It certainly didn't take Chris Vanocur long to bounce back.

Laid off by KUTV the second week of October, the reporter was back on the air last week on KTVX."(Ch. 4 news director John Edwards) called me the day I got laid off and expressed his interest," Vanocur said. About 10 days later, he signed a contract with KTVX.

"They offered me a new challenge - covering the Legislature," Vanocur said. "I told some friends of mine that I'm going to be Ch. 4's Rod Decker, only not as loud."

The two reporters ran into each other during Barbara Bush's visit to Salt Lake City last week. When Decker learned Vanocur would be taking on the political beat, "He threw a mock fit and said, `Now I'm going to have to work for a living,' " Vanocur said.

"But really, I don't look at it so much as competing with Ch. 2 or Ch. 5, I'm just trying to do the best job I can."

After eight years at Ch. 2, being laid off came as a shock.

"I've compared it to . . . the breakup of a relationship. There's that sudden shock, almost a sharp pain, that recedes to a dull ache," he said.

While part of the reason for the parting was Ch. 2's financial difficulties, Vanocur said the layoff was also in part "politically motivated." He and KUTV news director Dan Webster often did not see eye to eye.

A major point of disagreement came last January when Webster wanted Vanocur to move to the station's Washington bureau and Vanocur declined.

"I think that might have been kind of the beginning," Vanoucr said. "But it's not like we were yelling at each other and throwing things regularly.

"I'm very independent, very stubborn. I think you see that in my work. It comes off a little bit differently."

Webster was unavailable for comment.

Still, Vanocur wanted to make it clear that he had plenty of good memories of his time at Ch. 2. He turned down three job offers in the past three years to stay at the station.

"KUTV had a sort of attitude of doing things differently," he said. "They presented me with the opportunity of doing three documentaries.

"I don't think I would have gotten those at almost any other station."

And, rather than leave the state for a larger market, Vanocur decided to stay in Utah.

"In terms of money, I need to work. Trying to find a job outside the state takes quite a big longer.

"But I grew up in big cities. I'm not fooled by the attractions," said Vanocur.

He's also familiar with the life of a network newsman - his father, Sander Vanocur, was a network correspondent for years. And it's not necessarily one of his goals.

"Well, yes and no. It would be great to travel and cover those stories, but I have great concerns about how many of the networks - or at least network news departments - will survive. The place to be might be at a strong local affiliate," he said.

"And (Ch. 4) is in good shape. We've got a little bit of momentum."

At any rate, news of Vanocur's demise was a bit premature. The day after being laid off by Ch. 2, he returned to clean out his desk - and discovered a pair of tombstones in front of the KUTV building.

On one was his name, on the other was the name of laid off producer Dean Paynter.

"I took it as a sign of affection," Vanocur said.NO MORE LAYOFFS - FOR NOW: KUTV, which recently laid off a number of people in addition to Vanocur, isn't planning on letting anyone else go in the near future.

"There are none (layoffs) planned, but we're not making any guarantees to anybody," said Maria Smith, Ch. 2's vice president of programming. "We don't foresee any through the end of the year."

It's been a tough year for the media in general - television, radio and newspaper. Advertising revenues are down locally and nationally, and Ch. 2 is saddled with a large outstanding debt that makes its financial status even more precarious. And the layoffs have reportedly caused morale in the newsroom to plummet.

And just how important are the sweeps periods to local stations?

"Our financial future rests on the November (ratings) book," Smith said.

A bad book means a station's advertising time is worth less and revenues fall - something none of the local stations can afford right now.