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In a fickle pursuit, Henkels no longer crème de la KREM

August 28, 1992

By Dan Weaver
The Spokesman-Review

Confession: I don’t know a good talking head from a bad one. I miss Howard Cosell. I think Frank Gifford does a pretty good job. I really couldn’t tell you what separates Dan Rather from Dan Kleckner.

So I won’t rake KXLY for dropping their weather guy or KHQ for dumping Steve Fimmel off weekend sports or KREM for firing Rich Henkels. Somebody saw something I didn’t.

I do know enough about broadcasting to say this, though. It’s a brutal business.

“I’d call it fickle,” objected Henkels, who showed some class last week when it came time to part ways with KREM after three years as sports director.

“I have nothing bad to say about Channel 2,” Henkels said. “I have no anger toward them. You have to accept the fact that you’ll be fired two or three times for reasons you might not understand.”

His boss “didn’t really give a reason,” Henkels added, “he just said he couldn’t get to where he wanted to go with me as his No. 1 sports guy.”

So adios, even though Henkels appealed to the female audience. I have this on good authority, from a 25-year-old secretary two rows over who said she thought the guy was “hyper” and liked that because he wasn’t boring.

Older women watched, too.

“I wish I had a nickel for every lady who told me I reminded her of her grandson,” Henkels said.

I asked around. The kid who sits behind me called him, and I want to get this right, a dufus.

I don’t consider Rich Henkels a doof but his light does seem to to come stronger off camera. Consider, for example, what he said over the phone.

“I felt hurt. Anybody would. I covered everything I could conceivably cover. I put lots of time into it but eventually you have to make sure that what you do for a living doesn’t define who you are.”

Airheads can’t say that much without cues.

“I can afford to take some chances,” said Henkels, who likes it here, which is understandable since he did stints in Pocatello, El Paso and Oklahoma City. “Visions of greatness are clouded by the comfort of living here,” he said. “Part of me says keep pushing, tackle the next step, but another part tells me I’m sick of the rat-race.”

Henkels saw himself a s a scrambler who worked under the weight of heavy competition.

“I salute the job Bud (Nameck), (Dennis) Patchin and (Rick) Lukens do at 4,” Henkels said. “I also recognize the support they have. At the State B Tournament last March I think (Channel) 4 had 9 people working on their live coverage. We had, uhh, a lot less. I don’t want to bad-mouth 2 but to me that says a lot.”

It suggests that at the management level sports are important at 4, sort of important at 6 and not so important at 2.

Beyond that there’s a slice of sports that Henkels won’t miss.

“I’m sick of pro sports to a great extent,” he said. “Too much money out there. The fan is paying for the insanity. A high school game, or a Cougar game — that strikes me as real as opposed to entertainment.”

Emphasis on entertainment is a common failing. Ed Sharman, who left broadcasting in 1981 after 22 years in the Spokane market, his most visible as sports director at KHQ, doesn’t miss it.

“Too often it seems that people who call the shots want somebody to appear on camera and perform,” said Sharman, who now works for AAA, the automobile trouble shooters. “People who worked in television, before the overwhelming influence that consultants now have, looked on themselves as journalists.

“Now they’re performers.”

As Sharman sees it, the news runs second to the show.

“It’s no longer broadcasting; it’s narrowcasting,” he said. “Everything is so specialized. People sit in front of their TVs with their remote controls and if something doesn’t enthrall them beyond 10 seconds, they’re on to the next channel.”

It was easier before cable and satellite.

“Viewers don’t have the same attachment to news or sportscasters,” Sharman said. “A local station hires a consultant to tell them what to do. Whether they agree or not they’ve paid this guy. He has a briefcase. He’s from out of town. He’s an expert.

“The feeling is they better do what he says, whether or not he has any feel for the market. And the next day he’s on to someplace else.”

And the here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of the profession goes on.

“In some ways it stinks,” Henkels said, “but I’m not worried. Something will pop.”

Friday, August 28, 1992

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From → KREM

One Comment
  1. Leigh Hess permalink

    Ed (Sharman) really told it like it is. As someone who shared 12 years in the Q6 newsroom with Ed, I can say from experience and the luxury of hindsight that while I do greatly miss the magic of being in front of the camera, I am certainly glad to have left the profession just in time. News driven by ratings is not truly journalism, as Edward R. Murrow (remember?) would have reminded us.

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