more than three decades. It meant a lot," she said.

While her coverage of the whirlwind of history is coming to a close, Muse says she's got more planned.

"I'm not retiring from life, just retiring from NBC4 and from television, from local television news," she said. "But I'd like to retire while I'm still young enough to try some new things and to do a little more traveling around the world."

She also plans to take up some more gardening, photography and some new projects "to find out what not working five days a week feels like."

For any journalists just getting started in their careers, she has parting advice.

"Double check your sources. Always try to have to double check your facts, because you never want to be wrong," she said. "Learn from, but don't imitate anyone else. Be an original and don't be discouraged by your mistakes. Make those learning experiences."

She also emphasized the importance of local news "at a time when newspapers are shutting down across the country."

"It's been such a privilege to work in local news and to be able to connect directly with people that you see in the supermarket and at the post office, at the drugstore," Muse said. "I'm very proud to have worked in local news for as long as I have and very proud to have worked at this station, to bring people the news that matters to them."

For now, she's saying farewell to viewers from her place on their screens.

"I am so thankful to the viewers who have welcomed me into their homes and into their hearts and into their families lives, sharing their stories and their challenges and their experiences with us, with me," Muse said. "I feel honored and humbled that I've been able to spend the majority of my broadcasting career in the most wonderful town and the most wonderful region and the best market in the nation."

"I'll be watching and cheering my colleagues on from afar."

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