Paul Linnman ends TV career (8/19/04)

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About this page…
This article appeared in the August 19, 2004, editition of The Columbian newspaper. Paul Linnman is the TV reporter who appears in the Exploding Whale video. I’ve added a couple photos of Paul to the article.

Paul is now an on-air personality on NewsRadio 1190 KEX.

Other books by Paul Linnman

Anchor’s away

KATU newsman Paul Linnman plans low-key end to storied TV career

Thursday, August 19, 2004
By MIKE BAILEY, Columbian staff writer


Paul Linnman

Paul Linnman would love to fade silently from the television screen tonight. No hoopla, no sad goodbyes.

Linnman, who steps away from his news anchor job at KATU- TV after more than 30 years in the business, thinks any fanfare over his departure might look silly and slightly self-serving.

“I’m not sure my departing KATU is going to mean that much to a lot of people,” Linnman said earlier this week. “I’m very blessed to have been able to do this job and I really have had the best time doing it. But now I’d love to just finish tonight and walk away.”

It’s not uncommon for news anchors to disappear. They move on to other stations. Their contracts are not renewed. Family becomes more important than careers.

But Linnman wasn’t fired. He isn’t leaving in a huff, even though he has had disagreements with the station management in recent years. He just wants to try something new and decided tonight was as good as any to end his stint with the station.

KATU will honor Linnman’s request to keep his departure low key, but a short tribute is planned at the end of the 6:30 p.m. broadcast.

Always confident but with an unceremonious delivery, Linnman became what one colleague called a trusted institution to Northwest viewers in a business that long ago stopped nurturing longevity.


Nov. 12, 1970: Paul Linnman reports from a beach South of Florence, OR, where the Oregon Highway Division detonated the carcass of a dead sperm whale.

Best known as the reporter who brought the world the “exploding whale” story and his feel-good “Spirit of the Northwest” features on local residents, Linnman began his career at KATU in 1967 and spent all but five years of his broadcast career at the station.

KATU was rated No. 1 in the market for 13 years while he was an anchor. The 6:30 p.m. newscast is tops even now in its time slot. With the exception of a bumpy ride recently with management, it has been a harmonious relationship that served both the station and Linnman well.

Always looking for a new challenge, Linnman said his leaving KATU is not retirement.

“It’s just moving on,” he said. “I’ll still be on the radio and I have lots of other things keeping me busy.”

For the past year, Linnman has been handling the morning drive show on KEX-AM (1190) and then closing the day as an evening anchor at KATU.

There also are the books he’s authored a comprehensive guide to Oregon golf courses and shared some of his most memorable tales as a newsman with others on the way and more freelance magazine articles as well.

Three decades of news

Lyndon B. Johnson was president, Otis Redding was riding the charts with his hit single “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” and an assassin ended the life of Martin Luther King Jr. the year Linnman stepped in front of a television camera for the first time.

And what a year it was for the 21-year-old fledgling reporter who always thought he wanted to be a newspaper sports reporter, until he was told if he didn’t have a great memory, he would never make it in the business.

Good memory or not, Linnman had a knack for condensing a complicated story and telling it on air in a matter of a few seconds.

It was an election year in 1968, and one of Linnman’s first jobs was to spend a week with each of the presidential candidates, all of whom spent extensive time visiting Oregon.

“Here I was a 21-year-old and I was hanging out with Nelson Rockefeller for a week,” he said. “I spent time with Richard Nixon and George McGovern and all the presidential candidates,” he said. “I was with (Bobby) Kennedy just two weeks before he was killed.”

His career has been filled with sports stars, entertainment figures, international dignitaries. He had dinner at the White House, flew with the Blue Angels, trekked though Nepal, attended festivals in Japan and tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team as part of the job.

“I’ve had more fun than anyone should be allowed,” Linnman said.

Still, when he walks down the streets of Portland, Linnman says he isn’t treated like someone special.

“The people in this town treat you like a friend,” he said. “They really consider you like the guy next door.”

Linnman sloughs off the idea that he has earned the right to be a celebrity in Portland.

“I’m just an average guy.”

Having an opinion

Linnman looks at radio as a new frontier. One that has fascinated him since he was a kid growing up in Portland.

“I think we can be more creative in radio,” he said. “I’ll have a chance to talk about things that the community might be interested in. And I can wing it… have an opinion and not read from a prepared script.”

As a self-described “middle of the road” guy, Linnman finds himself on the same radio station as conservative talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Laura Schlessinger.

It’s all good for Linnman, he said. While he isn’t a big fan of talk radio (he thinks it’s a major factor in the polarization of the country), he looks at his conservative counterparts as a way to “get people into the tent.”

“No one wants to work for a radio station that no one listens to,” he said. “And at KEX, it really is middle of the road. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t work here.”

Even his friends are surprised to find out how lucrative a radio career can be.

“My contract with the radio station is better than the one in television,” he said. “That surprised me, too.”

Money may be a factor but so is quality of life, according to Linnman.

For a little more than a year now, Linnman started his day at 3:30 a.m. to get ready for his morning radio job.

He would be at the radio station by 4:30 a.m., on the air from 5:30 to 9 a.m. and then spend a few hours preparing for the next day’s show. He also worked on book projects and had a little time to run errands before he was off to the television station at 5 p.m., on the air at 6:30 p.m. and out the door a little after 7.

And what about sleep?

“I’m one of those people who don’t need a lot of sleep,” he said. “I do great with just five hours.”

Knee surgery this year ended another storied part of Linnman’s life. He had run 12 marathons and always began the new year with a midnight run in downtown Portland.

“My running days are over, but I still get out and ride my bike and walk a lot.”

Anyone who listens to his radio show knows all about his passion for bikes and bike paths in Portland.

“Portland is Bike City USA,” Linnman said. “And I see too many motorists and cyclists breaking the rules. And I’m not afraid to express my point of view.”

He readily yells at both on the street and talks about it on the radio.

After tonight, when he bids viewers farewell at KATU, Linnman faces a new dilemma: What will he do with all that free time?

No question at all, Linnman said.

“I’ll go home and eat dinner at a regular time,” he said. “I’ll take my wife to a Blazer game instead of telling her I’ll meet here there and show up after the first quarter. We’ll go see a movie on a weeknight, maybe visit First Thursday art walk and do what everybody else does in the early evening hours.”

There’s one thing Linnman won’t do as often as the rest of us.

“Rarely will I watch the evening news,” he said.


Did you know?

KATU-TV news anchor Paul Linnman is an accomplished author with two books published:

The Exploding Whale: And Other Remarkable Stories from the Evening News
(click for info)

“The Exploding Whale: And Other Remarkable Stories from the Evening News” (Graphic Arts Center, $16.95). As a young reporter, Paul Linnman was sent to the Oregon coast in 1970 to cover the story of state officials trying to dispose of a rotting whale carcass in the sand. The decision to use explosives proved messy, as chunks of whale meat rained down on the area. It made for a wonderful television news segment, however, and Linnman and his cameraman Doug Brazil caught it all on tape, even as they dodged the fleshy blobs landing all around them. The book covers this story and many others during Linnman’s career.

Oregon Golf: The Oregon Coast, Southern Oregon, Portland  Environs, Central Oregon
(click for info)

“Oregon Golf” (Graphic Arts Center, $29.95) An avid golfer, Linnman offers a close look at each golf course in Oregon. The book covers both the courses and the interesting features and history of the locations. The forward is by PGA Tour pro and Oregon native Peter Jacobsen.



© 2004 The Columbian