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Longtime KMOX radio newsman dies.

When John Sabin died July 4 this year, he left behind a legacy of admirers spanning several generations. Yet because he was a fiercely private man, few knew much about his past.

His radio career began when he met his future wife at Scott Air Force Base. Elaine worked at KFUO at the time, and she was so impressed with his voice that she arranged for elocution lessons for her beau. Later he did some work at KFUO, but soon he was hired at WTMV, an East Side station, where he quickly became an aggressive news director, covering local news and making a name for himself with on-scene reports of Mississippi River flooding in 1947.

His son Philip recalls his father coming home one night and announcing he was going to KXOK. "I was thrilled," Philip says, "but the next weekend he came home and said 'I'm not with KXOK anymore.' He'd taken an offer from KMOX." The year was 1950. Twenty-five years later he got a watch from CBS and was ready to be escorted out the door. Network policy required retirement at age 65, so Sabin sought out other job possibilities, taking an offer to teach radio at Forest Park Community College.

Station general manager Robert Hyland had other ideas about the corporate policy. He had "persuaded" the network to keep Rex Davis on earlier that year even though the news anchor had celebrated his 65th birthday. As the year ended, Sabin was called in to the comer office to be told that, because Davis and Bob Hardy wanted him to remain on staff to handle the morning news, CBS had okayed the move. When told that Sabin had already taken the teaching job, Hyland said he could cut, his hours at the station in half and keep the same salary, but it was imperative that he write the morning news.

That arrangement lasted until 1977 when Sabin begged off the early shift. Hyland managed to keep him on the payroll until the late 1980s in a position that amounted to weekend news director. In that position he was honored nine years in a row by the Associated Press for his contributions to the news service.

John Sabin was a graduate of New York City College with a degree in mathematics, and he excelled in navigation while at the local air force base. His prowess at the broadcast news game brought many requests from Hyland that he become an on-air news reporter, but Sabin refused, preferring a behind-the-scenes role. He was the first non-print media president of the local Writers! Guild chapter. He was 86 years old when he passed away.

Joan Beuckman, now news director at KTRS, remembers Sabin as a man with a "gruff manner and an ever so gentle heart. No matter how busy, John always had time to teach ... Several generations of men and women owe their writing and interviewing skills to the old master."

At Forest Park Community College, department chair Kathy Dunlop said Sabin was "the founding instructor in our mass communications program ... The many students he taught will always remember him."

At KMOX, veteran newsman Bob Hamilton said: "John Sabin left a journalistic legacy that would be difficult to top. He trained literally hundreds of interns and entry-level reporters in the KMOX newsroom ... John Sabin was one of journalism's best teachers ... When he was on the editor's desk he ruled the newsroom with a soft voice, a sharp mind and a manner that commanded respect."

And Kent Martin, who won many journalism awards while a reporter at KMOX, said: "John was rock-steady in an environment (the newsroom) where chaos was the norm. Nothing seemed to fluster him; he always maintained an even keel in the greatest of crises and emergencies.

"And bottom line - he was always right!...He knew how to manage a newsroom. He knew which reporters could write best (and the worst) and he handed out assignments accordingly. When the deadline hit and the news went on the air, you could count on his newscast to be the best coverage of the news the audience needed to know."

On a personal level, he was one of my best friends, and he was the best "news director" I've ever been associated with (and he would have edited this sentence to remove the dangling preposition).
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Title Annotation:John Sabin
Author:Absher, Frank
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Article Type:Biography
Date:Sep 1, 1997
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