It all began on the interweb via some social-savvy invention that birds must have invented called Twitter...
WCCO reporter Jason DeRusha (@DeRushaJ), a social media champ, tweeted about a story we did about fellow WCCO reporter/anchor/Maple Grove native Jamie Yuccas in our November 2011 issue. Soon WCCO’s John Lauritsen (@JDLauritsen), Kare11’s Jerrid Sebesta (@jerridsebesta) and Channel 5’s Ken Barlow (@KenBarlowWx) were tweeting homage to their hometown.
Somewhere along the 140-character lines, the suggestion was thrown out there that Maple Grove Magazine (@MapleGroveMag) should do a story about all the reporters living in town—a secret hideout of sorts for a super-hero news team. Once the gathering cry of “News Team Assemble!” hit the wire, the dialogue went from a Men of the News swimsuit calendar, to meeting at The Lookout for drinks to strictly firing Anchorman quotes back and forth.
I quickly realized how quirky these guys were. A normal, run-of-the-mill profile on them wouldn’t do it. People are used to seeing their professional side on the air. I wanted to introduce readers to the wise-cracking bunch of jesters they become when they start talking shop off the air.
Considering their hours, getting them all together for one group interview was a challenge, but one well that was necessary. Getting them together in one room, feeding off each other in a comfortable environment was the key. That happened early one morning at Starbucks in Maple Grove.
Considering this was a group of men, all of whom had a good sense of humor and had a love for the movie Anchorman, I knew I wanted to play off that theme. But doing that in a way that was funny, relevant to readers and not cheesy was a little tricky.
I started them off with basic background questions, but the fun really started when the first Anchorman question came out: Who would win in a back-alley brawl between your new stations—and plead your case, please?
That question set the tone for the whole interview and really opened the door to pure hilarity, only very little of which was captured in the story. Fact: You gain a whole new respect for new reporters when you pin them against each other in an imaginary royal rumble. When I watch the news now, I don’t see anchors, reporters and meteorologists. I see warriors.
I think the five of us came to the agreement that Kare11 would win—that conclusion was based on some sort of combination of size, athleticism, scrappiness and pent-up aggression. Congrats, Sebesta!
Check out the cover story in our April issue, and read the extended version at maplegrovemag.com starting April 1. Until then, we’ll warm you up with a short Q & A with each of them. This gets some of the serious job-related questions out of the way so fun can be had by all in the story. Also, keep in mind I really wanted to make trading cards with statistics (percentage of accurate weather forecasts), strengths (great teeth, excellent transitions, quick-witted improv skills) and other attributes (favorite ties, slacks, etc.), but this is the best I could do for now...
MG News Team Bios
Tune in: WCCO, Channel 4, Monday through Friday, typically at 10 p.m.
What do you like most about your job? I love that every day is different and I love meeting new people. I also love having the opportunity to be as creative as possible. I have to admit that the people I work with are a lot of fun too.
What is the biggest challenge of your job? You get used to it, but the deadline never goes away. It’s there every day staring you right in the face. And somehow, it works out.
What is the most memorable story you've done? A couple years ago I covered the Cottonwood bus crash in which some students were tragically killed. Derek Varpness was one of the survivors, but was injured to the point where he was told he would never play sports or ride horseback again. Derek was a wrestler and on the verge of qualifying for the state tournament. His back had to be fused back together, and he lost a spleen and had a number of other health issues. But in the span of a just a few months, his body made a miraculous recovery, according to doctors. It recovered to the point where they told him he could try wrestling. We were there for his first night back and interviewed Derek, his parents, and his coach before his match—all were very emotional. He won both matches that night in dramatic fashion and the entire place went crazy. It was awesome. Photographer Carly Danek and I won an Emmy for that story.
What is your most embarrassing moment on the air? I was doing a story on prom from a guy’s point of view when I worked at KWWL in Waterloo, Iowa. I followed this 17-year-old kid around as he was saving for prom, buying a tux, and learning about prom etiquette. At the end of my live shot, I was ad-libbing and I said, “Guys, if you follow all these rules of etiquette, there is no doubt you will come out on top in the end.” Obviously, that elicited some comments, although I SWEAR it isn’t what I meant. It just came out. Whenever I talk to my Iowa friends, that still comes up. They just won’t let it go.
Favorite Anchorman quote: “For just one night let's not be co-workers. Let's be co-people.” –Ron Burgundy
Family: Wife Jessica and daughter Harlow (1)
Tune in: KARE11, Channel 11, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (and every other Thursday) afternoon/evenings.
What do you like most about your job? I love to tell stories—and my job is to tell the “story” of the weather, pretty sweet!
What is the biggest challenge of your job? FORECASTING! I don’t think most folks understand just how hard it is to figure our weather out. Then on top of that, we go on live television, sticking our neck out every night. The weather has made me look like a fool MANY times.
What is the most memorable story you've done? I covered Tornado Tuesday when I was working in South Dakota. This was one of my first experiences covering severe weather. The state saw 67 twisters in six hours on June 24, 2003, the record for most tornadoes in one state in one day. The largest tornado hit the small South Dakota town of Manchester, literally destroying everything in it. Talk about trial by fire!
What is your most embarrassing moment on the air? Oh, I've tripped, stumbled, and slipped on live TV MANY times. I've accidentally referred to the Twin Cities as “the Valley”—that's Phoenix. One time, my co-anchor was talking about her irises—she loved to garden. I thought she was talking about her eyes. That made for awkward banter.
Favorite Anchorman quote: “What, we’re on right now…I don’t believe you.”—Ron Burgundy
Family: Wife Emily and son Beckham (1)
Tune In: WCCO, Channel 4, Good Question segment Monday-Thursday at 10 p.m.; Jason also anchors 10 p.m. news Sunday night.
What do you like most about your job? I love being the first to know things, and I love shining a light on truth. Good Question is the ultimate explanatory journalism: We take a problem or an issue and try to break it down and explain it. The fun of my job is the constant change: have a bad day, you get to do it over tomorrow. Of course if I have a great day, I also have to do it over tomorrow.
What is the biggest challenge of your job? The schedule is rough. Working nights, I don’t get to see my kids after school. It can be tough to hang out with friends. I also work a lot of holidays. But I knew about all that when I got into it, and my family is really understanding.
What is the most memorable story you've done? I was one of the first TV reporters on the air the night the 35W bridge collapsed. It was an incredible scene – arriving before most of the ambulances and police officers did. I saw the best of our community that night in the response. I saw the worst, in that a bridge shouldn’t just collapse. Ever.
Favorite Anchorman quote: “I’m not a baby. I am a man. I am an anchorman.”—Ron Burgundy
Family: wife Alyssa and sons Seth (6) and Sam (4)
Tune In: KSTP, Channel 5, Monday-Friday at 5, 6:30 and 9 p.m. (Channel 45), and 11 p.m.
What do you like most about your job? I get paid to do my hobby. I fell in love with weather when I was 7 years old when I saw a tree blow down and wanted to know why. Ever since, I have just become more and more of a weather geek!
What is the biggest challenge of your job? Getting it right!
What is the most memorable story you've done? The Granite Falls tornado back in the summer of 2000. It was an F4 and one person died. We did the news live from the town the next night, and I will never forget the heartbreak of the people who lost everything the night before, right around the dinner hour. Millions of dollars worth of damage is just staggering to see in person.
What is your embarrassing moment on the air? When I first started on TV back in Maine I was only 25 and I dropped my computer clicker and it shattered on the floor. The anchors at the time and I couldn't stop laughing, and we barely got through the rest of the news cast.
Favorite Anchorman quote: “I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.”--Ron Burgundy
Family members: wife Theresa, son Patrick (24), and daughters Meredith (21) and Caroline (14)