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Anchored in the evening news: Salt Lake City

As the national media note Dan Rather's 20th anniversary as anchor of "The CBS Evening News," those two decades don't necessarily seem like a terribly long time to everyone.

"After 37 years, no," KSL-Ch. 5 anchorman Dick Nourse said with a laugh. "Not to me."

The dean of local TV newsmen, Nourse celebrated his 37th anniversary just last week. And his is not the only face that local viewers have become accustomed to over the decades. KUTV-Ch. 2's Michelle King was already behind the anchor desk when Walter Cronkite passed the baton to Rather.

I was here," she said. "It'll be 23 years for me this summer."

And there are plenty of others in the local TV market who've spent a lot of years anchoring the news, including:

— Ch. 5's Bruce Lindsay (22 years), Keith McCord (20 years), Terry Wood (20 years, including two stints totaling 19 years at Ch. 2), Carole Mikita (18 years) and Kim Johnson (10 years, including nine years at Ch. 4).

— KTVX-Ch. 4's Randall Carlisle (18 1/2 years, including 8 1/2 years at Ch. 2).

— KSTU-Ch. 13's Bob Evans (10 1/2 years, including five years at Ch. 2).

At the other end of the spectrum is Ch. 4's 10 p.m. anchor Scott Swann, who's been on the job six months — and who was born in 1963, the year Nourse began anchoring the news at Ch. 5.

"There's another little irony, huh?" Nourse said with a laugh.

Both Swann and Nourse have clear memories of Cronkite, however, and the transition from "the most trusted man in America" to Rather.

"I was kind of wishing it was me," Nourse said. "But that's a tough job. That's a lot of responsibility. You're gone a lot. It's pretty heavy-duty stuff."

Cronkite retired shortly before Swann graduated from high school — and by that point, Swann was already a newscaster, working in his Southern California school's video news department. "I got into that in large part because I wanted to be like Walter Cronkite," he said.

"Cronkite, of course, had been an idol of mine for years," Nourse said. "I watched what he did and how he did it when I was starting out. And I tried to find out, really, what he was all about. . . . There are a lot of things I guess I copied and gained from watching him all the time."

Not that there was any lack of respect for Rather.

"I remember them making a big deal out of (Cronkite) leaving, but Dan Rather was a seasoned journalist," King said.

"He had so much criticism when he started, even from the network," Nourse said. "There were network officials saying, 'Oh, he won't make it. He won't last a year before he's out of here.' But he's done well."

But Rather, 69, certainly won't be behind the anchor desk as long as Nourse has.

"It has gone so quickly. I'm still kind of me as I was then," Nourse said. "The only time I realize how much time has passed, I guess, is when I look in the mirror or I see some old video clips or something, then I realize, boy, I have changed.

"It's been a fun ride. It's been a magnificent time. I don't regret staying. I've had opportunities to move on in the past to bigger markets, and I might have ended up at the network. I don't know. But I don't regret being here. I have a lot of friendships, and I raised a family in one place, and I haven't bounced around as many do in this business."

Swann said that the thought of being at one job for 20 years — let alone 37 — is hard to fathom.

"I have nothing but respect for Dick and the work he does," he said. "He has just got a charm and a credibility that is just amazing. He does a great job."

And Nourse said he still looks forward to going to work — and to working with his KSL colleagues.

"The hardest time I'm ever going to have when I leave is missing the people I work with," Nourse said. "Of course, the kindness that has come from the audience in my time of trouble with cancer and all, you can't replace that either. But the people I work with have just all been very close to me, and I respect them highly, especially the ones I've worked with night after night. I've had an opportunity to work for the best in the country. I look at it that way, and I'm going to miss that someday."

Still, nobody anchors the news forever.

"I think we've all learned that none of us is indispensable," King said. "There's always someone there to take your place. You'd like to think that there are people who will miss you if you're gone, but pretty soon you're just a memory."

Not that either Nourse or King is planning on going anywhere anytime soon.

"I think there's something to experience and familiarity," King said. "We don't all need to be young and beautiful."


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com