Farewell, Rochester – Kim David’s Final Story
Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - This is it.
This is my final news story on this website.
After working nearly 45 years at KROC AM, my final day on the clock has arrived. I will start a new career on July 1st - working for myself as another officially retired American.
My career began the day Elvis died. As in Elvis Presley. When I began my career, I was working side-by-side with personalities I had grown up listening to on KROC AM - Harley Flathers, Dale Hamilton, and Bernie Lusk to name a few. We once had a 5 person news department and a 24/7 on-air staff. So many people have come and gone over the years that it’s hard to remember most of them. I have often been asked why I chose to stay in the Rochester market. My answer was simple - family. I wanted to raise our two sons in our hometown. My wife Cindy and I are “homies” - both born and raised here and most of our family members also stayed put. I may have missed out on better pay and bigger opportunities but I will never regret my decision. I can’t say the same for our sons - they moved to the Cities!
I have worked with dozens of people over the years and one of them - Andy Brownell - is still here. He is now the senior member of our staff as he has just hit the 40-year mark.
The “new kid in town” is TJ Leverentz, who is already reading news on-air and publishing stories during the morning shift. In the short time I have known him, I can easily predict he will carry on the traditions I followed and practiced and provide you with the best news possible.
I have no idea how many stories I have written or when I wrote my very first one. It was likely in the late 1970s while working as an announcer. I had always felt I would make a better news reporter/anchor than a DJ or announcer. I made up my mind to make the transition while playing the Debbie Boone song "You Light Up My Life" three times in one shift - and I was still getting calls from young female listeners to play it again!
I loved writing news and had hoped to one day join the news department. I eventually got my wish and my official news career began in 1980.
I have written hundreds if not thousands of stories about crime, weather, local and state government, schools and education and informational/entertainment issues. My overall goal was to provide our audience with the best news possible. I am a very competitive person and thoroughly enjoyed “scooping” the competition whenever I could. I always felt that was good for all the local news outlets because it was the public - our audiences - that benefitted. And yes, I was scooped many times but always learned from the process and became a better reporter as a result. I was very fortunate to be involved in local news when I was because most of the local leaders and newsmakers were also around for a long time and we built very positive and mutual relationships. The list includes Mayor Chuck Hazama, City Administrator Steve Kvenvold and his assistant Gary Neumann, Police Chiefs Pat Farrell and Roger Peterson, Sheriffs Steve Borchardt and Kevin Torgerson and numerous other elected officials including Sheila Kiscadin, Randy Staver and Tim Penny.
I can barely remember the early days of my career when we were using old-fashioned non-electric typewriters. Over the years we slowly advanced in how we wrote our news, the ways we presented the news (on-air and eventually digital), and how we covered the news. There were times when the digital transformation was challenging and questionable in my eyes but I came to embrace it along with all the other changes in our industry.
So what was my favorite story? The one I have singled out over the years was an interview with Bill Keough. My original notes (and the story) are long gone but to the best of my memory, he visited Rochester after being invited to Lourdes High School by a family member who in turn invited the local news media to interview him. Bill was one of the Americans held hostage for 444 days after the US Embassy takeover in Iran that began Nov 4, 1979. During his local interview, he shared his experience and I found myself struggling to take notes because I was so fascinated by what he was telling us. The story I wrote that day was WAY before we had computers and the internet so there is no record of it because like so many others, they became lost in a store room somewhere.
My favorite interview was a very short one over the phone with US Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger. He was in Rochester for a Mayo appointment when Pres. Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to become the first woman to serve on the high court. A doctor acquaintance of mine was one of his physicians and tipped me off about his presence in Rochester and suggested I call his room at the Kahler Hotel and try to reach him for a comment. After getting up the nerve I did. I almost dropped the phone when the call went through and Burger’s wife answered. Her next words were unforgettable - “ Honey, it’s for you.” A moment later he was on the phone and after I told him who suggested the call he was overly polite and talked for several minutes. For the record, he was 100% supportive of the nomination. I later realized I was the only reporter in the country who knew where Burger was and the only one who was able to get a comment from him. After my interview was eagerly taken by the ABC Radio network (we were an affiliate), many other networks were soon calling ME!
My favorite moment in covering a top story was the day the verdict was reached in the David Brom trial. He was the Rochester teenager who murdered his parents, a brother and a sister with an ax in 1988. His verdict was reached on an early Sunday afternoon and because of the news media intensity surrounding the case, the trial judge was very restrictive with courtroom behavior and very protective of the jury. Before the verdict was read, she told the reporters in the courtroom they would have to stay seated for several minutes after the jury was finished to give each member enough time to get away from the courthouse. I was a bit upset because we should be allowed to report the verdict immediately so I came up with a plan. My news partner Andy Brownell was in the parking lot outside the courtroom when I went inside. I told him I would stand up quickly and flash my notebook if Brom was found guilty. He saw me before I quickly sat back down and was reporting the verdict a minute later. Other reporters and photographers who were near him were stunned and had no idea how he knew. They were soon quoting us as they called their radio and TV stations and had to wait several more minutes before they received the official word. We waited several years before we revealed our successful plan to other reporters.
There were many other stories that were hard to write - about friends and acquaintances who were killed or hurt in car crashes or other accidents, a close acquaintance who died in a house fire, another who was left paralyzed after a car crash, acquaintances who got into trouble with the law and so on. They were even harder to read on air.
I will not miss the 18-hour workdays, working weekends, rolling out of bed before the birds are even up and the grueling work that today’s news coverage demands because of on-air and digital duties. But I will miss the challenges I faced every day in providing our audiences with the best news possible. Writing a good story is comparable to a golfer’s dream - a hole-in-one. Except we have to write them EVERY day. And the demands never let up because the news “never stops.” It’s a 24/7 cycle that a hard-nosed news reporter can’t simply turn on and off. It gets into your bloodstream and becomes part of your existence.
I will miss keeping our audiences informed. And the feedback from so many of you - positive, critical, or just a simple “thank you.” I thank all those who contacted me over the years with news tips, reaching out to correct a story or typo and criticism. I made the necessary adjustments and it helped make me a more responsible, professional, and dedicated reporter. I have written many stories that challenged my humanity because they were devastating to those named in the story and/or their families, especially crime stories. But many others reinforced my humanity because they helped someone through the healing process. Especially victims of terrible crimes and those who lost loved ones because of a crime or misfortune.
I will also miss the "Townsquare Gang" that was a big part of my life for several years. They will have to row the boat without me and I know they will get the job done without my oars.
One of my proudest achievements was missing only two workdays during my entire career, which covered most of my adult years. I should get a gold watch (or Fitbit) for that, eh?
In closing, this is my final “news” story. But I do plan to continue writing. I have long planned to write a fictional book and that will become one of my top goals in retirement. I plan to work on it during the early morning hours when our world is still quiet and mostly asleep. But I think I’ll set the alarm for 4:30 - not the 2:30 setting that I officially deleted today.
It will take some time for this retirement thing to sink in but I will never forget the career I shared with so many of you. I truly hope I was able to meet your expectations of a good news reporter. I gave everything I had and always followed the motto of my high school: “To be a Spartan is to be the best you can be.”
Be well, stay safe and healthy and say hi if we happen to run into each other. And perhaps we can sit down for a cold brew.