Southeast Iowa broadcaster has dual role

Dave Vickers’ career spans almost 45 years, the past 38 years at KROS where he is the news director and general manager. Vickers has served as president of the IBNA twice, as president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council three times, and has been on the Iowa Broadcaster’s Association board of directors. Here are seven questions we asked him.

When did you know you wanted to become a broadcast journalist? I remember sitting at the breakfast table, eating my cereal, getting ready to head off to elementary school, and listening to the Burlington radio station. And hearing the news on the radio and thinking to myself that’s what I want to do when I grow up.

What was your first job? The first job was in Austin, Minnesota. I started there as the second ag reporter. They decided after a time they didn’t need a second person. But I was leaving anyway because I was moving to Ottumwa in southern Iowa to take a job at KLEE radio.

What was your equipment like there in the newsroom? There was a big cassette recorder you carried around that was about the size of a briefcase, and a microphone with a mic cord. And that was what you carried to meetings or to do interviews or whatever else you did. When you were in the studio, you dumped it onto carts (cartridge tapes).

You’re also the KROS general manager besides being the news director. When did you pick up that additional job? In 1999, I took over as the general manager. At the time I thought well, I can do the job, and maybe I can move out of the news. We did have a news person who did maybe the bulk of the news, and I did it part-time. Now it’s, it’s kind of both jobs.

Let’s play a hypothetical game. There’s a story involving one of your largest advertisers. And they have done something that has gotten them in trouble with the law. Which hat do you wear? And how do you wear it deciding how that story is covered? Fairly, honestly, accurately, and ethically. If it’s a newsworthy story, it’s a newsworthy story. You ask (the advertiser) a question, is the story wrong? Is there a mistake in the story? And if the answer is no, then you know the story’s factual.

The station is known for having a cat. What’s that about? Our engineer said we needed a cat because he was tired of mice chewing up wires. So, we went to the Humane Society and got a cat and named it Smiley. And the cat was here for about 10 and a half years. I don’t know whether he ever caught a mouse in 10 and a half years. But there was no evidence of mice when we’d come in the morning. (After Smiley died) we went to the Humane Society and picked out another cat. We named her Krosby because our station call letters are KROS. People who come to the studio know she’s here. And the first thing they say is where’s the cat? So, it’s kind of a mini-celebrity thing.

The station is celebrating 80 years, you’re celebrating a few years there as well. How many more years are you going to be at the station? What’s the plan? Somebody told me one time when it comes time to retire that simply you’ll know when you know. And there’s no mistaking it.

The above excerpts are from an interview with Vickers for the Oral History Project of the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting. Listen to the full interview conducted by Paul Yeager of Iowa PBS.