I know, I know I told you I'd be back yesterday. But holy cow, you've never seen such a stack of mail as I had waiting for me when I got back into the office Monday after three weeks of press tour and one week of R & R.
And what a mess of things to catch up on. During the past four weeks Bountiful became City #7 on KUTV weather reports - and then became Bountiful again; CBS introduced a new "computer age" Big Eye logo; Randall Carlisle left KUTV; Bob Evans started on KUTV; and an American politician was castigated in the media for having the audacity to actually serve his country during the Vietnam War.* I'm not going to say Carlisle was anxious to get out of Salt Lake or anything, but 70 minutes after Michelle King bid a heartfelt farewell to her long-time Ch. 2 colleague during the 6 o'clock news last Friday, the news anchor was on a plane headed for Minnesota.
"My wife is already there," he said during an interview a couple of days before he left. "Now that I'm through at KUTV, there's really no reason to hang around."
Especially not since he started work at KSTP in Minneapolis on Monday preparing for his first anchoring assignment there after Labor Day. "I'm thrilled," Carlisle said. "And I'm a little scared."
And with good reason. Carlisle is replacing a popular news anchor who had been with KSTP for a long time. His forced removal has put Carlisle in the unenviable position of having to win over viewers who were loyal to his predecessor. That's why the station only guaranteed three years of Carlisle's five-year contract.
"I only have three years to make it work there," he said. "If it's not happening by then . . . "
Maybe he'll be looking back fondly on his years at KUTV, even though he acknowledged that his feelings toward the station have been effected by tough negotiations to get him released from the final 10 months of his contract there.
"But no matter what has happened recently," he said, "the fact is I've been working for one of the best TV stations in the country. I'm absolutely convinced of that. And as a result of the opportunities they've given me, I'm more confident, more knowledgable. I kind of feel like I grew up on KUTV."
Part of that growth came through his involvement in the "Wednesday's Child" segments, aimed at helping adoptable children find homes. "When I came here I was a pretty hard-core journalist," Carlisle said. "But `Wednesday's Child' brought me back to reality. It made me more sensitive to people, and in the long run it helped make me a better journalist - and a better person."
Also contributing to Carlisle's personal growth in Salt Lake was living as a non-Mormon in an area dominated by members of the LDS Church. "It was the first - and probably only - time in my life to be part of a minority," he said. "It was a good learning experience for me, and will probably help me in the future when I cover stories about minority concerns. I'll be able to relate to them in a way I never could before."
Which is not to say that Carlisle found life among Utah's Mormon population unpleasant. "Not at all," he insisted. "People were generally very kind and supportive as long as we lived here. But it always bothered me when people would see me having a beer or some wine in a restaurant, and would come up to me and whisper, `I'm so disappointed in you.'
"Or like the guy who came up to me after the 24th of July parade and told me how great he thought I was. He said, `You seem like such a nice person, you must be Mormon.' I told him, `No, I'm not. I'm Methodist. Does that mean I can't be a good person?' He had to think about it for a second before he said, `No, I guess not.'
"That kind of attitude has to change here before non-Mormons will really feel like they belong in Utah."
Still, Carlisle said he felt like he belonged here enough to have some reservations about leaving the security of KUTV for the career advancement offered by Minneapolis, the nation's 14th-largest market. And even though the midwestern city won out, he said he is "walking away with good feelings."
Walking away, one might add, very quickly.
* And so now the Bob Evans era has begun at KUTV. Evans actually started filing reports for Ch. 2 last week from the Republican Convention in New Orleans, but he started his anchor duties with King on Monday.
His first 10 o'clock newscast got off to a rocky start, with technical problems forcing a quick jump away from a satellite report from reporter Kelly Love in Yellowstone. But he handled it smoothly, and his interaction with King, weathercaster Mark (The King of Thunder Mountain Road) Eubanks and sportscaster Dave Fox seemed easy and natural.
Still, it will take a while for all of us - Evans, his colleagues and his viewers - to get used to each other. But in the meantime, an anonymous letter-writer from West Jordan, who claims to have gone out on "a few dates" with Evans while they were both at BYU, gives us a couple of new insights on the new guy: "He's got a good sense of humor, is a great dancer, and plays the violin very well."
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