Maple Grove News Team Assemble!

by | Apr 2012

Broadcast journalists Ken Barlow, Jason DeRusha, Jerrid Sebesta and John Lauritsen.

Broadcast journalists Ken Barlow, Jason DeRusha, Jerrid Sebesta and John Lauritsen. Photos: Emily J. Davis

Four local news personalities make Maple Grove the greatest city in the world. It’s a fact!

Four grown men are arguing over who would win in a back-alley brawl between their respective employers at Maple Grove’s Starbucks Coffee at 8 a.m. on a Thursday.  They fire shots back and forth over the table in an endless barrage of colleague namedrops. Randy Shaver, Mark Rosen, Joe Schmit, Dave Dahl, Eric Perkins. The list goes on, until…

“I don’t know if you’d want to run into Esme Murphy in an alley though,” says Jason DeRusha, stopping the others dead in their tracks with WCCO’s Sunday morning anchor. “She’s a hockey mom.”

You can’t script this golden dialogue. DeRusha, WCCO-TV reporter and weekend anchor; John Lauritsen, WCCO-TV News reporter; Jerrid Sebesta, KARE 11 meteorologist; and Ken Barlow, 5 Eyewitness News meteorologist were of course just having fun playing off one of many Anchorman-The Legend of Ron Burgundy-inspired questions thrown out there by a dorky writer in hoping to instigate a reenactment of the side-splitting battle scene between news stations in the classic comedy.

 Come on guys, ratings are cheap. WCCO, KARE 11, Channel 5: Back parking lot. Who’s left standing?

“I think there’s only one way to figure this out,” declares Lauritsen. “It would be brutal, but there would be a lot of hugging at the end.”

Battle royal aside, that sums up the product of jamming four workaholic, sarcastic, Minnesota-nice personalities from three different news stations into one suburb. They duke it out for ratings on their respective stations nightly. Then they drink in the rare opportunity to yuck it up with their industry rival neighbors like a nice glass of scotch. Maple Grove is indeed big enough for the four of them.

A Man Among Boys

Who is the most likely to have many leather bound books and an apartment that smells of rich mahogany?

The answer was unanimous —“Barlow!” blurted the other three simultaneously. Lauritsen’s explanation is simple: “He’s the biggest deal.”

No question, Ken Barlow is a name that’s time-tested and Minnesota approved. That says a lot about someone who packed his bags and left after 15 years with KARE 11—and then returned after a four-year stint in Boston and Sacramento to join Channel 5.

“People were really excited that Ken was coming back,” DeRusha says. “To me that’s very interesting because we all like to think we’re important, but you think when you go away, people will forget about you.”

So why is Barlow different?

“He knows his stuff, but he has a warmth that comes across on the air that is pretty unique,” DeRusha says. “A lot of people aren’t able to communicate that through the screen. He can do that so well without being cheesy.”

Barlow blushes: “I didn’t pay them.”

He didn’t need to. Sebesta and Lauritsen, both now in their early 30s, grew up studying him in hopes of one day getting their opportunity in front of the camera.

“I used to watch him a lot as a kid,” Lauritsen says, “and the general consensus then was that he was a top talent—it was him and Belinda Jensen at the time—and I don’t think that’s changed from what I’ve seen.”

Barlow’s blush turns to a crotchety giggle: “Where’s my cane?”

If he had a cane, the people of Maple Grove would notice. Barlow was a resident for 15 years and couldn’t think of a better place to live when he returned to Minnesota in June 2010.

“Most of our best friends are in Maple Grove, and District 279 has always been wonderful for our kids,” says Barlow, whose youngest of three now attends Osseo Junior High.

So what’s his secret to sustained success?

“Being yourself,” Barlow says. “I know this sounds really dumb, but if you’re different in the line of Starbucks than you are on TV, people will see that. That word gets out.”

A True Gentleman

Who is the most likely to be liked because he is polite and rarely late?

Barlow looks at the young weatherman across the table: “I’m older than [Jerrid] by almost 20 years, and he’s more disciplined than I am.”

The word is out on Sebesta. After only two years with the KARE 11 weather team, Minnesota is charmed, and that applies to all demographics.  He’ll shoot the breeze (weather pun intended) with any Joe Shmoe at the gym before he uses his 6-foot-6 frame to dunk on his viewers at a pick-up basketball game. The guys love him. He’s tall, good looking, convincing and has a well-known passion for personal finance. The ladies love him.

“He is someone my wife loves,” says Barlow, who doesn’t hold back himself. “I think he’s really good and confident.  I know (DeRusha and Lauritsen) do what they do best. But as a weatherman, Jerrid does what I do, so I can judge him a little better. And he’s really good.”

Moving to Maple Grove when he joined KARE-11 from KPNX in Phoenix, Arizona in 2010, Sebesta plays the loveable new guy in town as smoothly as a jazz flute. With a wife, Emily, that works at the Maple Grove Hospital and a 1-year-old son, Beckham, he’s growing accustomed to the family life in front of Maple Grove’s eyes.

But Sebesta heeds to the code of Barlow. There’s nothing phony about Sebesta’s charm. What you see on the air is what you get. And you’ll probably like it.

“Jerrid has an enthusiasm on the air that’s fun to watch,” DeRusha says. “Even if the weather is bad, you’re like, ‘oh, I want to see what Jerrid has to say about it.’”

Man of Action

Who is the most likely to go into a bear pit to cover a story?

All eyes fall on Lauritsen. “Yep,” he quickly admits.

“Buy you have to ask ‘Why did he go in the bear pit?” Sebesta ponders.

Lauritsen has covered a colorful variety of stories in his young reporting career that’s led him from Alexandria to Waterloo, Iowa and finally to Maple Grove when he joined Brooklyn Park-based Cable 12—his last stop before he joined WCCO in 2007.  He’s covered everything from high school sports and proms to natural disasters and crime. He’s even put himself in harm’s way when jumping a BMX, wrestling WCCO anchor Frank Vascellaro and handling a timber viper, Minnesota’s only poisonous snake, which nearly bit him. Bears shmears.

“I like stories like that—that get the blood flowing,” Lauritsen says.

Lauritsen started forming his grit as a high school wrestler. Sebesta knows this, considering he was only a grade younger than him at Montevideo High School.

“Jarred was still a half a foot taller than me back then, but I used to beat up on him all the time,” cracks Lauritsen, who like Sebesta, is learning the family life in Maple Grove with a 1-year-old daughter, Harlow.

DeRusha has watched Lauritsen mature over the years. He remembers seeing a bright, promising “kid” at Cable 12. “Now he’s one of our top reporters at WCCO,” DeRusha says.

The Wise Man

Who is the most likely to really enjoy a nice glass of scotch?

Lauritsen defers to the WCCO chain of seniority: “Jason is the one who goes out and does all the food and drink spots.”

If scotch connoisseurs are as wise as they’re portrayed, DeRusha, who happens to write restaurant reviews for Minnesota Monthly, can play the role. As WCCO’s Good Question reporter, DeRusha’s job is to be wise in the ways of the world. Viewers count on him to answer a variety of their questions—ranging from Should Organ Donors Be Paid? to Why Do We Get Belly Lin?t— in a segment at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

This is no easy task, a fact Lauritsen can vouch for after filling in for DeRusha a few times for Good Question. Contary to popular belief, DeRusha doesn’t know everything. But, Lauritsen says, he still has to find someone with expertise in the matter.

“It’s hard to write those stories. You have to think outside the box,” Lauritsen says. “[Jason’s] one of the most creative people I’ve ever worked with. He can take any story or question and make it interesting.”

DeRusha can make shoveling his driveway interesting, or at least sell it as such. Lauritsen recalls visiting DeRusha’s home to borrow a card table one winter day, when he witnessed his colleague’s real power. As the two observed neighbor kids shoveling a nearby driveway, DeRusha hollered—he says jokingly—for them to come shovel his next.

“I stepped off to the side for a minute,” Lauritsen says, “and came back and they were shoveling his driveway… He has some kind of hypnosis.”

That explains in part why DeRusha loves living in his neighborhood enough to stay there for the past nine years, in two different houses—when his family decided to upsize, they moved five houses away because they were so attached.

There are other benefits, of course. He lives in a town that’s welcoming to broadcast news journalists. When he can’t study his competition and colleagues on television, he can keep tabs on them when they’re out and about—restaurants, coffee shops, and don’t forget the gym. Tuesday’s arms and back, and Maple Grove Life Time patrons have two tickets to the gun show.

“John and Jarred spot me,” DeRusha jokes.

“We’re the yellers in the gym,” Lauritsen adds.

And why wouldn’t they be? These are men—nay, these are anchormen.

Meet The MG News Team

John Lauritsen

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)

Jerrid Sebesta

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)

Jason DeRusha

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)

Ken Barlow

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)


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