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Washington TV reporter Pat Collins is retiring after 49 years

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We're going to stick close to home for the next few minutes to honor a Washington, D.C., TV legend because there are local news reporters, and then there's Pat Collins.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NBC4 WASHINGTON")

PAT COLLINS: A witness told me it went down this way. Two guys dressed to steal go into the store. They grab fistfuls of Gore-Tex, handfuls of foul weather gear. They bring it outside to a getaway car. They stuffed themselves and their ill-gotten gains into the car and away they go.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Seventy-six-year-old Pat Collins is a D.C. native. He grew up on H Street, not all that far away from where NPR headquarters are now. After more than 35 years with NBC News4, Collins has announced his retirement. In his long career, he has covered all kinds of local stories, many of them very serious.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NBC4 WASHINGTON")

COLLINS: Sunday - people out and about, going for walks, going to brunch, then all of a sudden, a barrage of gunfire.

KELLY: But Collins' quirky, dramatic delivery was also tailor-made for fun and the more unusual stories.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NBC4 WASHINGTON")

COLLINS: What did he do? Did he get in a fight at school?

TAVIA THOMPSON: No.

COLLINS: Did he bring a weapon to the school?

THOMPSON: No.

COLLINS: Did he steal something from the school?

THOMPSON: No.

COLLINS: Nope. Bryan got suspended for wearing a banana outfit - I said banana outfit - and running around the field during the halftime of the football game last Friday.

KELLY: He had no problem putting himself into his stories, like he did for that story about a teen in a banana outfit. Collins interviewed him dressed as a bunch of grapes.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NBC4 WASHINGTON")

COLLINS: Can I ask you something? Why a banana? Why not a grape?

BRYAN THOMPSON: I don't know. Potassium is great.

CHANG: Perhaps more than anything, Pat Collins loved to cover a good snowstorm.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NBC4 WASHINGTON")

COLLINS: Finally, we get a snow of consequence - finally, a stick-worthy snow.

CHANG: Whenever a storm hit the district, Pat Collins was out there with his snow stick ready to measure the latest totals.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NBC4 WASHINGTON")

COLLINS: Barbara, here we are at Connecticut and Fessenden. This was our scene. It's snowmageddon (ph). We're back here today.

KELLY: Whatever the topic, a Pat Collins piece was seemingly made to go viral. Take his story about a case of mistaken identity after vandals sprayed the words, Mike is a cheater, all over a car that belonged to someone who didn't know Mike.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NBC4 WASHINGTON")

COLLINS: Side windows sprayed here and there and there. It's the windshield - boom, boom and boom.

KELLY: Before long, the Gregory Brothers turned Collins' closing message to Mike the cheater into a song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIKE, CHANGE YOUR WAYS")

COLLINS: (Singing) Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, I don't know who you are. I don't know where you are. But you may, but you may want to start changing your ways.

CHANG: And he has become a beloved segment on HBO's "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER")

DAVID KAYE: No one does local news beat poetry quite like NBC4 Washington's Pat Collins.

COLLINS: Five burglaries here in six days - two on this street, two on that street, one on a street down around the corner.

KELLY: Collins said when he retires at the end of the year, he'll spend more time with his family. Until then, we'll be watching for that final iconic signoff.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NBC4 WASHINGTON")

COLLINS: I'm Pat Collins, News4. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.