After 37 years of reporting in a style all his own, Rod Decker is retiring from KUTV-Channel 2. Thursday is his last day.
He won’t be replaced. He can’t be replaced.
Oh, KUTV will have other reporters step in. But nobody will do it the way he has since 1980. Decker’s delivery is singular. Forceful. Sort of in-your-face.
Former KUTV news director Jennifer Dahl called him a “legend.”
Said current KUTV news director Michael Garber: “In a sea of sameness that is out there, Rod stands out because he’s not like anybody else.”
Decker’s style is, yes, peculiar. But it’s worked since he joined KUTV in 1980.
“Style is everything in reporting, and Rod has that,” said former KSL anchorman Dick Nourse. “He gets your attention and keeps it! I love Rod. He is unique — unlike any other reporter.”
Decker said he wasn’t thinking about his on-air style, “I was just reporting.”
His delivery was not an affectation. The Rod Decker viewers saw on TV was the real deal. KUTV anchorwoman Mary Nickles recalled that her “first introduction to Rod was from across the newsroom as he bellowed, ‘So, Mary … you married?’”
“Good to have ya here.”
“That’s just Rod,” Nickles said. “Honest. Direct. No ill intent. Getting the facts. And maybe a little loud.”
“It’s just the way I talk,” Decker said.
And, Dahl recalled, Decker once wore “a skort with Mary Nickles when a viewer complained about her outfit.”
That’s just one of the ways he has defied expectations. Garber recalled that when he interviewed for the job at KUTV a few months ago, “the company was telling me, ‘Hey, there’s this 76-year-old reporter there.’ And, generally, what you expect to hear after that is, ‘And we can’t wait for him to retire.’
“And what they said is, ‘He’s the hardest-working guy in the newsroom. He turns two and three stories a day. He’s always running around.’”
He would “run circles around” young reporters,” Dahl said. “Most days he did two full-time reporting shifts. …
“He didn’t spend much time in the newsroom because there was a whole world of stories to find outside the newsroom.”
Garber said he loved having Decker on staff not just for the stories he did, but for the example he provided.
“If I had 20 Rod Deckers — memorable people telling great, impactful stories — heck, I would take that,” he said.
Nourse anchored the KSL news for 43 years until his retirement in 2007. And he said that, a decade later, people think it’s him when they see him — and know it’s him when he speaks.
“Rod has that style, where he stands out from all the rest,” Nourse said. “Seeing him is one thing, hearing him is another.”
Garber said his photographers were unanimous in their belief that Decker does the best live reports of any of the station’s reporters “because he has no inhibitions. He’s so comfortable in his skin. He doesn’t mind making fun of himself. He doesn’t mind trying something.
“I wish some of my younger journalists would look at that and have that lack of inhibition and try things. And look so comfortable trying it.”
You could call Decker’s style indiosyncratic. Unusual. Offbeat. And definitely tough to imitate.
“In our business there are some journalists who make a true impact and a lasting impression on the market, on viewers and on the people they cover,” said KTVX-Channel 4 news director George B Severson. “Rod Decker is one of those journalists. Rod’s distinctive presentation and reporting style made him unique and memorable.”
And more than a bit unexpected. When Decker left the Deseret News for KUTV in 1980, he wasn’t thinking of it in the long term.
“I’m surprised it’s been this long,” he said. “But it’s time for me to go.”
Decker is retiring to care for his wife, who’s battling cancer. And he’s planning to work on a book. (Titled “Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room,” it’s scheduled to be published by Signature Books in September 2018.)
Decker’s final day as a full-time KUTV employee is Thursday, but if Garber has his way, that won’t be the last he’s seen on Channel 2.
“He and I have talked about coming back for big stories. For perspective,” Garber said.
And KUTV executives are planning an announcement during Thursday’s 5 p.m. (possibly 6 p.m.) newscast that will cement Decker’s legacy at the station.
“If everyone was as good as Rod is, I think more people would be watching TV news,” Garber said.
Editor’s note • The Salt Lake Tribune is a content partner with KUTV.