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Time Won’t Tell Whether Or Not Massey Flopped

Summer’s here - another change of seasons, another change of sports directors at Channel 2.

Mitch, we hardly knew ye.

Talking heads come and go, but nowhere is the transit as rapid as it is at KREM with the fellows who have given us the Play of the Day, the Geek of the Week and other endowments native to the nightly sportscast.

The latest to come and to be let go - in record time even for KREM is Mitch Massey, who arrived for the kickoff of the Alamo Bowl and will be off the air before his first Hoopfest.

Already hired away from a station in Salt Lake City to replace Massey is Carlton Wing, who will have to towel off the gushing endorsements of his new bosses before he goes on camera. Nonetheless, given the history of KREM sports, you have to wonder if Wing has a prayer.

No one has ever ranked television’s 10 cruelest firings, so we won’t overstate this latest sacking at KREM other than to note that it’s for damn sure at the top of the list at Mitch’s house.

After 12 years in San Luis Obispo, Massey gambled on uprooting his family and stretching himself in an alien market. KREM, armed with the usual battery of tapes and auditions, gambled with a six-month contract. For two months, said Massey, all was hunky-dory. Then the man who hired him, news director Paul Brandt, landed another job in Hawaii; the week he was to leave, he handed Massey a terse, pointed outline of his professional shortcomings.

Three weeks remained in Massey’s probationary period. He earnestly tried to make adjustments, but he also knew a pink slip when he saw it.

“I had no inkling what I was doing was not the direction they wanted to go until that moment,” Massey insisted.

Having had no previous feedback from his immediate superior, Massey sensed the hand of general manager Barry Barth at work - and claimed Barth “apologized for not taking a more active role in the hiring process.

“Well, that does me a lot of good. You’re the general manager and your station is hiring one of the four people that are the most visible to your community day in and day out. Don’t you want to make sure it’s exactly what you want?”

Barth refuses to comment on “personnel issues.” (Indeed, he refuses to even acknowledge that KREM canned Rich Henkels from the same job three years ago, offering instead the distinction that “his contract was up.” Sort of gives you an idea of how creatively denial can be used as a management tool.)

Nevertheless, TV is hardly the only business in which an employer has succumbed to buyer’s remorse. The fact is, this could have happened to Mitch Massey in any market.

“It’s a subjective business,” he says, and he says it a lot.

Another thing he says a lot is that his style is “progressive” - understanding that the subjective critic might counter with alternate descriptives, “goofy” being the gentlest.

No offense, Mitch, but we hardly watched ye, either.

“It takes time for people to get comfortable with how I come at them,” Massey conceded. “It’s nontraditional. In hindsight, I should have done more of what I’m doing now, be more structured, more conservative and ease into what I like to do slowly.

“Maybe I came in too much like Steve Martin with the arrow through his head. My first sportscast here, I was out at Gonzaga in my suit shooting 3-pointers with Dan Fitzgerald. There was very little ‘sports’ in my sportscast that night.”


Then again, it might not matter, for KREM has long had a problem deciding exactly what it does want in a sports anchor.

Across Regal at KHQ, Dan Kleckner has been a fixture for more than 10 years. Across town at KXLY, it’s more than continuity. Rick Lukens and Dennis Patchin - and, of course, Bud Nameck until his recent career change - have made themselves a presence.

KREM, meanwhile, has now hired its seventh sports director in 15 years - and fourth in the last three years. Of the last three, Henkels and Massey were fired and Bob Buckley may well have found the door before he was shown it.

Welcome, Carlton!

“I know change is always unsettling to viewers,” said Ron Comings, KREM’s new news director. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything at the station that indicates they don’t want to do a good job with sports, or something here that makes it unstable for a sports director. It’s a really important part of our newscast.”

Hmm again. KXLY has a three-man department and Q’s Kleckner has his own shooter. Massey’s parting regrets about understaffing echo what Henkels said on his way out three years ago.

But there’s more to commitment than extra bodies. Were Dan Kleckner and Bud Nameck immediate hits when they invaded our living rooms long, long ago?

“There’s no question it takes some time to build an audience,” said Comings. “But talent can make an immediate impression - and some of those initial reactions will never go away, especially if the initial reactions are not good. You usually get a read on someone quickly and it can take a long time to turn people around.”

But then, rarely does a sports guy at KREM get a long time to try.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, ext. 5509.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review

You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, ext. 5509.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review

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