Skip to content

Ex-Chadronite reflects on excellent broadcasting career

By Con Marshall
Rapid City Journal

Charley Rook says he was “very, very lucky” during his career as a radio and television news director and anchorman. But he also credits his upbringing in Chadron with helping him make the most of the opportunities that were afforded to him.

Rook is a 1954 graduate of Chadron Prep. He was back “home” during Fur Trade Days in July, renewing acquaintances with friends and also taking stock of the town that he said he’s come to appreciate more and more while working and living in much larger cities.

“A lot can be said for growing up in a place like Chadron,” Rook said while sipping on iced tea at the Country Kitchen. “This is a place where God and Country are important, where honesty and fairness are appreciated and where a strong work ethic is learned and carried out. I tried to live by those values because I really never knew any other way.”

Charley and his brother Johnny were born in Ohio, but their family moved to Chadron when they were in junior high. Their father, Gordon, was a Chadron native who was a diesel locomotive-electrician for the Chicago and North Western Railroad. Their mother, Della, was a native of Kentucky. Johnny graduated from Prep in 1955, one year after Charley.

Charley notes that he wasn’t a good enough basketball player to get much playing time on any of the three Class C state championship teams that Archie Conn coached during the 1950s, but he liked football and believes he received all-Northwest Nebraska Conference honors as an end on the Junior Eagles’ football team his senior year.

Both brothers made it big in broadcasting—Johnny in radio while Charley switched to television and was an anchorman at major stations in both Chicago and Los Angeles before spending 20 years at a station in Spokane-Coeur d’ Alene, where he is now retired.

Early in their careers, both worked at KOBH Radio in Hot Springs where they “did about everything.” While Charley made his mark as a radio and TV news anchor, Johnny had a knack for picking hot tunes before they were hits and he became a renowned radio programmer and station consultant. Wikipedia has three pages on Johnny’s career. He lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, only about 20 miles from Spokane.

Charley has no regrets about how things turned out for him, and while he was being interviewed, mentioned two things that he feels helped put him on the road to success.

One, he said, was at the District 6 Declamatory and One-Act Play Contest that Chadron State College hosted when he was a junior at Chadron Prep. The competition included radio newscasting and Charley won first place, sparking his interest in broadcasting and boosting his confidence.

The second was being able to work for his uncle Claude (Bud) Rook, the founder and owner of ABC Electric in Chadron during the summers and at other times when an extra helper was needed.

“I’m sure there are some people in Chadron who remember him,” Charley said. “He was a good mentor for me. He was a taskmaster who had that work ethic which I so much admire to this day. Bud also believed if you worked harder than the competition you could succeed in America, the greatest country the world has ever seen.

“Quite a bit of this rubbed off on me and I still believe it, even though things about this country have really changed over the years and in my estimation, not always for the better. The nanny state and political correctness come to mind.”

Charley said some of “Uncle Bud’s training” helped him excel while he spent four years in the Navy immediately after graduating from Prep. First of all, because of his experience as an electrician in the ABC Electric shop, Charley became a shipboard electrician on destroyer escorts in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. By the time he was discharged, he had an E-6 rating, something few sailors accomplish during a four-year hitch.

“I made E-6 because I studied hard for the tests that we took. I was told that if I stayed in the Navy I could probably become an officer. It was tempting, but I decided if I could do well in the Navy, I could probably also do well in the outside world so I got out.”

After his discharge, Charley enrolled at Chadron State College in the fall of 1958, but stayed just one semester and part of the spring term. Johnny was working at KOBH and the Hot Springs station needed a weekend announcer. Charley took the job and was soon hooked on radio broadcasting.

Since the name Johnny Rook was already well-known to KOBH listeners when Charley went to work there, it was decided he should use a different last name. Thus during the rest of his career—nearly 50 years—he was Charles Rowe to his listeners and viewers.

After only a few months at KOBH, he accepted a radio position in Cheyenne. He said he definitely got lots of experience there. He put the station on the air in the mornings, was often still there to give the noon news and then spent the afternoons selling spots, or ads.

His stint in Cheyenne was cut short when some “high rollers” from San Francisco hired him to help build and set up programming for four new Northwest radio stations in Boise, Idaho, and Salem, Eugene and Medford, Ore.

His next stop, still in the early-1960s, was at KYMN, a 50,000-watt station in Portland, Ore., where he was strictly a newsman. He was there a couple of years and enjoyed his work but realized television people were making more money.

Rook took a chance and in 1966 accepted a newscaster job at a tiny TV station in Coos Bay, Ore. Within six months, he was promoted to the company’s flagship station in Eugene as news director and anchor.

Then just a few months later in 1967, he received a big break in his career. He was offered a news anchor and capitol correspondent position at KXTV in Sacramento. That was shortly after Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California.

“It was my pleasure to interview him three times in the two years I was at that station,” Charlie said. “He was great to interview and I was one of his admirers long before he became president.”

Charley said he was not planning to leave Sacramento, but he went to Chicago in 1969 to visit his brother and his mother, who had moved with Johnny to the Windy City.

“By then, Johnny was programming WLS Radio, a top Chicago station, and really making a name for himself. While I was there, he lined up an interview for me with WLS-TV, which was owned by ABC. They offered me the job of anchoring their first-ever weekend newscast and filling in for their weekday anchors. The pay was very good, so I left Sacramento and moved to Chicago.”

Charley remained at WLS-TV for four years. During two of those years, he also wrote and delivered three newscasts a day for the ABC radio network nationwide.

One of his most memorable experiences in Chicago was working in the same office area as Paul Harvey, one of the nation’s preeminent newscasters for nearly five decades.

“He would sometimes walk by my glass door, see me inside, open it and say ‘Hi Charles’ as he was leaving from work.

“Sometimes, I’d go down the hall and watch him do his newscasts. He had the darnedest system. He had papers scattered all over his desk and would randomly pick one up and read it with that great voice of his. I never could figure out how he decided which story to use next. It never seemed that he had the stories in any kind of an order, but it worked for him.”

Charley said he was “never enamored” with Chicago, calling it “a corrupt city that’s still that way.” So when his contract ended he moved to KTTV, a major independent station in Los Angeles, and soon became its sole news anchor. KTTV is now owned by FOX.

“I was there for eight years and had a great time,” he said. “I guess this was the ‘biggest job’ I ever had when it came to audience size. But after a while, I began dreaming about having my own radio station, so in 1980 I moved again. While in LA, I worked hard to obtain a permit to put a new FM station on the air in Lincoln City/Newport, Ore., right on the coast.

“Building and managing the station was probably the most fun thing I have ever done and we put a superior product on the air. We won more than a dozen Associated Press statewide awards and a couple of national awards for our news coverage. But I realized while I was having great fun, I wasn’t making much money. So I sold it and began looking for a television news position in the Northwest.”

Charley didn’t get much time off after selling the station. Within a few weeks he was hired as an anchor at KREM-TV in Spokane, Wash., and spent the last 20 years of his career there.

“Our ratings were top notch and I enjoyed the staff at the station, even though I had a constant battle with some of the activist-liberals in the newsroom to make sure we were telling both sides of the story. Maybe that’s why the 5 p.m. news at KREM, which I co-anchored for the full 20-years, was constantly number one. I finally retired when I reached 72 and that was five years ago.

“I had a good career and I don’t have any complaints. I always enjoyed preparing myself for the job on a daily basis and then getting it done.” he added.

He remains in Spokane after retiring and calls himself “a neighborhood volunteer” who is heavy into the Tea Party, Heritage Foundation and the National Rifle Association.

He said he’s dismayed that the national media is so biased to the left and he tries to do what he can to maintain and promote the conservative viewpoint.

Along the same lines, he said he greatly enjoyed his visit to Chadron and the chance to meet up with a number of his high school friends again. Most of them, he noted, seem to be holding on to what he describes as “this country’s traditional values of honesty and hard work.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

 

Selling Nadine

KXLY’s marketing blitz of newscaster Woodward is unprecedented in the fight for local viewers and listeners

By Tom Sowa
The Spokesman-Review

Since March, when Nadine Woodward started her new job, her 18-year-old son Connor complained he couldn’t avoid her, even miles from home.

On his way to school he’d see some of the 20 large billboards filled with her smiling face, part of a media blitz calling attention to her new position at Spokane broadcaster KXLY.

Last year the popular Woodward left rival station KREM in a widely publicized flap. Woodward’s decision to start a new job became a windfall for KXLY to build a marketing campaign some say is the largest ever for a Spokane TV personality.

The campaign’s frequent reminders of Woodward’s new job underscore how the economics of winning TV viewers often relies as much on having a very familiar face than anything else.

After 19 years at KREM as evening and late-night news anchor, Woodward was asked to take a 15 percent pay cut, a reduction none of her male co-anchors was asked to take, she said. She later offered to take a pay cut provided her flexible work schedule continued, but the company refused, she said.

KREM management said Woodward chose not to sign a new contract after it expired last fall. After leaving the station, Woodward, 48, sued for damages from KREM, claiming age and gender discrimination.

That lawsuit is pending, said Lukins & Annis attorney Mike Hines, who’s representing Woodward.

In May KREM’s attorney won a ruling to compel Woodward to go through arbitration to resolve the dispute. Hines said no date has been set for arbitration.

Charles Rowe, a former co-anchor with Woodward at KREM, said the KXLY campaign makes a lot of sense for a station trying to boost its ratings and advertising revenue.

Many campaigns tout a station’s news team. The Woodward campaign is solely about her, Rowe said.

“It’s the largest campaign of that kind I’ve seen in the years I’ve been here,” said Rowe, who retired in 2007 after 20 years at KREM.

The new job, according to Woodward, is a professional “rebound.” She now starts her working day earlier. She anchors the 6 to 7 a.m. TV news segment on KXLY. She then switches to radio, anchoring the station’s AM news report from 7 to 9 a.m.

Woodward will also focus on being KXLY’s lead reporter for stories on health care issues.

KXLY management won’t say how much the marketing campaign costs, but it’s far from over. General Manager and Executive Vice President Steve Herling said the station is completing the first phase of the Nadine campaign, with a second phase in the offing.

In addition to roughly 20 large billboards, the strategy included direct mailings, frequent TV and radio spots and more than 50,000 “Hi, I’m Nadine” cards placed inside Bloomsday packets handed out before the race last month.

Herling said the campaign has a simple premise.

“It’s pretty simple. It says: ‘Hi, I’m Nadine and I’m at KXLY and I’m happy to be here,’” Herling said.

Jaime Aitken, general manager at KREM, declined to comment on KXLY’s media splurge.

Patricia McRae, general manager at KHQ, said the strong support voiced for Woodward after the KREM flap proved she has unusually high viewer recognition and approval across Spokane’s TV market, stretching from Montana to central Washington.

“In terms of timing, KXLY has taken advantage of the marketing opportunity to capitalize on Woodward joining the station,” McRae said. She said she called Woodward after she left KREM but wasn’t interested in hiring her.

“There was no way we could add her (to our lineup) without disrupting the great team we now have,” she said.

KHQ is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

It was no surprise, noted both Rowe and McRae, that the heart of the Woodward campaign came during the May book, considered the most important of the four rating periods of the year. The May ratings are used in setting ad rates for the fall and holiday shopping season.

McRae also said KXLY has done the right thing strategically by adding Woodward to its morning news slots because the early-a.m. segments are a ratings battle zone.

“Competition in the early morning here is huge,” she said.

During evening and late night newscasts, KREM and KHQ have traditionally done better than KXLY, according to Nielsen Co. ratings.

“But they’re in a real dogfight (for ratings) in the early morning hour,” Rowe said of KXLY TV’s morning newscast.

In the fast-growing early-morning time slots — especially from 6 to 7 a.m. — KXLY has come to take a solid second place, ahead of KREM, according to Nielsen numbers.

Because audiences want news quickly, on demand, KXLY has the added advantage of using its AM radio station to complement and cross-promote its newscasts, McRae said. TV news reports in the morning can tell viewers to dial into KXLY radio later to catch up on key stories. Likewise, the radio newscasts can point viewers both to the TV newscasts and the station’s website.

“It’s no longer about pulling in viewers at one time or two times a day,” McRae said. “It’s about all the time.”

KXLY’s Herling agreed that the true test of the Woodward campaign will be a gain in ratings as more viewers move to his station. Herling said the best time to measure those gains will be the November book.

TV viewers, by and large, don’t quickly recalibrate and adjust perceptions as fast as station directors would like, said Teddie Gibbon, KXLY’s vice president and station manager. That’s one reason the rebranding of Woodward will continue and evolve, Gibbon said.

McRae agrees on the difficulty of changing viewer perceptions. “When I see her on KXLY, there’s a blush of me thinking I’m still watching KREM,” she said.

Woodward said she was eager to work at KXLY because the station is committed to producing the best TV news reports in the market. Her salary, she added, is below what she earned at KREM.

Woodward admits the shift to morning news has been demanding, beyond starting her day much earlier. On the set, she’s still working on fitting into the more spontaneous, give-and-take skills required during the 7-9 a.m. radio newscast with co-anchor Bud Nameck.

“TV is so structured compared to live radio. You have to develop a routine and understand what’s happening so you don’t step over each other.”

At times the campaign’s frequent messages and oversized billboard photos left her wondering if the station was overhyping her, Woodward said.

“I was concerned about what my co-workers at KXLY would think. But 99.9 percent of the feedback from people has been very positive,” she said.

“The comment I get all the time is that people are glad to see me back on TV and they refuse to watch the ‘other’ station. The community has been very supportive.”

(Sunday, June 13, 2010)

Former anchor sues KREM over job loss

Woodward alleges age, sex discrimination

By Tom Sowa
The Spokesman-Review

Former TV anchor Nadine Woodward has sued KREM-TV, alleging age and sex discrimination when station management cut her salary and failed to give her a new contract last fall.

The lawsuit says KREM, where Woodward worked for 19 years, targeted the 48-year-old former anchor by proposing a 15 percent salary cut and eliminating other benefits, including a schedule that allowed her an evening meal with her family.

The suit was filed Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

It alleges Woodward’s male counterparts earned more than she and were not treated the same way, though the lawsuit provides no salary figures.

After being asked to take a 15 percent pay cut, Woodward tried to negotiate a smaller reduction. When that failed, KREM terminated her contract, effectively firing her, the suit said.

Calls to KREM general manager Jamie Aitken were not returned Tuesday afternoon.

After leaving KREM in September, Woodward negotiated a deal with Spokane’s KXLY to work as a radio anchor and TV special-assignments reporter. But KREM asserted Woodward’s contract had a six-month non-compete clause that prevented her from working at a competing station until March 2010.

Because of KREM’s legal challenge, Woodward did not take the KXLY jobs, although she said she’ll begin working there in mid-March.

The suit says that job interference by KREM is illegal because, the suit alleges, KREM terminated Woodward “without cause.”

Woodward did not list the amount of damages she is seeking from KREM and its parent company, Texas-based Belo Corp. Typically, discrimination suits say the amount will be determined at trial.

In support of her age-discrimination claim, the suit says KREM replaced Woodward with a younger and less experienced anchor, Jane McCarthy, from Seattle.

In addition, McCarthy was also given the “family friendly” work schedule that Woodward was denied, the suit says.

Woodward co-anchored the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts at KREM.

(Wednesday, February 10, 2010)

KREM drops longtime news anchor

Woodward says termination ‘was all about salary’ dispute

By Tom Sowa
The Spokesman-Review

Veteran Spokane TV news anchor Nadine Woodward said she was targeted for a 15 percent pay cut, then let go when she and management at KREM couldn’t agree on terms.

Woodward, 47, worked for 19 years at KREM, owned by Texas-based Belo Corp. She was the station’s highly visible co-anchor during newscasts at 5, 6, 10 and 11 p.m.

Her last work day was Monday, said station General Manager Jamie Aitken.

“I think it was all about salary,” Woodward said. “Plus I think they could get somebody in there who would work for half my salary. And they could care less. It’s the nature of the business.”

She declined to discuss salary in detail. “I made a decent income,” she added.

Aitken said no replacement has been hired.

“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t come to terms with Nadine and we wish her the best. It’s our policy not to discuss employee issues,” Aitken said in an e-mail to the newspaper.

Woodward was due to renew her five-year contract by Sept. 7. She said Aitken, who came to KREM two years ago, insisted she accept a 15 percent pay cut along with changes to her work schedule.

Woodward said she believes management “thought they had me over a barrel” because her husband, Bruce Felt, was let go by KREM in April. He had worked at the station for 18 years and was a promotion producer, Woodward said. Felt is still out of work, Woodward said.

Initially Woodward told the company she would take a 5 percent cut, the same cut many KREM managers reportedly had to take, Woodward said. That offer was not accepted.

Woodward said she eventually offered to take the 15 percent cut but not with the requirement that she give up a flexible work schedule. Her previous contract allowed her to take Friday nights off, to come in an hour later and to take a two-hour lunch break. “Those were items I negotiated so that I could pick up my kids from school” and allow the family to have dinner together, she said. Until this year, no company managers thought those conditions were unacceptable, she said.

She rejected the latest offer. When her contract expired, KREM gave Woodward a formal letter of termination, she said.

“This could have worked out. But they backed me into a corner and let the clock run out. They basically terminated me.

“I’ve never been treated with more disrespect and dishonor in 25 years in this business,” Woodward added.

Immediate plans are unclear, she said. She asked for but was refused severance pay, she said. She also asked Aitken to release her from a six-month “noncompete” clause that keeps her from working for another TV station here. KREM did not give her that release, she said.

She’s contacted potential employers in the past week. “There are opportunities. But it’s going to take a while before I can exercise any of them if they hold me to my noncompete clause,” she said.

Woodward added she’s consulted a lawyer who told her she has solid grounds to challenge the noncompete portion of the contract.

(Friday, September 11, 2009)

News media employment here shrinks

By Kim Crompton
Spokane Journal of Business

Due heavily to falling advertising revenues, the Spokane-area news media industry and related industry subsectors have shed 500 jobs since peaking in 2006, with the most precipitous decline occurring over the last 12 months, figures show.

Some of the most visible cuts have been at Spokane’s daily newspaper the Spokesman-Review, which has implemented several staffing reductions over that time, along with taking other cost-cutting steps, including shrinking the size of the paper.

Broadcast media, though, have felt the sting of slipping ad sales as well, with all of the TV stations here cutting expenses, such as by trimming jobs, keeping vacant positions unfilled, reducing pay levels, imposing unpaid furloughs, and suspending matching contributions to employees’ 401(k) plans.

All of the industry executives interviewed blame the advertising fall-off largely on the recession, and say they expect ad revenues to begin to rebound as soon as the economy regains some strength and consumer confidence and spending starts to climb. What they’re less certain about is whether those revenues will ever return to their former highs, due partly to more people getting their news and entertainment fixes from the large number of alternative Internet, cable, and satellite offerings.

“Obviously, what matters for us is our primary advertisers starting to bounce back,” says Jerry Post, news director at KXLY-TV. Until that happens, he says, “We’re trying to find ways to just get through this. It’s a temporary setback.”

Jamie Aitken, general manager at KREM-TV says, “You simply need to look across the media landscape this year, and we’re all going through it. We’re battling (advertising) categories that are significantly down. You see little glimmers here and there of some categories coming back, but then you see them disappear again. I believe we’re in a crisis of confidence, and rightly so.”

Doug Tweedy, Spokane-based regional labor economist for the Washington state Employment Security Department, says that the agency lumps media jobs under an information industry that includes four subsectors—publishing, broadcasting, motion picture and sound recording, and Internet publishing and broadcasting.

The agency’s data show that the industry had about 3,300 employees here at its peak in 2006, but lost 100 jobs between June of that year and June 2007, another 100 over the following 12 months, and 300 between June 2008 and June 2009.

“Within the four subsectors, there are some growing and some decreasing,” Tweedy says, but he adds that confidentiality stipulations prohibit him from talking more specifically about which subsectors are expanding.

Though overall employment reduction numbers fed The Spokesman-Review weren’t immediately available, the newspaper has trimmed its work force dramatically over the last several years through a combination of layoffs, early-retirement incentives, and attrition.

Its latest layoffs came just last month, but it also has sought to trim employee-related costs in other ways, such as through of matters for unpaid furloughs, pay cuts, and reduced hours.

“I think we’re all hoping this is behind us,” says Shaun O’L. Higgins, sales and marketing director at the daily paper. “The only time newspapers have been through anything quite this bad was in the Great Depression. For media, this is easily as bad as the Great Depression.”

The Spokesman-Review, owned by Spokane-based Cowles Co., which also owns the Journal of Business and KHQ-TV, doesn’t foresee any more layoffs over the rest of this year, Higgins says, adding that some signs of economic recovery already are beginning to appear. Though daily newspapers across the country have seen a protracted decline in advertising revenues and circulation, attributed largely to the Internet, Higgins says he believes the recession is to blame for 70 percent to 90 percent of the most recent revenue slide.

“When the economy recovers, media will recover,” he says.

The biweekly Journal of Business, which circulates to about 15,000 business owners and managers in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area and employs 22 people, hasn’t been forced to lay off any employees, but has implemented a number of cost-cutting measures due to weaker ad sales in recent months, Publisher Greg Bever says.

Ted S. McGregor Jr., editor and publisher of The Inlander, Spokane’s urban weekly, which has about 30 full-time employees and also uses a stable of free-lancers, says, “We kind of amazingly got through the first six months even,” down less than 1 percent in revenue.

“Our newspaper didn’t have anywhere to fall. We’ve always been bare bones? compared with a lot of other urban and alternative weeklies nationwide that had beefed up their staffing and now have fallen on hard times, he says. Revenues at The Inlander have been softer in July, he says, causing him to wonder whether the slowdown here simply might be lagging the national trend.

All media is facing this sort of shuffling of the deck, and we’re just trying to survey our new landscape and see how we fit in,” he says. “I think everyone is trying to figure out how do we stay relevant and vital.”

TV stations feel pinch

KXLY-TV recently gave employees. the option of taking either a temporary pay cut or a one-week unpaid furlough. That action came less than a year after the station laid off 18 employees and eliminated some weekend programming. Post, the news director, says the latest cost-cutting step kept the station from possibly having to eliminate eight more full-time jobs.

“We feel comfortable with our (staffing) position for the next months,” he says, adding that it’s difficult to make any longer-range forecasts. The station has been hit hard by a decline in advertising in some traditionally strong areas, such as auto, retail, and health care, he says.

Post says he thinks the broader variety of nontraditional media offerings, including via the Internet, are “certainly a piece of the puzzle to what’s happening right now? but that it’s hard to separate the impacts they’re having on local TV stations from those caused by the general economic slump.

“We continue to put more emphasis on our online offerings,” he says. “We’re very busy, and everybody’s got to play a part with everything we do online.”

Patricia McRae, president and general manager at KHQ-TV, says that station hasn’t laid off any employees, but currently has five positions it’s leaving open to hold down expenses.

“We run on a pretty lean staff,” which so far has helped stave off the need for work-force reductions, she says, adding, “My whole approach has been keeping morale intact.”

Nationwide, broadcasting industry advertising revenues are down probably 20 percent from last year on average, McRae says. The industry is changing, and partly in response to those changes, KHQ has launched a 24-hour digital sports and weather channel, SWX, but that has added a lot of extra work to the station’s already busy staff, she says.

KREM-TV, or KREM 2, laid off about a dozen employees earlier this year and also has eliminated some positions through attrition as it seeks to bring costs into balance with softer revenues, which are down probably 10 percent this year, Aitken says.

“I think we’ll see a spike” of resurgence in advertising revenues when the economy finally turns around fully, he says, but he adds, “I’m just not optimistic that that’s going to happen anytime soon.”

KAYU-TV General Manager Jon Rand says that station has more employees than it did a year ago, and hasn’t laid any-one off, but has taken steps to cut costs, including by limiting salary increases, reducing sales staff expenditures, and suspending temporarily its matching contribution to employees’ 401(k) plans.

“We’ve been fortunate to not make nearly as deep of cuts as some people,” Rand says.

The station, which employs about 60 people overall, counting offices in the Tri-Cities and Yakima, operates a lean staff and saves money by having KHQ-TV produce its news content, he says. Also, it has program offerings that are as good as they’ve ever been,” he says.

After a number of sluggish months, Rand says, “We are feeling like we’re really starting to turn the corner. We’re starting to hit our budgets. We’ve been on budget for the last couple of months. We’re starting to make those numbers and we’re pretty happy about that.”

Rand adds, “I kind of think television as an advertising medium is somewhat of a precursor to what’s going on in the economy. We’re starting to see things look up pretty strong.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

‘Captain Cy’ led loyal crew of kids

Host of KREM show for little baby boomers dies at 79

By Rebecca Nappi
The Spokesman-Review

David Cyrus Page – aka Captain Cy – gained fame among baby boomer children in Spokane in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His after-school program on KREM’s “Captain Cy” show was must-see TV for children who grew up on black-and-white television sets.

Page died a week ago at age 79 and was buried in Taylorsville, Utah, near Salt Lake City, on Monday.

Kirke Rockwood, 84, who worked for KREM from 1957 to 1988 – including a stint as “Anchor Andy” on the “Captain Cy” show – reminisced about Page Tuesday and about the show KREM produced live every afternoon, Monday through Friday.

The show began with Popeye cartoons, followed by Captain Cy interviewing local kids.

“He was lots of fun,” Rockwood said. “He was on KREM radio as a disc jockey, too.”

Page starred on Spokane daytime TV in an era when there were only three Spokane stations, but each station competed feverishly for the attention of area children. The stars of the shows became celebrities. Captain Cy joined the ranks of Cliff Carl, star of “Bar 6 Roundup,” Jack Bainter of “Wallaby and Jack” and Miss Florence of “Romper Room.” Rockwood also gained a fair amount of fame in the “Boge Bunny” show.

In a 2000 Spokesman-Review column, Kathleen Corkery Spencer reminisced about being on the show: “From a makeshift set that vaguely resembled a small boat, the Captain hosted a crew of local kids. Each kid who came on the show had to say a few words to the Captain. Nothing major. Stuff like your name, your age, whether or not you liked dogs. All a kid had to do was step up to the Captain’s microphone, look into the camera and charm Spokane. Simple.”

A decade ago, Page shared with Slice columnist Paul Turner his favorite recollection from the show: “He recalled asking a 5-year-old boy where he got his red hair. ‘It came with the head,’ the kid answered.”

When Tom McArthur was researching the KSPS documentary “Remembering Spokane,” Page told McArthur that his years on Spokane TV were the “best years of his life.”

Though he seemed older, especially to the children on his show, Page was just in his early 30s when he played Captain Cy, Rockwood said. He spent most of his years after his Spokane TV career in Utah where he was active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and served as seminary teacher, Sunday school teacher and bishop.

He genuinely liked children, Rockwood remembered, and he leaves behind five children, 18 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren – and thousands of memories for Spokane children.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Anchor away

By Jim Kershner
The Spokesman-Review

When KREM-2 anchor Charles Rowe retires on Nov. 30, it will be the end of a TV career that stretches back to the Reagan Administration.

Not his presidential administration; we’re talking about Reagan’s gubernatorial administration in California in 1967.

Rowe has been at KREM-2 for 20 years, plus long stints in L.A. and Chicago, yet before that he served as the state capital reporter at a Sacramento TV station from 1967 to 1969. That’s where Rowe accumulated his store of Reagan anecdotes.

“It was fascinating just watching Reagan operate,” said Rowe. “I remember one weekend, the hippies and anti-war folks were threatening to camp out on the capitol lawn. The gardens there are meticulous, just beautiful. The word was that they would camp out there and destroy the vegetation. I asked Reagan, ‘What are you going to do? Call out the guard or the capitol police?’ He said, ‘Well, Charles, I’ll just turn on the sprinklers.’ And that’s what he did and there were no problems.”

Actually, Rowe, 71, goes back even farther than that in broadcast journalism. This Chadron, Neb., native got his start working weekends in 1958 at a Hot Springs, S.D., radio station. By 1966, he had moved into TV journalism, if that’s the correct term for a one-man news operation in a Quonset hut in Coos Bay, Ore.

“We had to go out and sandbag the place at high tide,” said Rowe.

The switch from radio to TV was difficult for other reasons as well.

“I’ll be honest with you,” said Rowe. “It may seem odd, but I’ve never been that comfortable in front of a camera. I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m basically a shy guy to begin with. I’ve never been one to look for the spotlight, and it was difficult: All of the sudden you’re walking around town and people know you and you don’t know whothey are.”

He went quickly from Coos Bay to Eugene, and then on to Sacramento. His rise after that was, by any measure, dizzying. By 1969, he was anchoring and reporting in Chicago, the third-largest TV market in the country. How did a boy from Chadron handle that?

“Not well,” said Rowe with a chuckle. “I got there in January 1969, it was cold, and the first story I went out on I was drenched with a fire hose in temperatures around zero. And the city wasn’t what I was used to growing up in. Finally the news director and I had a heart-to-heart. He said, ‘Charles you have to go with the flow. This may not be the most livable place you’ve ever been, but it’s time to step up.’ I said, ‘OK, I got the message.’ Then my work ethic kicked in and I started working seven days a week.”

He anchored the news in the mornings and then delivered three five-minute daily newscasts for the ABC Radio Network. Paul Harvey was right down the hallway.

“When he said, ‘Hello, Charles,’ it made my day,” said Rowe.

Five years later, he was anchoring in Los Angeles, the second-largest TV market in the nation. He worked there from 1974 to 1981 (with a brief interlude in Portland). He looks back on the whole time as a whirlwind.

“L.A. had so many high-profile stories, you tend to forget them,” he said.

And he wasn’t just anchoring: Rowe was cast in more than a dozen Hollywood films and TV shows.

“Every time, it was as a news reporter or an anchor,” said Rowe. “KTTV was an independent station and my contract did not forbid me from appearing in TV shows or movies. The network affiliates prevented their anchors from doing so.”

So Rowe got a Screen Actors Guild card and plenty of work. For instance, Rowe appeared in “When Hell Was in Session” in 1979, in “Midnight Lace” in 1981 and something called “Blood Beach” in 1981.

“Oh, you don’t want to forget about ‘Blood Beach,’ ” said Rowe, with a laugh. “It’s a teenybopper horror movie in the sand at Santa Monica. Did I survive? Barely. It was great fun. You can still rent it.”

Does Rowe own a copy?

“No, I never kept any of that stuff,” he said.

Rowe also appeared in a lot of shows you have heard of: “Knot’s Landing,” “Dynasty,” “BJ and the Bear,” “Quincy,” “The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo” and “The Rockford Files.”

Just look for the guy standing there with a microphone.

“The funny thing is, I’m still getting residuals for maybe, $4, for some of this stuff when it runs in foreign countries,” said Rowe. ” ‘The Rockford Files’ is still running somewhere.”

By 1981, he had had enough of L.A. and decided to return to his original line of work: radio. He moved to Lincoln City, Ore., and built a new station from the ground up, KCRF-FM.

“Those years I owned that station was the most fun I’ve ever had,” said Rowe. “It was a middle-of-the-road adult contemporary station, very heavy on local news. We won a lot of awards for news coverage. I’m very proud of that station. I wasn’t making a lot of money but I sure was having a lot of fun.”

So he sold it in 1987 and heard about an opening at KREM-2. He has been there ever since. From his anchor chair, he has presided over most of the momentous stories in the region, including the story he called the most memorable – the B-52 crash at Fairchild Air Force Base – and the two he said vied for “most disgusting” – serial killer Robert Yates and the tragedy at Ruby Ridge.

Now, he said, the time is right to hang it up. In fact, he felt that way last year.

“I was going to do it a year ago, but management asked me if I would stay another year,” said Rowe.

KREM news director Noah Cooper, in a prepared statement, called Rowe “the bedrock of KREM-2 News for 20 years.” Cooper said Rowe “breathed news his entire professional career.”

Rowe’s longtime co-anchor, Nadine Woodward, said the reality of Rowe’s retirement “just hasn’t hit me yet.”

“We’ve gotten along so well on the air many of our viewers actually thought we were married,” wrote Woodward, in an e-mail interview. “Charles is a gracious anchor, never one to steal the spotlight. And he’s always prepared. He preps more for each newscast than any anchor I’ve ever worked with.”

For a man who admittedly gave all of his time to his career, retirement might require an adjustment.

“I don’t have very many hobbies,” said Rowe. “I’ve taken up photography to some degree, so I still have that to conquer. I have a place in Oregon down on the beach. I’ll be spending a little time with that. I look forward to going down there and smelling a little salt air. The deepwater fishing around Depoe Bay, I’ll be spending some time with that.”

He is not married, but he said “I have been with the same lady for 17 years”: Laurine Jue, formerly a KREM-2 anchor and now a spokeswoman for Avista. He plans to continue to make Spokane his base.

He hopes to do some volunteer work at Spokane’s Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center as “a way to serve my country a little bit.” He’s a proud veteran of the Navy – he served aboard destroyers and achieved the rank of E-6 by the time he got out in 1958.

He hopes his farewell from the station will be low-key.

“Saying goodbye, I’ve never been very good at this kind of thing,” said Rowe. “When people have left the news department here, I’ve always just given them a handshake and say, ‘A job well done.’ And I’d appreciate the same thing.”

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.