Former New York and Los Angeles TV news anchor Will Spens, who struggled with homelessness since losing his last media job 10 years ago, died in a single-car accident on the Ventura-Santa Barbara County line Tuesday afternoon, the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s office reported today.

Spens was driving north on Highway 101 when he crashed into a concrete bridge abutment at the Bates Road off-ramp, according to Medical Examiner’s office spokesman Craig Stevens.

Stevens said Spens was not wearing a seat belt and died instantly from the force of the impact in his older Toyota sedan.

It took several days to find Spens’ nearest relative, a sister living in the Southwest. Stevens said Spens had only five names stored in his cell phone, all news directors of major market television stations. They were all contacted.

Spens had been living at a residential hotel in Santa Barbara for approximately the past 10 years. He was briefly married twice.

Toxicology tests are pending. Stevens says there were no witnesses to the 3:30 p.m. crash.

SF Press Club News


  1. I just found this piece on Will Spens from Lou Young at WCBS in New York, who was a colleague. It’s beautifully done. Here’s a link

    and the first couple of paragraphs:

    “My first day as a street reporter in New York City, Will Spens was at my side. We were standing on the perimeter of the largest TV newsroom either of us had ever seen waiting for our first assignments. “Look at it,” he said as we watched close to a hundred people scurry through a sea of office cubicles, low-slung production desks, and Plexiglass partitions. “It’s like being on the edge of a mountain range.”

    He spoke with a sense of awe in his voice. I shared his excitement; we both hit the streets of this town and over the course of our years discovered it was the only line of work we every really wanted.

    Will was always a strange bird. Tall, sandy haired, deep-voiced, and perennially world-weary beyond his years. He looked like a character out of ’40s film noir with a lightly-groomed mustache and a thousand-yard squint. Tom Berenger could play him in the movie. He was the first guy I knew who wore “the trench coat” who didn’t make it look like a cheap prop. Seeing Will saunter around the newsroom, I always got the feeling he’d left a fedora with his press card in the headband at a bar somewhere. Oddly (I thought) although he smoked non-filter cigarettes, he didn’t drink with the rest of us. I always wondered why and didn’t figure it out until right before he died last week.

    Will’s stories on local news were some of the damnedest TV pieces I’d ever seen. He did virtually EVERYTHING on camera. You’d see him at the scene of the story, with his BACK to the viewer and he’d turn and begin talking, then walk to an interview, conduct the interview and continue narrating while the camera panned off him. The scene would change and Will would walk back in to the next scene, take you through a door, interview someone else, then keep talking as the camera moved to something the man was holding.

    Then there’d be a third scene and Will would come out of a door or through an open window and wrap up the tale. It was sometimes seamless art, sometimes absurdly fascinating, and always completely out of character with everything else that appeared on the screen before and after.

    It was amazing.”

    As mentioned, the rest is here:

  2. I didn’t know Mr. Spens, but heard about him on Keith Olbermann’s show tonight. His brief description of Mr. Spens was resonant and I wanted to learn more.

    It was mentioned somewhere online that he had a blog, but hadn’t posted to it since the end of 2006. I found a few more of his blogs with postings as recently as January 2008, including this one:
    in which he includes a short bio and mentions the two Emmys, both for breaking live coverage at WNBC in New York between 1977 and 1980.

    Beneath the bio are links to seven other blogs of his, including

    which also has his resume, along with two MP3 files under the heading “Will Spens Audition Sample” at the bottom of the page.

    He was obviously quite remarkable.

    Here’s the text of the resume from that page:

    Will Spens email:

    Address: 15 East Haley St #426, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

    Phone: 805-963-9191 ext 426 cell: 805-259-6392

    Professional Objective: To re-engage media and business skills for growth into new career path. Seeking chance to demonstrate skill and talent.

    Recent Work/ Study: Independent Monastic curriculum focused on study and writing climaxed by still being investigated theft of essays, homilies and other written work. Known to the Vatican as kzak monk and deemed heretical, surviving examples of which at or

    Recent work history: Sales/ Marketing including brief stint at car sales and long period of inbound telephone sales including customer service and ad placement marketing.


    FOX NEWS CHANNEL- 1997 -General Assignment reporter for the Los Angeles bureau, after which returned to Santa Barbara for religious study.

    KNX NEWS Radio, Los Angeles- 1993 to 1995

    Anchor and general assignment reporter.

    KCBS TV, Los Angeles -1991 to 1993- General assignment reporter including three days on scene round the clock coverage of the Rodney King riots and also flown to New York for 1993 World Trade Center blast.

    KNBC TV, Los Angeles- 1990 to 1991- “Crime Watch Reporter”; designated late show crime reporter including investigative police reports and coverage.

    WABC TV, New York- 1980 to 1987- General reporter and fill in anchor including Two Emmys for breaking live coverage of hurricane hitting NY/ NJ and also multi casualty runaway vehicle in midtown Manhattan.

    WNBC TV, New York- 1977 to 1980- City Hall Reporter and Weekend Anchor during NYC fiscal crisis. NBC President Fred Silverman quoted as saying having me cover Mayor Ed Koch was like having Dan Rather cover Richard Nixon.

    WNBC AM Radio, New York- 1976 to 1977-Morning Drive anchor for Imus in the Morning during his first NY incarnation.

    Newscast compared to stylized work of Paul Harvey and precursor to Keith Olbermann. NBC RADIO NETWORK- Regular weekend anchor

    WCBS NEWS Radio, New York- 1974 to 1975- Anchor considered prodigy at age 23.

    References on Request


  3. Will’s last on air shift was at Santa Barbara’s radio station KIST. He was given a Saturday night to prove himself, and it did not go well. His “Combat Journalism” style of TV reporting did not translate to good radio. From that depressing turn of events, he never recovered… His hyper style was rumored to be aided by substances, but it was a style, not a drug that set him apart. Sometimes you are just too far ahead off the curve.
    Will, we will miss you, and that style you pioneered.
    Paul M.

  4. I hear that Spens received two Emmys while at WABC in the 1980s, and in 1986 a NYC Civilian Heroism Award. I wonder how to confirm that.

  5. Will was an enormously intelligent, talented, and creative broadcaster and human being, even in his teens in 1968 when we worked together at WRNW(FM) in Mt. Kisco, NY. He could put on a swaggering tough guy image for TV, but was also a talented poet, as well as a musician.

    Originally from East Norwalk, CT, he graduated from Kent School in Kent, CT. While at WABC-TV he generously volunteered to mentor students at our local high school radio station WWPT in neighboring Westport.

    I had just recently found him again in March 2008 after losing contact for 35 years, via his blog by Googling his name. His e-mails and stories were astonishing, yet it was troubling to hear what he had been through. I gathered that he had reached the pinnacle of LA TV news, and then had a very long hard fall.

    His sudden death is shocking and sad. I hope his good soul is at peace.

  6. I remember Will from the late 1960s when he was an announcer and then News Director of WNAB in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a small but influential radio station back when AM was big. I remember what an excellent delivery he had…he was very young, but sounded like a seasoned network announcer.
    I was being exited from WNAB, thanks to a nasty program director, and I remember that Will thought I was doing a good job and couldn’t figure out why I was getting the shaft.
    A friend of his and I later visited him when he worked at WNWS, a short-lived FM all-news radio station in New York City. He was very friendly and let us sit in while he did part of his on-the-air shift.
    I was very surprised to learn that he had been homeless for several years…but such is the nature of the broadcasting business.
    If there’s an afterlife, I hope it’s being kind to him and appreciating him for his talents.

    Sandy Arnn

  7. It is very saf whene someone dies with only 5 names in his cell phone and all of them work related. I hope Will finds the peace he was searching for and will add many more names to his directory of friends who care about him and whom he could have called.

  8. I worked with Will Spens when we were both reporters for WABC TV in NYC back in the 80’s. He was a great friend, a great reporter and all the ladies swooned whenever he was near. He was handsome, smart and the best street reporter in the business.He will be missed.

  9. I did not know Mr. Spens well other than seeing him very nearly every evening at the Salvation Army’s Hospital House (Santa Barbara) for his evening meal. Kind, polite and keeping to himself were my impressions of him. Only after hearing of his death did I learn of his troubled mind and misperceptions. His career apparently was remarkable, many lovely things are being said of him. Such a kind man should be remembered for his contributions to this life, may he find solace in his new life.

  10. I did not know Mr. Spens well other than seeing him very nearly every evening at the Salvation Army’s Hospital House (Santa Barbara) for his evening meal. Kind, polite and keeping to himself were my impressions of him. Only after hearing of his death did I learn of his troubled mind and misperceptions. His career apparently was remarkable, many lovely things are being said of him. Such a kind man should be remembered for his contributions to this life, may he find solace in his new life.

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