The following was written at the request of WDAY alum Larry Gauper for his excellent Wordchipper.com blog. Larry has been instrumental in organizing monthly WDAY-WDAZ alumni lunches in Fargo. They are a blast. I always leave them laughing.
Larry asked me to chip away at letting people know a little bit about my shady past and my current state of mind for the May issue of Mike Notes Reprise at Wordchipper.com. So, here goes:
40 YEARS IN ABOUT AS MANY SECONDS
My, how time flies! For me, the past 40 years have whizzed by at warp speed. I retired from WDAZ-TV in October.
My first week as a reporter was spent at WDAZ in Grand Forks in April 1975. I had just been fired from a job in Bismarck, where I was told the owner of the company didn’t like “the way I looked on television.” I was happy to be working in television again. My looks hadn’t changed that much.
At the end of that first week in Grand Forks, I remember driving to Fargo see WDAY alum Peggy Lee perform at the North Dakota State University Fieldhouse. To this day, she remains one of my favorite singers.
At the time, I hoped the Grand Forks job would last three or four years. Now —after four decades — it can be told. I had more fun at work than anyone should be allowed to have.
Who else in North Dakota gets to meet Tony Bennett, Martin Short and the Muppets — and get paid to do it? (Don’t get me wrong. I was happy to take the money.)
There was some serious work, too. None much more serious than covering the Red River Valley Flood of 1997. I’m proud to say we won a national Edward R. Murrow award for it. To paraphrase Tom Brokaw, it’s one of the awards that “matters.”
My time at WDAZ ended on a high note last fall. Our newsroom won an Upper Midwest Emmy award for Team Coverage of the search of Anthony Kuznia, a little boy living with austism who wandered away from his East Grand Forks home. His body was found about a day later.
As sad as it was, Anthony’s story ends somewhat hopefully. After months of hard work, his family was instrumental in getting Project Lifesaver implemented in the region. People with autism and other conditions can now get radio-activated bracelets to wear. Should they leave the safety of their homes, they can be located almost immediately by authorities.
In some small way, I feel our continuing coverage helped the family realize its dream of seeing the project realized locally.
These days, I’m writing for the AreaVoices and Unheralded.fish websites. I do speaking engagements with topics like “The Dullum File Live.” (In some circles, I’m considered reasonably amusing.) I also speak on volunteerism, stress relief and dealing with the media.
Without anything that could be considered a real hobby, I also spend time reading, walking around in circles at the gym and, in the summer months, on my version of an activity I laughingly call gardening.
The best part of the past 40 years has been the wonderful people I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to work with. People with names like Chuck, Norm, Marv, Boyd and Dewey. Memories of them and dozens of others I carry with me always.