Rohde
Barry Rohde

Barry Rohde

BY SANDY WELLS

If he sounded a bit like the voice of God at times, unshakeable in the face of disasters besetting mere mortals, it may be attributable to the fact that the former anchor on newsradio KNX once trained to be a Baptist minister. In June, Barry Rohde wound up a distinguished radio career that spanned more than three decades in Los Angeles.

The native of Ottawa, Kan. arrived at the powerful AM station Jan. 11, 1965 after a CBS radio executive heard the young news and sports announcer on WIOU in Kokomo, Ind. "I was discovered by a station relations executive from New York," Rohde recalled. "We were a CBS affiliate, and [KNX general manager] Bob Sutton called me in July of '64 and signed me to a contract." Leaving the idyllic world of a radio station in the Midwest - where the high school sports competition was so fierce that the play-by-play announcer hired a bodyguard to protect him while covering Kokomo's away games - the 27-year-old Rohde started his first major-market gig as the announcer for the KNX morning show hosted by future "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane.

During the 1965 Watts Riots, Rohde won his spurs as a field reporter for the station, which was slowly evolving into the all-news entity under the leadership of George Nicholaw. After a stint as a reporter, Rohde found his dream job as a sports editor. He served in the sports department for six years until his news talents were once again unexpectedly called into action during the MGM fire in Las Vegas. He ad-libbed his way - along with the morning anchor - for what turned out to be a grueling eight-hour airshift. That performance put him in the afternoon-drive news anchor slot for 13 years, until the news director, Bob Sims, assigned him to what he promised would be an easier shift - 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The first hour was filled by the KNX Food News Hour. After the live O.J. Simpson coverage, the food show was canceled, adding an hour to Rohdes' shift. The midday period turned out to be a longer and busier shift than anticipated. East Coast stories tend to break in the early afternoon, L.A. time. Rohde was also required to tape stories from KNX's local field reporters.

"It's fun breaking stories," Rohde said. "I was on the air when the two planes collided at LAX. We begin by winging it until we get more information and the reporters out there." Over the years the news business has become more competitive. "There's more pressure to get it out, to be the first," he observed. "Everyone's doing news these days." Rohde noted that satellite dishes, computers, mobile units and cordless mikes have allowed KNX to cover more stories than was possible during the early years
of news radio.

"What a news anchor really is, is a traffic cop," he said. "You've got to make everything fit."
Sims is sorry to lose such a valuable member of his team. "He's without peer in handling surprises in a calm way," Sims said. "When you have an earthquake, you want a Barry Rohde at the mike. He can handle the curves - and in this business you get a lot of surprises. He always makes you look good." After 32 years and phase in his life. He is heading for retirement in Florida, where he plans to relax, play golf and teach college communications courses.

And - in an admission that might indicate he wasn't listening all that closely to the "Food News Hour" - he wants to "really learn to cook."