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Local News Close-Up: Twin Cities Stations Play Fair

Lisa Meadows offers the weather for WCCO at the Minnesota State Fair.
Lisa Meadows offers the weather for WCCO at the Minnesota State Fair. (Image credit: WCCO)

The Minnesota State Fair has wound down, but the 2022 affair made quite a mark. The Great Minnesota Get-Together goes for 12 days, ending on September 5, and a stunning 1.84 million people turned up for it — 540,000 more than 2021. The Twin Cities TV stations turn up too, setting up their news operations at the fair, as attendees grab a corn dog and take a seat in the bleachers to watch. 

“To say it was a celebration is an understatement,” WCCO VP and general manager Ann Ouellette said. “We’re back.”

WCCO, part of CBS News and Stations, is a strong player in DMA No. 14. Fox owns KMSP and MyNetworkTV station WFTC. Hubbard Broadcasting owns ABC affiliate KSTP and independent KSTC. Tegna has NBC outlet KARE. On the Spanish-language side, Media Vista Group holds Univision station WUMN and SagamoreHill Broadcasting has Telemundo’s KMWE. The Spanish-language stations don’t do local news … yet. “It is in the plans for the station in the near future,” Telemundo Twin Cities general manager Mark Overstreet said. 

The major cable operator in the Twin Cities is Comcast. 

In August, KSTP, with an Eyewitness News brand, won the 6 a.m. household news race and WCCO took the 25-54 battle. KARE won both races at 5 p.m., and WCCO took both titles at 6 p.m. At 10 p.m., WCCO had a 6.1 in households and 1.3 in the 25-54 contest. KARE had a 3.7 and a 1.0, and KSTP a 2.3 and 0.7. KMSP rated a 1.9 in households and 0.7 in 25-54. 

WCCO has a popular married couple anchoring at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. in Frank Vascellaro and Amelia Santaniello. The station also stands out as the only one situated in downtown Minneapolis. “We’re in the middle of everything,” Ouellette said, “and can get to everything quickly.”

Run the Newsroom, Then Run the Station 

News professionals in the market describe the Twin Cities as a robust news market where people eagerly consume local content. That might be a factor in a couple of longtime news directors getting their first general manager job in the Twin Cities. Being news director at KMSP seems like good preparation for a GM position. Bill Dallman was KMSP news director until 2013, moving on to news director posts at KCBS Los Angeles and KOMO Seattle, among other positions. He was named KARE VP/general manager in June 2021. Marian Davey was KMSP VP/news director from 2013 to June 2021, when she was named KMSP-WFTC VP/general manager. 

Dallman and Davey are both embracing the aspects of their new positions. “It’s such a professional joy to learn about the parts of the business that I didn’t know so much about,” said Davey, who goes by Mim. 

Said Dallman, “Tegna sees that content is king, and those of us who are leaders on the content side can learn the sales side.”

KARE reporter Danny Spewak reports from the Twin Cities.

KARE reporter Danny Spewak reports from the Twin Cities. (Image credit: KARE)

It is no surprise that the Twin Cities stations are ramping up their local content. On September 5, WCCO introduced a 4 p.m. news in place of the departing Ellen DeGeneres Show. Jeff Wagner and Erin Hassanzadah anchor. Ouellette described the newscast as “more casual,” with a motif that sees the station “pull back the curtain on what we do, how we create news.”

She added: “There’s definitely an appetite for news here. We were fortunate enough to have such a deep bench to promote from within.” 

WCCO launched a Sunday 7 a.m. newscast in early 2022 that Ouellette said is “similar in style and tone” to CBS Sunday Morning. “It’s a positive, uplifting kind of storytelling,” she said. “Very community-driven.”

As it contemplates its initial newscast, KMWE in the meantime keeps viewers on top of local news with local segments in Acceso Total. Overstreet noted that 21% of the DMA’s total population growth is Hispanic. “We celebrate this growth and pledge to be an active contributor to ensure visibility and representation of Latinos in Minnesota for years to come,” he said. 

10,000 Stories

KMSP has a full lineup of local news, along with a 7-8 p.m. newscast on sister WFTC, known as Fox 9 Plus, and offers what station leadership calls “mini-documentaries” on hot local topics. Those could run for 7-8 minutes in the 9 p.m. news, or even warrant an hour-long special. “It’s inspirational for the staff to stretch our minds a little bit on things that are not necessarily news of the day,” VP/news director Kelly Huffman said. 

Fox 9 also touches on local topics with talk show Enough Said (opens in new tab), and examines state history with Minnesota Untold segments (opens in new tab). KMSP won a 2022 National Murrow Award for Minnesota Untold. “We’d be very proud of it whether we won the award or not,” Davey said. 

NBC News Daily debuted on KARE and other NBC affiliates on September 12, and KARE enjoys two five-minute cut-ins in the daytime program. KARE is also betting big on its KARE 11 Plus streaming platform; Dallman said KARE will be “dramatically expanding local content offerings” on the streamer this year and next — newscasts, specials, debates, sports. 

Speaking of sports, Hockey Night in Minnesota, offering 13 weeks of live boys and girls hockey, debuts this fall on the streaming platform. 

Boyd Huppert hosts Land of 10,000 Stories (opens in new tab) on KARE 11. (Minnesota is of course known as the land of 10,000 lakes.) Dallman mentions “amazing features that make you feel a vast array of emotions.”

Feeling Minnesota

Minneapolis and St. Paul sit next to each other near the eastern border Minnesota shares with Wisconsin. Minnesota was one of the more strict states in terms of COVID protocols, but those are loosening up as the pandemic slowly subsides. 

The market is home to a number of major corporations, including Target, Best Buy and United Healthcare. It is also where George Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. 

Anchor/reporter Gabi Del Moral on the street for KMWE.

Anchor/reporter Gabi Del Moral on the street for KMWE.  (Image credit: KMWE)

Residents say Minneapolis-St. Paul offers big-city stuff, be it restaurants, theaters, museums and sports, including the beloved Vikings, and, paradoxically, the intimate vibe of a village. “It’s the perfect experience of a metropolitan area with just a little of that small-town feel,” Huffman said. 

Political spending is booming, including a hot governor’s race. The general managers mention a very engaged populace that politicians are eager to reach. 

Summer is over, and with it, a couple unique community initiatives at Fox 9. Fox 9’s Town Ball Tour (opens in new tab) visits the best ballparks in the market, and a Fox 9 ice cream truck made the rounds this summer, giving away free ice cream and getting anchors out in front of viewers. “We’re always looking for different ways to make meaningful connections with viewers,” said Davey, “or potential viewers.”

Minnesotans are looking forward to the next state fair, kicking off August 24. The 2022 shindig was “a raging success,” Ouellette said. “People were really looking to get back out and have a sense of normalcy.” ▪️

Check out our Local News Close-Up profiles on dozens of U.S. markets. 

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.