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Like Nahan or Not, Channel 4 Sure Did a Number on Him

Just about any way you look at it, Channel 4 stuck it to Stu.

It wasn’t so much that KNBC fired sportscaster Stu Nahan. Those things happen in the crazy, insecure world of news broadcasting. It was more the way it was handled.

Consider Nahan’s situation. He’s got this great job, had it for nine years. It gives him celebrity status and pays him handsomely--reportedly more than $300,000 a year.

Besides that, as his 60th birthday approaches, he’s in love and planning to be married. He feels like a kid again.

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But he keeps hearing and reading rumors that his new boss isn’t fond of his work and that his contract, which expires in August, will not be renewed.

Naturally, he begins to wonder if his job is in jeopardy. His boss says the rumors aren’t true, but they don’t go away. He reads in March he’ll be out in June. His boss denies the story.

Everything is rosy as he and fiancee Sandra Kartun, also a Channel 4 employee, plan a European vacation. They’ve even talked about the possibility of getting married in Italy.

Then, the day before they are to leave on their vacation, Nahan gets the word. The rumors about his demise turn out to be true. In a 90-second meeting with the station’s general manager and news director, Nahan is told that his contract will not be renewed and that his last day on the job was yesterday.

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Have a swell vacation, Stu.

John Rohrbeck, the general manager, is the person who ultimately made the decision not to renew Nahan’s contract.

Rohrbeck has since refused to talk to the press.

However, he said through a spokeswoman that Nahan requested last Friday’s meeting, at which he was told he was out. Others close to Nahan said that was not the case, that Nahan was called in. It’s known that Fred Roggin, who has taken over for Nahan, was told about the impending changes the previous Monday.

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Obviously, Rohrbeck was not fond of Nahan’s work.

Nahan’s critics say he is not controversial, that he is not humorous, that he is too close to players and coaches. Some call him a houseman. At the very least, they say, he is soft.

For example, last year after Channel 2 reported that Jerry Buss was having financial troubles, Nahan, interviewing Buss, listened to a denial and then said: “That’s good enough for me.” Investigative reporting, it seems, isn’t his bag.

Also, Nahan isn’t one to spend time in the cutting room, putting together interesting or humorous features.

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On the other hand, Nahan does credible work without resorting to antics. His delivery is smooth. Over the years, he has developed quite a following. He knows the area and has good contacts. He is popular among coaches and athletes. Several have said they were surprised when they heard that he had been fired.

Whether Rohrbeck chose to look at Nahan’s good points or his bad ones is his business. Where he erred was in letting his feelings about Nahan get out. Rohrbeck can blame that on leaks within the station, but the rumors had to come from somewhere.

Rohrbeck put himself into a position where he had to be less than candid and deny the rumors.

Rohrbeck, who previously worked at Channel 4, came back to the station as the top man in September, 1984, after a stint as general manager at WRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. WRC’s George Michael has gained national recognition with his syndicated show, “George Michael’s Sports Machine.”

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Almost immediately after Rohrbeck’s arrival at Channel 4, the station started carrying Michael’s show on Sunday nights, following the station’s own sports highlight show, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Anyway, there was talk that Rohrbeck was trying to hire Michael, a close friend, as a replacement for Nahan. Michael, however, finally decided to stay in Washington.

Then the word was that Nahan would be re-signed by KNBC.

Sportscaster Ed Arnold, after being fired by Channel 7, had an interview with Tom Capra, Channel 4 news director, in late May. Arnold said that Capra indicated that the station would try to re-sign Nahan.

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Others were saying the same thing, but it turned out to be untrue.

Trouble between Nahan and Rohrbeck reportedly developed about a year ago when Nahan took time off for a role in “Rocky IV.”

A source said Rohrbeck was upset because Nahan did not ask permission to do the outside work and deducted $2,000 from Nahan’s pay.

Nahan, in turn, went to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the union made KNBC give Nahan the $2,000 back.

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The source said that the relationship was never good after that.

There was also talk that Nahan and Roggin weren’t getting along. Part of the problem seemed to be that Nahan resented Roggin because management favored him.

Also, Nahan believed that Roggin was leaking information about Nahan’s contract problems, even though Roggin kept telling reporters he knew nothing about any difficulties Nahan was having with management.

Asked about his relationship with Nahan, Roggin said: “It was professional. Stu didn’t talk to me about his contract problems and I didn’t ask.”

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Channel 2’s Jim Hill, a close friend, said Nahan did not discuss his contract problems with him either. “All I know is Stu is too good to be out of work for long,” Hill said. “I’m proud to have him as a friend. I owe him a great deal.”

Nahan’s firing is just another example of the down side of working in news broadcasting, a profession which, on the surface, is so attractive. But the dishonesty, the instability, the insecurities, the callousness and the petty politics diminish the appeal considerably.

The story of Nahan’s departure was printed in almost every newspaper in the Southland. But Channel 4 treated it as a nonstory. It was not mentioned. After nine years, Nahan just disappeared into thin air, gone to that vast wasteland of fired television personalities.

Notes

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Ego department: When Stu Nahan left Channel 7 after nine years there to take a job at Channel 4 in 1977, he had a small problem. His license plate read Stu 7. So he wrote to the Department of Motor Vehicles and asked that it be changed to Stu 4. But he was told that somebody else already had Stu 4. The story goes that Nahan was so determined to have his name and place of employment on his license plates that he looked up the owner of the Stu 4 plates and bought him off with tickets or money or maybe both. . . . Nahan doesn’t like to talk about it, but he started in television as the host of kiddie cartoon shows. In Philadelphia, he was known as Captain Philadelphia. In Sacramento, he was known as Skipper Stu on KXTV. As Skipper Stu, he would show cartoons while piloting his boat, the Channel Tender, accompanied by an octopus puppet, O.U. Squid.

Nahan’s firing is part of a revamping of the sports department at Channel 4. The station this week hired a new senior sports producer, Sol Steinberg, who comes from WABC in New York. Steinberg earlier worked at WRC in Washington, the same station John Rohrbeck ran before returning to Channel 4. . . . With Nahan gone, Fred Roggin is on the 4, 5, 6 and 11 p.m. weeknight news shows, plus the late-night Sunday sports wrap-up show. Asked if his schedule was his idea, Roggin said: “I don’t think even I would want to see me that much.” To compensate Roggin for his new work load, his contract was renegotiated. Roggin wouldn’t say what the terms were, but said: “I’m very, very happy.”

Another recent shake-up occurred at CBS sports in New York this week. Gone is respected Terry O’Neil, the executive producer of the network’s NFL telecasts since 1981. He resigned after Ted Shaker, former executive producer of NBA telecasts and the “NFL Today” show, was promoted to executive producer in charge of all sports. Kevin O’Malley, former executive producer of college football, is negotiating with Peter Lund, CBS sports president, about a possible new position. . . . Bummer for San Diego soccer fans: Channel 39 will not carry Sunday’s World Cup final between Argentina and West Germany because of a March of Dimes telethon.


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