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A WEATHERCASTER’S NERVOUS DEBUT

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A few years from now Dave Nemeth will probably look back on his first 10 o'clock weathercast on KTVX and laugh about it.

Today, however, he's still wincing at the memory."It was my own fault," he said recently, recalling the technical snafus that made his late-night debut a little embarrassing. "I thought I had the graphics system down cold. But then I got out there, I got a little nervous, and when things didn't work the way I remembered I panicked. I was really furious with myself."

And probably glad that his wife, Pamela, herself a journalist, hadn't yet made the move to Salt Lake City with their two children (Jeffrey, 3, and April, 1) in time to see it.

KTVX News Director John Edwards wasn't concerned. "I knew exactly what had happened," Edwards said. "Once he gets more comfortable with our system he'll be fine. You wait and see."

But Nemeth doesn't want KTVX viewers to have to wait to see his best stuff. "Everyone has been so kind to me," he said. "I just don't want to come in here and let anyone down."

Especially not with so much riding on his performance here. Edwards has made it clear that he sees the popular Mark Eubanks' impending move from KUTV to KSL - most notably the year-long hiatus Eubank must endure in 1990 as part of a non-competitive clause in his KUTV contract - gives KTVX a unique opportunity to corral a bigger share of the weather (and therefore the news) audience. Which is why he took his time replacing Rebecca Reheis after refusing to renegotiate her contract when it expired last June.

"I wanted to make sure we got the right person," Edwards said. "And I think we did."

Nemeth comes to KTVX from WFSB-TV in Hartford, Conn., where he handled noon and 5 p.m. weathercasts. His resume also includes six months as a weather news anchor with The Weather Channel cable service, news anchoring experience in Macon, Ga. (where he was a major, major fan of the Macon Whoopees hockey team) and a journalism degree from the University of Georgia.

Hold it just a minute. Where's all the meteorology stuff?

There isn't a lot of it. Although he minored in meteorology and climatology at Georgia, Nemeth started his journalistic career as a regular reporter and news anchor. It wasn't until he was assigned to cover Hurricane Gloria in 1985 that he decided that his professional heart belonged to the weather.

"I remember doing a live report while standing on a bridge, with trees falling all around me and the rain coming at me so hard it hurt, and thinking, `I love this!"' he said. "It was then that I realized I was bit."

That's why he took the anchoring job at The Weather Channel when it came along. "It was perfect," he said. "I was surrounded by meteorolgists all day, and I learned a lot just watching them work."

But what he really wanted was to stand in front of a weather map and do his own weathercasts. So when WFSB offered him a job doing just that six months after he started on The Weather Channel, he took it.

That was in 1986, so technically KTVX's new lead weathercaster only has three years of on-the-job experience, and no real meteorological training to speak of.

No wonder he's so nervous.

Still, Edwards isn't worried. The way he explains it, Nemeth wasn't hired for his skill in interpreting weather facts and figures. He was hired as a communicator. And that's the way Nemeth sees it too,

"A lot of TV weather people do the weather," Nemeth said. "I do television. You can be the most gifted scientist in the world and know more about the weather than anyone else, but if you can't jump through the camera lens and land in the lap of the viewer, it's not good TV, and you're not doing your job."

So Nemeth will rely on the National Weather Service and KTVX weather producer Bob Chmieleski ("Bob knows more about it than I do," he said) to provide the data and help him interpret it. And then it'll be up to him to present it to viewers in a clear, comprehensive style.

"I think that the main thing people want to know from a weather segment is `What's the weather going to be like tomorrow? Can we have the picnic? Should I take an umbrella?' And that the kind of thing we want to focus on," Nemeth said. "Of course, there are some weather buffs out there who want to know all the whys and hows, and we'll try to have some material for them, too. And then, if there's time, I'd like to do a few other things, too."

Uh-oh. Do I sense a little Willard Scott-ish-ness on the horizon?

"No way," Nemeth insists. "I don't want to be a weather clown. I may be a little tongue-in-cheek once in a while, but when the weather is serious, I'll be serious. If there isn't much weather news, I may say, `Why don't I just get down on one knee and sing `Mammy'?' But I won't do it.

"I'm not a circus act. I'm a journalist. I'm a communicator."

Especially when he can get the graphics to work.

-LOOKING LOCALLY: Cheers to KUTV for its fresh, feature-oriented approach to its coverage of The St. George Marathon Sunday night. It was a delightful, informative show - even for dedicated non-runners like me . . . Jeers to KSL's SportsBeat Sunday, which manages to cram fewer taped highlights of Sunday's NFL games into its 15-minute sportscast than either KUTV or KTVX fit into their 5-minute shows. Excuse me, but I thought the reason you added that show was to be able to do more, not less . . .