(Op-ed By JL Bach)
Would somebody please tell KIMT that they are in Iowa? It’s been a personal grudge of mine for some time but it reached rock bottom last night. I sat and counted on the ten o’clock broadcast, and five of the first seven news stories were about Minnesota. The first three in a row were about Austin and events involving their city council. Now, even if I did give a tomcat’s nut-sack about what the Austin City Council was doing, I would most likely tune into the TV station that calls that a home market, KAAL. Or in a stretch, maybe KTTC, based in Rochester. But I don’t care about the Austin council, because I live in Iowa. And because I expect my local station to provide Iowa news. How petty of me, right?
Now I understand the “regional” concept behind the KIMT market model. Hell, they think their call letters stand for “Iowa and Minnesota Together”. But let’s get this straight, they push Minnesota news this hard so that their ad reps can go toe-to-toe with the reps from KAAL and KTTC in the Minnesota market. There is simply no other explanation for it.
Have they not noticed that they are an Iowa station? And that the FCC licenses them as an Iowa station? That their building is in Mason City? They’ve gone so far as to promote a Minnesota news desk, with that gate-mouth Raquel Hellman always at the ready to spew out the latest from north of the border.
Yes, I understand a slow news day, and the need to fill a thirty minute broadcast. But what really upsets me is that there was a major news event in North Iowa yesterday. A very severe traffic accident took the life of a Britt resident, and I think the very least the local news channel could have done is to honor the loss of Barry Priebe. And what of the grief that Travis Christians must be feeling today? Not a single word. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Semi-trailers just don’t come undone, so what happened to cause an ordinarily very dependable piece of equipment to fail so drastically? What questions are being asked? Well, don’t look to your local news channel, because apparently the Austin city council trumped these questions. (Finally today, a very small blurb appeared on the KIMT web-page, clearly lifted from the Globe).
And this is not a lone event by any stretch of the imagination. I will never forget May 2008, when an F5 tornado hit Parkersburg, Iowa. I happened to have KIMT on at the time, and Adam “Marble Mouth” Frederick popped in with a special weather bulletin. He was hyper-focused on a super cell in the vicinity of Rockford. The huge cell about to hit New Hartford was obvious on the radar right behind him, even to an untrained weather person.
The NWS “crawl” on the bottom of the screen was warning of a PDS, a particularly dangerous situation. And if you are a weather person, you should know this is a grave situation and deserves immediate mention to save life and limb. When the PDS goes up, the buildings come down. And then, most unbelievably, I actually heard Adam say, “Well, the cell approaching Rockford appears to be losing strength, and the other cell near Parkersburg is OUTSIDE OF OUR VIEWING AREA”. KIMT went back to golf. Yes-golf. While an Iowa town got hit with a record breaking tornado, KIMT went to golf. As lives were lost, Tiger Woods played on. Our phone lit up with calls from outside the area. Apparently, on their televisions, this story got covered. Kansas City knew. Des Moines knew. But KIMT could not be troubled to cover it. So did they make good on their next news cast?
If you can believe it, they led with the story of the minor Hugo, Minnesota twister the next night. Not for another day did our “local” station give the air time to this disaster that was warranted. As an Iowan, I actually felt betrayed by my local TV station at this point.
Who the hell writes the news there? If they want to produce Minnesota news so bad, then just pack the truck and get down the road. There is simply no excuse for this bias in reporting simply to boost advertising sales.