Facts and fantasy in newsless Minnesota……Radio News Director

The birds were still bleary-eyed when I unlocked the door to radio station KRCQ in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Sunshine was several hours away, and so was my first downcast. I say ‘downcast’ instead of ‘newscast’ because as news director I had spent the last three months desperately trying to fill a ten-minute news slot each day with timely, exciting, local news. Just the day before the big news story in town, in fact the only news story in town, had been the overnight theft of a manhole cover from Main Street. Try stretching that for ten minutes on the air! The station manager was throwing ugly looks at me the way a chimp throws banana peels at the zoo gawkers.

This morning I unlocked the door, turned on the lights, glared at the automated system blaring out country western music and Paul Harvey in lieu of a flesh & blood morning DJ and eagerly ran through the AP wire for anything, anything at all germaine to my news territory. Once again, there was zip, nada, bupke. Damn these stolid, law-abiding Scandinavian/Germans I breathed into my cup of hot chocolate, made gooey with too much non-dairy creamer.

Depending on your point of view, that day I either became a poet or an outlaw. I started to make up news stories. A zucchinni carving contest, wherein Mr. Karl Foofledinger won first prize for an exact likeness of Mount Rushmore. A warning to tourists that North Dakota still had a Depression-era law on the books against hoarding pennies; if a state trooper pulled you over & found a stash of copper Lincolns in your ashtray you were headed for the hoosegow. A recent study by an unnamed professor that stated the high summer humidity was directly related to the coming of the railroads to northwestern Minnesota at the turn of the century; the steel rails drew electricity from the air and vaporized ground water. And so on. These fantasies were greeted with approval by my boss & gusto by the public — until I met my Waterloo on the Fourth of July. I over-reached myself by reporting a fireworks explosion in Dilbert, Minnesota, where a man had carelessly handled a cherry bomb and had his head blown off. I then proceeded to interview his head, which was in stable condition in a Fargo hospital. Perhaps it had something to do with the nine vodka martinis I’d ingested the night before at the Holiday Inn Lounge.

Anyway, I was asked to resign. Best thing that ever happened to me. I went back to school at the University of Minnesota as an English major and am now hard at work on a novel about . . . what else? A news director who can’t tell fact from fantasy! Any publishers interested out there?

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