Joel Hermann retires after 4 decades in Storm Lake

Joel Hermann

Joel Hermann died unexpectedly on June 16, 2020 of natural causes in his Storm Lake home. Joel was 64. Below is an interview done when he retired August 31, 2019.

After 41 years at KAYL/KKIA radio in Storm Lake, News Director Joel Hermann has retired. Joel and I worked together for a few years at the start of our careers when I was the KAYL news director and Joel was an announcer and the station’s music director in the mid-70s. In 1984, Joel became the news director, a position he held until his retirement at the end of August.

Recently I talked to Joel and here are excerpts of our conversation. You can also listen to our entire conversation below.

Why did you stay at KAYL for 41 years?
I just liked the town. The station changed hands a few times over the years, but all the different owners were always very good to me and it was just a nice place to work.

Why did you decide to retire now?
Last winter I kind of got tired of either having to go out at 4:30 in the morning and remove the snow off my driveway or if that was too much to do, walk to work, which is only about 12 minutes, but that’s an awful long 12 minutes in a blizzard. So, I was thinking maybe before winter sets in next year I can figure out how I can retire. I was going to retire at the end of the year. And then I thought, why not retire when the weather’s still nice? So, I retired at the end of August.

What are you going to do now?
I’m never getting up at 4:30 in the morning again! I have a number of projects to do around the house. I have some volunteer work that I’ve been doing for quite a while at our church and they already put me on the board of trustees my second day of retirement. There’ll probably be some other people asking me to volunteer. And, my parents live about three and a half hours away and I need to see them more often.

Have you been able to adjust to retirement yet?
I got on our website last week and was reading some news stories. I noticed that the city council had met, and it didn’t even occur to me that city council was going to meet, even though I’d covered them twice a month for decades. So, I guess I’m already forgetting things. Maybe that’s a good sign.

Of course, there’ve been plenty of technological changes. What are a couple of big things that you can remember?
We don’t have those old teletypes and typewriters like we did when you were working at KAYL. Besides a computer rather than a typewriter, it’s the digital recorders. I can remember going to a Storm Lake school board meeting and it lasted two hours, and you had it all on cassette tape. It took forever to fast forward and rewind to find that actuality you wanted. Now on digital it takes about a couple of seconds.

How has Storm Lake changed over your 41 years there? I know there’s been a changing population.

When I first moved here it was pretty much all white. Now I think our local school district is something like 54 percent Hispanic, 18 percent Asian and 16 percent white or what they now call non-Hispanic Caucasian. It’s been a huge change as far as demographics of the town and it has gotten somewhat bigger. There’s a housing shortage right now.

Is that because of the new jobs Tyson foods has created, along with the increased retail and commercial base because of that?
Yes, mostly they brought in employees from other areas. I’m sure you probably never, ever would have considered that KAYL would broadcast in a language other than English. But for the past quite a few years (KAYL-AM) has been in Spanish, so that has made a change.

I know you covered thousands of stories during your time in Storm Lake, but is there one that really sticks out in your memory?
In 1994, a young woman attempted to kill her daughters by slashing their throats and that was bad enough. But then the hearings on her sanity continued for several years and it was probably the biggest story and probably the most difficult to cover. Eventually they changed her medication and she basically became a different person. The grandmother got custody of the two little girls and eventually I started going to a church that the family went to and I saw the girls grow up.

Coon is journalist, professor, and international trainer

Steve Coon

A high school class started Steve Coon on a broadcast journalism and teaching career that took him from his Marshalltown, Iowa hometown, to Washington, D.C., and to cities all over the world.

Steve is now retired from teaching journalism at Iowa State University and lives with his wife Beth in Ames. He talked about his career during an interview for the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting Oral History Project.

Below are excerpts from the interview. You can watch the entire conversation here.

How did you get interested in broadcast journalism? It started when I was in high school. I was taking a speech class and one of the things that we had an opportunity to do was once a month students in the class would go to KFJB, the hometown radio station. We had a half-hour music and talk program.

You worked at KFJB full-time for a while, then got your degrees from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. While you were at ISU you worked at WOI radio and TV. What did you do there?  WOI radio was doing gavel to gavel coverage of the Iowa General Assembly. Phil Morgan, who was the news director for Channel 5 and WOI radio, and I would go down to Des Moines. And one of us would do play by play, if I can use that description, of the General Assembly from one chamber, and the other one of us shot video and interviews of the other chamber. It made for really, really long days because at the end of that, and as the legislative session continued to get longer toward the end of the session, we would have to drive back to Ames to process the film. We were using film rather than videotape, and then we would cut and splice. So it seemed as if we were spending almost 24 hours a day working during the legislative session, but it was, in some ways, some of the most gratifying work of my career.

Then you went to Washington D.C. and worked for the Voice of America, and you’ve got an interesting anecdote about your time there. When I was at Voice of America, we would frequently get memos from the State Department. And some of them were classified, even top secret. They were basically, information,  background, only the State Department was trying to persuade us to frame stories in a certain way. (For example) when you’re writing about the Panama Canal, write this or bear in mind this. So we would get these memos and the head of the Latin American desk when I was working there, would make sure that each one of us had read them, the memos and not necessarily the top-secret documents, but we read those too. After we had read the memos, he said, ‘OK, (has) everyone read this?’ And we said yes. Then he would crumble it up and throw it into the wastebasket, and we would go back to what we were supposed to be doing. Top secret memos! Too often I said, ‘why in the world is this top secret, there’s nothing in here that’s going to damage national security.’ I think someone must have run out of ink on the lower classification stamp and just said at the end of the day, ‘I’m tired. I want to get out of here. Let’s just stamp this as top secret.’

You taught at the University of Nebraska, and then made the move to Iowa State University in 1981 where you taught with the legendary Jack Shelley, the long time WHO news director who had become a professor at ISU. What was that like? He was just a great person to work with, great personality, wonderful broadcast journalist, and we who worked with him, we’re always going to be students whether we were teaching in our class with him, or sitting in the classroom with him. Final anecdote about that. My mother always considered Jack Shelley to be her broadcast hero. When he was working for WHO you could get the signal in the broadcast transmissions from WHO all over Iowa. When we were living in Mediapolis, we would listen to Jack Shelley when I was growing up. And so the year that I worked with Jack Shelley made my mother so happy that she said ‘you have reached the peak of your career. You’re working with Jack Shelley’ and I think she was right.

Another interesting and unusual part of your career was that you worked internationally to train foreign journalists. Tell us about that. I received a Fulbright scholarship in 1984 to go to Ecuador. I had an opportunity to do some teaching, and it was evening classes at a university there. That eventually led to invitations from the Voice of America’s International and Media Training Center, and then from the State Department to do short term training. I did end up going to every single continent. It was thoroughly enjoyable, extremely gratifying. (Many of the journalists) are working under terrible circumstances. By that, I mean, oppressive governments.

What do you think about the current state of journalism? I think the major problems are really at the network or national level. I think local journalists, especially here in Iowa, continue to do a good job. But they are under pressure to do increasingly more with less resources. When you have fewer staff and you have more newscasts, and you have more stories to report, it just becomes increasingly more difficult to do the kind of quality work that the public deserves. One of the expectations, which I don’t like I’ll be absolutely honest about, is that reporters are expected to blog, to post opinions on social media. I think that is a bad idea. I don’t want to know what a particular journalist feels about a particular issue. But when he or she is expected to then go and do a blog, and post observations on social media, I think you run the risk of revealing an ideological bias that in my opinion, damages your reputation and subsequently hurts the reputation of the organization that you work for. I think that’s one of the challenges.

What would you like your legacy as a teacher and a journalist to be? I just want people to think that Steve Coon was a nice person. I had a workshop with him. I was in class with him, and he taught me some things that really helped me in my career. And in my life. I’m a better person because I knew him. It’s as simple as that.

Steve continues to do reporting and video work. On his YouTube channel you can watch his commentaries, legislative coverage, political coverage, opinion pieces, sight and sound videos, and a documentary: “Clearing the Static: Herbert Hoover and the Radio Act of 1929.” He is also a past executive president of the IBNA.

QC journalist looks back on 40-year career

John David

He was “just a baby,” John David said, when he began his broadcasting career at 16 years old, working as a volunteer at an NPR radio station in his native Los Angles area.

Later, while working on his master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University, David spent time in Washington, D.C. as a stringer for a Peoria TV station.

Following graduation, he took a full-time job at KWQC-TV in the Quad Cities in 1984 doing a mix of reporting, weather, and anchoring. In 1989 David moved to WQAD-TV in the Quad Cities, retiring in 2018.

As part of the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting Oral History Project, Paul Yeager and I talked to John David about his more than 40-year career. Here are some excerpts. (You can watch the full interview here.)

What were some of the big stories you covered in the Quad Cities? I know you remember the mid ’80s. It was an interesting and difficult time around here. The farm crisis was going full bore. There were also a lot of problems with the industry associated with that. So you had plants like the Farmall plant closing down. in Rock Island, you had the Caterpillar plant in Davenport closing down. And then there were the stories on the farms themselves. It was just tragic that these farms had been in families for over 100 years. And people couldn’t make it financially and then they were having to auction everything off.

While you were at WQAD you did some traveling to cover big stories. One of those involved Galesburg, Illinois. They had a Maytag plant at the time that had been flourishing. I believe at one time they had more than 2,000 employees. They (Maytag) pulled the plug and said, ‘We’re closing the whole thing down.’ And that was a big crisis for this area, because not only did a lot of the people that worked there lose their jobs, but they had these ancillary businesses that supplied parts and provided services to Maytag that were no longer needed.

We thought this was a pretty important story. So believe it or not even a station with our resources sent photographer Doug Froelich and me down to Reynosa Mexico with a crew from Knox College, a couple of professors who had studied this. We shot what turned out to be an hour-long documentary on it. And that was a really fascinating experience. That ran in February of 2005.

I remember WQAD also sent you to Canada to cover a major issue affecting not only the Quad Cities, but the entire country. We went to Windsor, Ontario, to compare the health care systems of the universal health care in Canada with what we were grappling with in the states. That involved hospital visits and looking at businesses and companies and how they provided insurance. We compared that with the situation here. And that was also an hour-long thing. I felt really lucky to get to do these things because there aren’t a lot of local stations that will invest that kind of time and money into going out that far out to do this.

Speaking of health, in 2017 you had two heart attacks, one while you were on the plane on your way to a vacation in Los Angeles. Tell us about that. In the middle of the flight, I thought ‘I’m really not doing great.’ As soon as we landed, I said, ‘I’ve got to go get this checked out.’ So my wife drove me to the nearest hospital. I had almost a total blockage of what they call the widow making artery so I wouldn’t have lasted much longer. They took me in right away and put in a stent, which I was incredibly fortunate that we had the foresight to go to the hospital.

They let me out of the hospital, and I came back to the Quad Cities to recuperate. I went to a doctor’s appointment here and I had a heart attack in the examining room, another one. The cardiologists here put in two more stents. I’ve been fine since, I take a lot of medication, still. I’m really grateful I was able to bounce back.

There were a lot of technological changes during your career. What were a few of those? We had in 1988 (at KWQC while co-anchoring the 5 p.m. magazine show) one of the first satellite experiences where we rented a satellite truck for a couple of weeks and took the show out to various communities and did the show remotely almost every night during that whole May book.

I started in the three-quarter inch videotape era with the big decks, those TK cameras, the heavy units that you carried around. We used manual typewriters; they didn’t even have electric typewriters when I started. No cell phones, no internet. So if you were out on a story, you had to find a payphone.

What do you think is going to happen to journalism in the future? It’s frightening, isn’t it? Especially when you look at the environments we’ve experienced. Even since I retired, the last six years or so. There’s the rise of anti-media journalism. When I started, (journalism) was considered a noble profession. But there was the rise of this vitriolic talk radio that started out in the ’80s, the Rush Limbaugh stuff that was kind of the roots of this. And then it gradually led to these Fox News performers, and the negative imagery out of Washington. It makes it harder to try to seek the truth, and do a good job as a journalist, but at the same time, it makes it even more important to do that job.

One last question, what do you hope your legacy will be? I hope that I’ve in some way, been able to carry all the lessons that they (previous mentors) were so willing to give to me, and pass those on to others, the next generation. We need more people to get into journalism. There are fewer people these days that want to do this. So it’s important for those of us that have done it and are doing it to reach out and communicate that energy and enthusiasm to others. I think that’ll make this business a better place to be.

Network reporter with Iowa roots ‘out to get the truth’

Brian Ross

Former NBC and ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross says his stories often make officials and politicians not only uncomfortable, but angry.

Ross attended a celebration at Wartburg College of what would have been Grant Price’s 100th birthday. Price was a long time Iowa broadcast journalist and later a Wartburg College professor. He also founded the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting (AIB).

Ross got his broadcasting start at KCHA radio in Charles City, Iowa. He later got his degree from the University of Iowa journalism school and his first TV job at KWWL in Waterloo.

Paul Yeager of Iowa PBS interviewed Ross in front of the audience attending the event. Below are excerpts from the interview. You can watch the entire interview on the AIB website.

Does a journalist of today, 2023, need to have some type of formal training to get into the role to be respected?  I think you might need a degree to get hired and sometimes the master’s degree helps you even get hired quicker. But I think what you need to do is to be able to think, have intellectual curiosity, and a key is to be able to write. And that’s the one thing, I think the one trade or craft where college and high school can help the most.

You said strong editors helped you and have helped you in your career. Why? Because you need strong editors to make sure you get it right. And if you get too close to something, you don’t see your own errors and you can improve.

You describe your career or style of journalism as aggressive. Why? I’m out to get the truth. And too often I run up against government officials who try to spin it, don’t want the truth to be known. And, you know, I include corporate officials. I include people on both sides of the aisle in terms of politics. That’s really our job, to figure it out, what’s really going on, and to explain it in a way that connects with the viewer, the reader, the listener.

We are in 2023, and just a couple of years ago, I remember former President Trump on stage in front of thousands of people pointing out where journalists were standing and saying, ‘they are the enemy.’ How did you react? I took it as a challenge. And I would also say that the shift in reporting techniques that was required by the Trump administration was a good thing for journalism. We had often been too cozy and too tight with government officials. And this reminded us, I think, in a way that we need to challenge presidents and mayors and governors, senators. I think it was healthy for journalism to have a Trump administration which required us to get back to our basics of doing the job.

You’ve been in hot water a time or two.  I’ve made mistakes. I’ve always thought you’re going to make mistakes and if you make a mistake, you correct it. Take the consequences. You know, I’ve been sued probably 12 times, never lost one of the lawsuits. I prevailed or settled. I’ve angered lots of people.

How has the internet affected journalism? I think it’s changed everything in a way. It’s easier in some ways to do our job. Technologically its improved it substantially. There’s more reach and almost anybody can be a journalist now, you know, we aren’t licensed. Talking with students here yesterday at Wartburg we  talked about the need for media literacy. How do you figure out what to watch or what to read?

Could you remind us of a couple of the stories that you have done that you felt were most rewarding? We did an investigation into Walmart. We learned Walmart was using child labor in Bangladesh to make t-shirts and other clothes, which were being sold in their stores under a ‘Made in America banner.’ We went to Bangladesh. And at some of the factories there had been fires where a number of children were killed because they locked the doors for fear they would be stealing t-shirts. I then went to Bentonville, Arkansas to confront the new president of Walmart, David Glass. Sam Walton had just died.

When I handed him a picture of the bodies of the dead children outside his factory in Bangladesh, you could just see the look in his eyes. He got up, walked out of the interview, went to the phone…and called Jack Welch who was the chairman, president of General Electric which at the time owned NBC. And he told Jack Welch, ‘if that story airs, every single GE product comes off the shelves of Walmart.’ So this was a challenge for journalism. And to the everlasting credit of Jack Welch, they decided the story would air. And they said, ‘you’re going to go back and continue the interview.’

 I went back to interview David Glass, and this second interview was even worse because I asked him about these young children working in the factory. And he said something to the extent of ‘well, you know, with those little brown people, they look a little younger than they actually are.’ This was on camera, three cameras rolling.

So when this aired it was a crisis for Walmart. That was a story that had great impact and I was proud to do that. And I was proud of the bosses who withstood the pressure. By the way, the GE products did not come off the shelves. It was an empty threat.

Ross joined the Law & Crime Network in 2018 as Chief Investigative Correspondent, after decades of award-winning work in similar positions at ABC News and NBC News.

Among his more than 75 major awards are 19 Emmys, six DuPont awards from Columbia University, six George Polk awards, five Peabody awards and in 2016, the Harvard University Goldsmith Award for the year’s outstanding investigative report in either print or broadcast. 

Retired QC sportscaster still likes the games

He may have been retired for 10 years from sports broadcasting, but Don Sharp still watches lots of sports on TV and in person. Just ask his wife, he says.

Don Sharp

Sharp had a more than 40 year career in radio and TV, most of it at WHBF in Rock Island, Illinois, where he was sports director (except for a stint in the ‘90’s as the station’s main news anchor).

Here are excerpts of an interview Paul Yeager of Iowa PBS, and Cliff Brockman, a retired Wartburg College journalism professor, conducted with Sharp for the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting.

(You can watch the full interview here.)

How did you get into radio? I am originally from Dundee and a friend told me about a broadcasting school because I was really interested in sports and broadcasting. So I went to broadcasting school in Chicago, it was about a three-month deal.

What was your first job? I grabbed a U- Haul, my wife, and our new baby, and pulled a trailer down to Stephenville, Texas, which is about 30 miles or so from Fort Worth. To say it was a small radio station would be putting it mildly. We were out in the middle of a field. Cows came to the window every so often and things like that. But six months was enough of that. We came back to Freeport, Illinois. And I spent a couple of years in Freeport in radio.

Then you went to Aberdeen, South Dakota for about a year and a half. That was kind of neat, because they had minor league baseball. When they went out of town, we did the broadcast when the bus driver would call back after three innings and say, ‘Here’s a single for Wallace, the double, a double play.’ And then we had to make up the game like it was going on. People thought we were actually going to the games. The bus driver a couple of times, one in particular, couldn’t get to a phone and call back. So I’m sitting there having to stall until we finally hear from the bus driver. I mean, I had bases being knocked loose. I had big scrambles for foul balls in the stands because I had to really stretch it out.

Then you came back to Illinois, to WHBF radio and TV in Rock Island. What did you enjoy most about your time there? Doing play by play of football and basketball because it was so big at that time. We’d have a full house in the gym with 5,000-6,000 people and they were filled up whether it was Moline, Rock Island or East Moline.

Any memorable moments from that time? Don Nelson was from Rock Island, played at the University of Iowa, and then was one of the Boston Celtics. He got together with Rock Island’s coach at the time, Bob Riley. And they brought the Boston Celtics to town for an exhibition game before the season. They played Cincinnati. Afterwards, they all got together at what is the Sheraton Hotel and that was one of the neatest experiences I’ve ever had. Bill Russell and a couple of the Joneses, and Jerry Lucas who was playing for Cincinnati, were all sitting around. I don’t think I said hardly a word and listened to their stories.

You’re in retirement now. Do you watch play by play or watch sports for the play by play? Are you done with sports? I watch a lot of sports, just ask my wife. I like watching and listening to the announcers, and it’s fun to compare a lot of them.

Don Sharp received the Illinois Broadcasters Association Broadcast Pioneer Award in 2017. He was named to the Mid-American Emmy Association’s Silver Circle in 2019.

Fredericksen receives top IBNA Award

Iowa broadcast journalist Rick Fredericksen is the 2023 recipient of the Jack Shelley Award, the Iowa Broadcast News Association’s highest honor. Fredericksen’s nearly
50-year career took him from Des Moines to Vietnam, Hawaii, a return to southeast Asia, and finally back to central Iowa.

A native of Des Moines, he enlisted in the Marines in 1967 during the Vietnam war. After Boot Camp, the Marines sent Fredericksen to broadcasting school even though he never thought about journalism or broadcasting as a career. “So rather than pick up a rifle, I picked up a microphone,” Fredericksen quipped during an oral history interview for the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting.

Then for a year he was a reporter and program host for the Marine Corps Air Stations Radio and TV Section in North Carolina. Highlights included providing updates to commercial radio stations during a hurricane and covering a missile exercise in Puerto Rico.

At age 19, the Marines sent him to Saigon, South Vietnam where he was a TV and radio newscaster and war news editor with the Armed Forces Vietnam Network (AVFN). He covered military briefings and news in the field. Fredericksen said a highlight was being the lead reporter for President Nixon’s visit with combat soldiers.

While at AVFN he was involved in a controversy when he was one of seven broadcasters who were disciplined for protesting military censorship of some of AVFN’s. “When I look back now, I don’t think it was as serious as we made it out to be. I think the military has a right to restrict some news. After all, we were broadcasting in the war zone,” he said.

Coming home to Iowa
After finishing his stint with the Marines, Fredericksen returned to Iowa and landed his first job in commercial broadcasting at KRNT radio in Des Moines. After a short time he moved to TV and became a reporter at KRNT-TV (now KCCI-TV) in Des Moines.

Anchoring the news at KCCI-TV.

Fredericksen worked his way into anchoring at KCCI, eventually co-anchoring at 6 pm with Paul Rhoades and at 10 p.m. with Russ Van Dyke. (Rhoades and Van Dyke were long-time KCCI news anchors, and both are previous Shelley Award winners). Here’s a newscast Rick anchored in 1976.

He spent 12 years in Des Moines then took a job at the CBS affiliate in Honolulu, Hawaii. Fredericksen’s brother lived there, and on a visit to see him Fredercksen took along a few resume tapes and interviewed for a job. Growing up in Iowa came in handy, he said, when he had to cover a blizzard in Hawaii! He had driven to the top of a volcano to cover an event when the storm hit. He ended up staying overnight during the blizzard and got altitude sickness before returning home.

Going to work for CBS
After three years in Hawaii Fredericksen was on the move again, this time to Bangkok, Thailand where he worked for CBS Radio and TV as the network’s Bangkok bureau chief. His stories were aired on all CBS news programs including the “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather,” “ 60 minutes,” “48 Hours,” and “Sunday Morning with Charles Kurault.” Vietnam was still a big story as the country recovered from the war and he went their 20 times to cover stories. Here is a story he reported for CBS.  

While in Bangkok Fredericksen also started his own independent news agency and provided coverage to the Associated Press, various magazines, the BBC, public radio, and many other outlets.

Home again
Fredericksen worked for 10 years in Bangkok, then as CBS began closing its overseas bureaus he took a job as news director of WOI radio in Ames in 1995. He also served as the Iowa host and newscaster for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” While at WOI Fredericksen opened the station’s first full-time Des Moines bureau.

Reporting at Iowa Public Radio

In 2004, the Iowa Board of Regents merged the public radio stations at the three state universities  (WOI, WSUI, and KUNI) into Iowa Public Radio. He became IPR’s arts and culture reporter. During that time he launched “Iowa Archives,” a seven-year project to, as he put it, “discover historical Iowa voice and sound recordings.” He then packaged them as expanded features and one-hour programs for IPR. He retired from IPR in 2016.
Listen to Rick’s feature about restoring Trolley cars.

Keeping busy
During his retirement, Fredericksen writes articles for Vietnam Magazine and is active in the veterans community.

Fredericksen is the author of three books. “Broadcasters: Untold Chaos” is about his time as a Marine in Vietnam. “After the Hanoi Hilton: An Accounting” examines what happened to 2,500 veterans left behind in the Vietnam war. And, “Lusitania Diary” tells the story of Fredericksen’s grandfather’s emigration from Denmark to the United States more than 100 years ago. “His latest book is “Hot Mics and TV Lights” which commemorates the American Forces Vietnam Network.

Fredericksen is the winner of a Peabody Award for coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China, and he has won several IBNA awards for his IPR reporting.

KCCI’s Eric Hanson produced a story about Fredericksen’s career when Rick retired in 2016.

KCCI photojournalist was a ground-breaker

Donna Smith was among some of the first women TV news photographers in the country when she began her 38-year career at KCCI in Des Moines. She says her colleagues at KCCI respected her, but outside of the station people often implied that she was “a woman doing a man’s job.”

Donna Smith

Smith began her full-time work in 1983 at KCCI after working part-time at WOI while majoring in journalism at Iowa State University. She was promoted to chief photographer in 1997 and retired at the end of 2021. 

Here are excerpts of an interview Paul Yeager of Iowa PBS, and Cliff Brockman, a retired journalism professor, conducted with Smith for the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting.

(You can watch the full interview here.)

How did you get interested in photography? When I was in grade school, I had a great uncle who was like my grandfather, who gave me his old camera, his old DSLR when he got a new one. And from then on, I knew that’s what I wanted to be, I wanted to be a still photographer. I consider myself very lucky that I’ve known since grade school what I wanted to do as a profession. But when I went to Iowa State and majored in photojournalism, I had friends who worked at WOI, and shot video, and then I fell in love with video and changed from newspapers to TV.

What was the equipment like when you started? We all wore those big power belts, battery belts around our waist. So much of the equipment at that time was geared towards men, because there were significantly fewer women doing the job. So a lot of things I had to adjust for my smaller frame. One of them was the battery belts, I would have to poke extra holes, pull it as tight as I could around the waist and make extra holes. And I remember once running across the street trying to shoot a bad accident. As I ran, the belt just kept slipping down until it got to the point where I just stopped in the middle of the road to pick it up. Obviously, that’s changed over time. But I never felt like anyone at Channel 8 ever indicated that I couldn’t do the job. In fact, the chief photographer when I started at Channel 8 was a woman and the chief photographer before her was a woman. So there was always the representation I could see myself because I saw other women doing it.

In September of ‘83, how many women were shooting video? Not a whole lot. And a lot of women didn’t stay. I’m one of the very few who have stayed for that long. It’s not a glamorous job. At Channel 8, I was loved and respected and honored. But outside of Channel 8, I often had my share of comments and looks in ways that people would let me know that they thought I was a woman doing a man’s job. So it was out there. But my philosophy was always you just show them they’re wrong. But it also meant that you put a lot of pressure on yourself.

Watch KCCI’s tribute story.

What were some of the more memorable historic events then that you covered that stick out? Definitely the floods of ‘93 That one I remember very clearly because we were exhausted at the end of that first week. We were on for days and days, you know, continually. You would start one place and cover that, and then went to somebody else’s live shot and you break down and go to something else, and that just went on and on.

I went to Sydney, Australia in 2000 for the Olympics. Hearst, who owns the station and 20 some TV stations across the country, decided they wanted to send a team to cover the Olympics. And I was chosen, I’m not sure why, as the head technical person, and so I went with six or seven people. And we stayed at the Olympic Village for the media. Compared to the pandemic that was easy because it only lasted a month.

And was the pandemic kind of the end for your TV career? I probably would have stayed a couple more years if it had not been for the pandemic. That was truly the hardest thing I’d ever done professionally. On March 17th, of 2020 the governor closed things down. And so as a manager, I was helping plan what we were going to do. The bulk of photographers took their car and gear home and edited someplace and never came back into the station so that we could keep the station as clean and antiseptic, so to speak, as possible. And then the stress of people being gone. People (other employees) had COVID and so I worked every schedule. I decided in spring 2021 that I’m done. It’s time for somebody else to do it. I’m tired and somebody needs to have more energy because I felt like I’m not doing anybody a service.

Is there anything else, are you done working? I am working part time as a lab courier for Unity Point. I go to hospitals and doctors’ offices and pick up tissue samples and blood and urine and I bring it back to the lab in Ankeny where they test it. And I love it. I didn’t want to go from 100 miles an hour to zero. So I felt like I needed to do something. I still feel like I’m using all those skills that I honed over 38 years into a very different way. And I think that’s good for the brain.

During Smith’s time as chief of the KCCI photography staff, the station won eight National Press Photographers (NPPA) Small Market Station of the Year awards, and was runner up multiple times, including 2021.

KCCI journalist retires after 40 years

Dana Cardin spent his entire professional broadcast journalism career at one station: KCCI-TV in Des Moines. Cardin retired this year after four decades at KCCI, 15 years as a reporter, and 25 years as assistant news director.

Dana Cardin.

Cardin is originally from Sheldon, Iowa and journalism is a family tradition. Both his grandfathers were in the newspaper business and his aunt ran a small Iowa newspaper for more than 50 years.

Here are excerpts of an interview Paul Yeager of Iowa PBS, and Cliff Brockman, a retired Wartburg journalism professor, conducted with Cardin for the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting.

Watch the full interview with Dana Cardin

After some part time work in print and radio, you enlisted and became a Navy journalist in 1974 serving for five years. Do you have any memorable stories of your time as a journalist in the Navy? I think one of the more fun things combined the journalism and the photography part. One of the ships that I was on had two helicopters. And every now and again, I’d hear over the intercom system: ‘Journalist Dana Cardin report to the flight deck.’ And so I grabbed my camera, and we would go up in the helicopter and they’d open up the floor essentially, they called the ‘hell hole,’ and they would strap me in. And we would go over Russian trawlers or sometimes a Russian frigate. And I would just hover over and take pictures of their spy work.

When you got out of the Navy, you went to Iowa State University, and you started working at KCCI-TV. How did that come about?  I started part time there while I was going to school at Iowa State. And then two years later, Russ Van Dyke retired creating a position for them to hire me just as I graduated. So that’s how I went from part time to full time. And I tell people now that I replaced Russ Van Dyke. (Van Dyke was a legendary KCCI anchor.)

Watch KCCI’s tribute to Dana Cardin

You started as a general assignment reporter. That means you could be doing a farm story one day, flooding the next. You always had a change of clothes; you never knew if you’re going to be in the governor’s office or in the middle of a muddy farm field. Speaking of muddy farm fields, the Iowa Farm Progress Show was going on in Boone (one year) and we had a deluge of rain. And it was a mud bog. I mean, I remember walking out to the trailer that they had set up at the Iowa Farm Progress Show up to my knees in mud. And as I’m walking up and knocking on the door and stepping in to talk to them, the lady sitting at the desk goes ‘Oh, I know you. You’re the person they send to places where no one else wants to go.’ I said ‘Yeah, well today, you’re absolutely right.’

Other stories that you recall? Johnny Gosch (in 1982). It still makes me sad. Dave Busiek was the weekend anchor. He was leaving church and noticed a commotion going on a street corner in West Des Moines and stopped to see what was going on. They said a newspaper boy was missing. He (Busiek) called me in the newsroom. And we started doing the first story on Johnny Gosch vanishing. And an hour later, I was in the Gosch’s home getting a picture of Johnny Gosch so we would have something for our story…knowing little then that his vanishing would take so many different dramatic turns and twists up until today.

1993 in Iowa is going to be known forever as the year of the flood. Whether it was in Davenport or Des Moines there were a pretty big series of stories: no water for days, roads blocked all over the place, people flying in helicopters. What do you remember of the floods of ‘93? It was just 24/7 of going and trying to tell the stories and keep it all in perspective. One bridge on Fleur Drive, which was near where the Water Works plant became flooded, and we lost water. It was kind of Ground Zero for the national media and politicians because it was convenient to the airport. And so we had the scene where there were hundreds of people, sandbagging to help protect the Water Works plant from more damage and more flooding. It wasn’t unusual to look around and see Dan Rather reporting on it or President Bill Clinton to be down shaking hands with the sandbaggers.

For a number of years you did a feature series called “Eye on Iowa.” How did that start? Every morning when I would drive to work this one year during Christmas time, there was this little weed growing up in the median. One day, someone put a Christmas ball on it. A day or two later, there’d be some tinsel. And it just happened every day. And so at one point, I grabbed a camera and went out and shot this thing and did just a short, little 20 second anchor read on it. And it was after that News Director Paul Rhodes came up to me and said, ‘You’re going to be our next feature reporter.’ I would travel to hundreds of Iowa towns and most Iowa counties in and around the country and even overseas once in a while telling the stories of Iowans. My definition of a feature reporter and other people’s definition of a feature story are two different things. I think for a lot of people a feature story is something like big wheel races or something which really doesn’t have a lot of impact. To me, the idea of being a feature  reporter is telling about how people live, why they do what they do, and who they are as a person through the activities that they do.

The pandemic has really changed the way we are able to report stories. Think of all the journalism done via Zoom recording on a computer screen. It allows you to be connected but not to travel. There are some pluses to it but to me, I think the purest form of what we do as journalists is to go out on a bar stool, on a church pew, or a park bench and talk to people and say ‘So what’s your story? What’s this all about?’ And just have a conversation with them face to face.

You compare your career to a race. Why retire now? My lap was done. Here’s the baton. It was my time to hand off the baton and let others do their race and get this team to the finish line. And so I just felt an obligation to do that. And after the last few years, the pandemic, and all that, it’s just like, all right now I truly have done it all.

What’s next for you? I’m going to get back into photography. The very first thing I wanted to do when I started this and got diverted away. So my camera’s a little bit different now than the one that my dad used. I love drone photography. I love the photography and I love the gizmos and the gadgets of being able to go out and fly.

Broadcasting is family tradition for Fleming

Tim Fleming of KGLO radio in Mason City loves sports and loves serving his community. Fleming has worked in broadcasting for nearly 50 years, the last 45 years at KGLO.

Tim Fleming

Keeping busy is apparently Fleming’s motto. He is the Operations Manager, Sports Director and morning show host at the station. He is involved in numerous community activities as well.

Here are excerpts of an interview Paul Yeager, Iowa PBS, and Cliff Brockman, retired journalism professor, conducted with Fleming for the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting.

Radio broadcasting is in the family genes. Was there any doubt you were going to do anything but radio? No, there was never a doubt. Not at all. I knew very, very young that I wanted to be a broadcaster. My dad was a broadcaster. When I was a freshman in high school, you know how they give you those little quiz things? Put down your top 10 list of what you want to be when you grow up? Well, I put down radio, radio, radio, radio, radio, radio, radio, radio, radio, radio.

When did you call your first game? I did my first play by play with my dad, I was 15 or 16, 17. At halftime I was running around getting some stats at a football game. And he had always joked, he said, ‘Well listen, you got to do play by play sometime.’ And so he came back and opened up the second half. And he said, ‘and now with the second half play by play, here’s Tim Fleming.’ And he stood up and he walked away. And I paused for a moment and said ‘Thanks, Pat.’ And so I just jumped in and took off.

How do you prepare for games?
For me, it was sitting at home at night, filling out football charts for games for multiple teams. And honestly, the hardest part back then was we didn’t have access to the internet, you just couldn’t pull up rosters and do all of those things that you can do now. It was a little more challenging, because you had to rely on coaches, and actual communication from the high schools and junior colleges, things like that, to send you, you know, hey, can you fax me your starting lineup? Who do this? Does that? Those kinds of things.

You do a morning shift at the radio station, then do play by play of games at night. How do you do that? I’ve always said sleep was way overrated. I could be up early in the morning, and I could broadcast games at night still. On top of that, if my kids had any other activities that they were involved in, they were always involved in something (I would go to that). My day was a little disjointed and probably still is in a lot of ways, but I still enjoy it.

What was it like to call your kid’s games? It was pretty special, honestly. But I can remember specifically telling the kids that when they did something good, I would probably just make it sound pretty average in the broadcast. Where somebody else, if they did something good, they probably got a little extra punch of the play by play. But if they did something spectacular, then it would show in my voice, my inflection. It’s been kind of fun too, because I even had a chance to call my granddaughter’s games.

Watch full interview with Tim Fleming

Besides your work at the radio station, you’re very involved in the community.
I think if you’re going to be at a community radio station, you need to be in the community. I’ve served on a lot of boards and a lot of committees. I never thought I’d be a Girl Scout. But  I was a Girl Scout board member. I was on the RSVP board. I’m still a Salvation Army board member. I was a school board member at Newman Catholic for seven years. And usually, if somebody in the community says, ‘Hey, Tim, will you (volunteer for something)’ there’s a pretty good chance that I’m going to say yes. And it’s almost a running joke in our family.

What keeps you going? How long are you going to keep doing this? What keeps me going is the interest in, and just being a part of the community, and I still think that’s a key for me. I made a deal with my wife a long time ago that if she ever turned on the radio, and she thought I didn’t sound good, then pick up the phone and call me and tell me to come home and don’t go back. So far, so good.

Fleming is part of a  three-generation broadcast family.  His father Pat Fleming was a radio broadcaster for many years at WDBQ and KDTH in Dubuque. His daughter Amy is an anchor at KIMT-TV in Mason City. His son Eric handles many positions with the Alpha Media stations, daughter Kimberly is a first-grade teacher in Mason City and was a part-timer at KGLO while in high school and college, and his wife Sue even worked in the KGLO main office for one year.

Tim Fleming was the 2013 Jack Shelley Award winner, the Iowa Broadcast News Association’s highest honor, and he has won many other IBNA and Associated Press awards for his work.

Riley receives 2022 Shelley Award

Roger Riley has been named the 2022 Jack Shelley Award winner. Riley received the award at the Iowa Broadcast News Association’s annual convention in April in Cedar Falls. The Shelley Award is the highest honor an Iowa broadcast journalist can receive. It is given to an individual for “outstanding contribution to the cause of professional broadcast journalism in Iowa”.

Roger Riley

Riley has been a broadcast journalist for more than 40 years and is currently a multi-media journalist at WHO-TV in Des Moines. His hard news stories often lead the evening newscasts, and he travels to many parts of the state for feature reporting. Viewers also appreciate his severe weather reporting as he uses his camera equipped car.

Riley is a native of Norway, Iowa and his interest in broadcasting traces to his school days when his dentist’s office was in the same building as WMT radio and TV. Curiosity about broadcasting that he had developed during a high school speech class led him to write a letter to the station, and they invited him to watch a noon newscast. He remembers telling his mother afterwards that “I’m never going to do that, it’s too stressful. I couldn’t ever do that.” But he did.

A graduate of Eastern New Mexico University, Riley’s first TV reporting job was in Roswell, New Mexico at KBIM-TV. However, he missed Iowa and his family and soon returned home where the legendary KWWL News Director Grant Price hired him for a job at KWWL’s sister station, KTIV in Sioux City. Riley became KTIV’s first Spencer Bureau reporter where he covered stories around northwest Iowa.

Riley’s career also included: reporter at KSFY, Sioux Falls; Waterloo bureau reporter for KGAN-TV, Cedar Rapids; and reporter/photographer at WOI-TV, Des Moines, before joining the WHO-TV staff.

Watch an interview with Roger Riley from the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting

In an interview, Riley mentioned several memorable stories he’s covered over the years:

  • A story that attracted statewide attention about a child that was missing for several days in northwest Iowa and finally found alive in a cornfield.
  • A feature story in Storm Lake about a person who received one of the first cochlear implants from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
  • President Ronald Reagan’s visit to Des Moines in 1982. “That was my first time ever seeing a president. So I thought, wow!” Roger said.
  • A ride-along with the Navy’s Blue Angels during an air show in Waterloo.
  • The five-and-a-half-month strike by the UAW at John Deere in 1986.
  • The devastating floods of 1993 in Des Moines and 2010 in Ames.
  • The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 2008 raid at the Agriprocessors Plant in Postville. ICE deployed 900 agents and arrested 400 workers who were illegal immigrants.
  • Lots of severe weather and tornado coverage over the years.

As you might imagine, technology during Riley’s long career has changed dramatically, and he has embraced it all. When he started his professional career, the station in Roswell was using film. The station had a new CP 16 sound on film camera along with several Bell & Howell windup film cameras, and a film processor, Riley said. Then the industry moved to videotape with cameras connected to heavy tape decks, and now digital cameras and digital editing.

These days, Riley says he shoots much of his video on an iPhone, although he also has two cameras that he uses as well. He does most of his editing in the field using a laptop, recording his audio in the car with a blanket over his head to keep out extraneous noise, and then feeding his finished packages back to the station using Wi-Fi at coffee shops and other places.

As for the future, Riley has no immediate plans to retire. “I do like working, telling stories. I don’t really have a set plan. I think I kind of take it one day at a time,” he said.

Bachman mixed broadcasting & religion

John Bachman considered going into Christian ministry, but he says his love for broadcast journalism took him in a different direction, one that lasted for 40 years.

Bachman is a familiar face to central Iowans where he worked as an anchor and reporter at WHO-TV in Des Moines for 25 years before retiring in 2012. His 40-year career as a broadcast journalist also included jobs at WMT-TV (now KGAN) in Cedar Rapids, WMAQ-TV in Chicago, and KARE-TV in Minneapolis.

Paul Yeager of Iowa PBS and Cliff Brockman of Wartburg College recently interviewed Bachman from his Florida home for the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting Oral History Project.

Here are excerpts from Bachman’s interview which have been edited for length and clarity.  (Audio of the full interview is posted below.)

You’re the son of a pastor, son of the former president of Wartburg college, and you’re a Waverly Shell Rock High School graduate. So the church is calling you first? I don’t know that I had a calling, but I certainly had the culture around me and felt that faith was important in anybody’s life. And so that was a natural possible vocation. And my dad kind of encouraged me to think about it, although he didn’t discourage me when I started in broadcasting in college. Summers I was over at KDTH radio in Dubuque and then I kind of moved up in summer jobs and got into some television experience. That was while I was still in college. Then I was in seminary up in St. Paul Lutheran Seminary for a year, and then I studied abroad for a year. During that whole time, I was also doing broadcasting. So, I hadn’t had to make a (career) decision yet. It was around ‘72 when I had finally made a decision.

Was that a hard decision? You know, it wasn’t because I found that I love broadcasting. And I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to go into the church with that thought and that experience, guiding my love. So what I thought down the road was maybe I can use some of the training that I’ve had to kind of relate the two. It seems kind of odd to think that broadcasting and religion would have an interrelation, but I tried to do that in my career.

Did your career go as you thought it would? I think when I was young, I had visions of being a network anchor. But when I was in Chicago, I got firsthand experience of what network life is really like. Not only is it tense and anxious-filled, but you make a lot of sacrifices with your family life. And for me, family was really important. So I kind of reevaluated what my future was going to be. That was at WMAQ in Chicago, and it was a great experience for many, many reasons. But I think that really helped structure the rest of my career.

What was one of the big moments of your career? The Republican presidential debate of  ’99 was probably the one aspect of my career that will be a bit of a legacy. It was a question that I asked George W. Bush among the six candidates. Bush was third and responded to “What political philosopher-thinker do you most closely identify with and why?” And of course, everybody had said, the fathers of our country, Thomas Jefferson, and the like. Bush said “Jesus Christ.” I said, “Well, I think our viewers would want to know how he becomes this most important political philosopher to you.” Bush said, “Because He changed my heart.” So I said, “I think our viewers want to know how he has changed your heart.” And Bush came back with, “Well, if they don’t know, then it’s going to be hard to explain. But I gave my heart to Jesus Christ, my Savior, and he changed my life, and he changed my heart.”

Hanna Rosen of The Washington Post said it’s becoming known as campaign 2000’s, “Christ moment.” Howard Fineman of Newsweek wrote, “I think it was an extraordinary moment where secular politics and religious faith intersected.” Maureen Dowd (of the New York Times) took a typically sarcastic view and accused Bush of playing the “Jesus card.”

What do you think about the current state of the news business? There’s so much misinformation, with private equity groups owning stations, and with all the technology and the social media, and the fragmentation, and the deregulation and everything. People don’t trust the media anymore. And with good reason, because they’re all doing more with less. They don’t have the money, they don’t have the audience. So they’re aiming at one particular audience. And people do not know how to verify or check anything. I think in high school, there should be a journalism 101 course for everybody on how to be a reporter, how to be a fact checker. It doesn’t take hardly anything, even going to or you can go to They’re both good.

You’re starting to see stations come back with editorials. Has that been good for news?  I’m more concerned with the shows that are just total opinion. And people get confused. They think they’re news shows even though the networks still have their half-hour news broadcasts where there aren’t intended to be opinions. People mix the opinionated shows with those newscasts. And so they say ‘I can’t watch anything. I don’t believe anything.’ It’s a blanket whitewash of news programs. Not so much on the local level, fortunately, but yes, if you put the editorial afterwards, you know, I think that’s okay. A quick story about Walter Cronkite, I interviewed him after he had retired and spent about an hour with him. And this topic came up because he told me that his superiors wanted him to do editorials. And he resisted. Back in the day, there were pieces of elucidation, they called them, done within a newscast, or analysis, but not really opinions. Eric Sevareid always bragged about just kind of analyzing the news. And Cronkite told me, “I knew that I could do it, but I didn’t think the audience would accept me reading the news if I was also doing opinion pieces.” And, you know, I think he saw ahead to where we stand today. He saw that people are not going to accept that. They don’t believe that a newsman should do that.

Turning to something a little lighter, give us a humorous anecdote, perhaps an embarrassing moment on air for you?  I’m throwing it to Keith (Murphy) for sports. And he does two stories, one on Shawn Johnson, and one on Zach Johnson. Both were in the news on a regular basis. And he ends his sportscast with those two stories back-to-back. So he throws it to me, and I say, ‘Keith, how do you keep your Johnsons straight?’ And Keith is looking at me and he’s such a great guy, he’s not going to embarrass me. He’s not going to laugh. But in the age of the internet that would have perhaps ended my career.

John Bachman received many awards and honors during his career, including the 2005 Jack Shelley Award from the Iowa Broadcast News Association, and induction into the Silver Circle of the National Television Academy.