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Citizen Kane

Oct 20, 2003  •  Post A Comment

When Larry Kane retired from his lead anchor position at KYW-TV in Philadelphia last year, he ended a 37-year broadcast reporting legacy that included his fronting the nation’s first “action news” format as well as anchoring all three Philly broadcast stations at one time or another. His exit, which occurred amid an unpleasant shuffling of local on-air talent, was expected to result in Mr. Kane’s retirement, or perhaps a leap to a new market.
Instead, Mr. Kane, 61, is busier and more visible than ever. He’s been on CNN, NBC and CBS touting his new book (“Ticket to Ride,” his first-person memoir as a journalist covering the Beatles’ 1964-65 U.S. tours). He’s writing a monthly Philadelphia Inquirer column. He launched Larry Kane Consulting, which provides newsroom coaching to broadcast journalists. And Mr. Kane is back in the Philadelphia news business, albeit in new roles.
The confluence of activity, explained Mr. Kane, was initially his attempt to ward off any potential psychological fallout from leaving the anchor desk.
“I never really planned to retire,” Mr. Kane said. “So when I left the anchor arena, I knew I would go through this tremendous withdrawal and I set up all these other things to do.”
To his surprise, these diversions have provided him with a second-stage carrier that is, in some respects, more fulfilling than his anchoring duties. Asked if he misses anchoring, he quickly said “No.”
“That’s the strangest thing of all,” he said. “I thought by February or March, I would be a basket case. But I the only thing I miss is breaking news stories-and that’s satisfied by news radio, writing for the Inquirer and being on CN8.”
CN8 is a Comcast-owned cable net whose coverage area includes 6.2 million homes from Maine to Maryland, but the network is struggling to attract viewers. Mr. Kane is a newsroom consultant for the channel’s 1 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.
Still, the job gives him a chance to continue working in a newsroom that covers Philadelphia but is minus the demands of manning the anchor desk. For the network, Mr. Kane brings a wide range of newsroom experience.
“His wealth of experience is amazing. There’s nothing he hasn’t seen or done,” said Jon Gorchow, VP and general manager of CN8. “It’s been exceptionally beneficial to get little tips that we’ve been able to integrate into our broadcast.”
Except the Larry Kane hired by CN8 is not quite the same Larry Kane who anchored KYW. Mr. Kane said his views of local news have changed significantly since he left his anchor position.
“Saying this is the hardest thing for me to say,” Mr. Kane began. “I was always sort of a responsible tabloid anchor. I started watching local news after I left-all local news, not just Philadelphia-and I see things I didn’t see before. I asked my wife, `Have I been this irrelevant all these years?”’
Mr. Kane cited common local news criticisms as his primary reasons for concern-the lack of local political coverage, the “plethora of cheap crime news” and the lack of international coverage.
“They say `all news is local’ and all that nonsense,” Mr. Kane said. “But a bus bombing in Israel is relevant here. Another danger is that a lot of TV stations would rather be first and wrong than second and right. Remember, the news leaders are not the ones with the most gimmicks, the ones with the most flash and trash, but the ones with the most community impact. This isn’t showbiz, it’s public biz.”
Suddenly, Mr. Kane stopped himself. For a minute there, he was sounding just like, well, like a grumpy retiree.
“I hate people who go and trash an industry after they leave it,” Mr. Kane said. “I’m not trashing it, I just want it to be better. There are a lot of old-timers out there who say the industry is going to hell in a handbasket. And I’ve not fallen into that category yet.”