MORRIS - The news that KSAX had ceased operating in Alexandria is bad news for all of us in west central Minnesota.
First, 17 people, who did their best every day in a rapidly changing workplace, are unemployed today.
Second, we have one less media outlet in rural Minnesota. Sure, the KSAX update was only 10 minutes at best, but that was ten less minutes of metro-only news that was at best marginally interesting and only served to remind me why I would not like to live there.
Lastly, it is the end of an era of local television in Alexandria that will change how we as rural residents are talked about by the big-city journalists who will likely never venture this far west.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's take a walk down memory lane.
I remember when KSAX started up. KCCO was already established as "the" news station in west central Minnesota. The news anchors were household names. Who didn't want to have Jim Rohn or John Froyd saying something about your town on the 6 p.m. news? My personal favorite was Sally Baltes. She and Cindy Brucato remain my favorite female television anchors of all times. The folks at KSAX were new and sometimes they didn't know how to pronounce Chokio and Kandiyohi very well. I wondered how well this would go.
The next thing you know, KCCO went off the air in July of 2004 and we were plenty glad to have KSAX.
And somehow, Mark Vanderwerf made his way to the upstart station and then it got better. Still, there were a lot of young announcers who didn't know that there's a Norwegian pronunciation of Milan and Pomme de Terre. But we forgave them their shortcomings as long as they gave the local scores and temperatures.
So we watched faithfully, even more diligently when an outstater like Jodi Huisentruit, a Long Prairie native, took the anchor desk and proved that growing up in a small town wasn't a broadcast liability. We still pray for an answer on what happened to her and some peace for her family.
We relied on Mark Anthony to tell us about the weather that was coming from North or South Dakota, places just outside the area that the Chanhassen radar can see and the metro stations didn't know about.
Sure, having a television station in the next big town over was competition for the local newspaper and radio station.
But it was also good for us to have people in other rural communities occasionally see the good things going on around the state or discover that another small town was facing the small challenges we are. We learned about each other and not just when there was a fire or traffic fatality. Sometimes, to our chagrin, we learned about things in our own town that we didn't know.
Believe me, I understand how hard of a decision this had to be for the station owners. It is never your first choice to cut a service. And I am certain that citing economics is vastly oversimplifying the situation. These are hard times and the straight up truth is that whether it's print or broadcast, journalism is part of a business and tough decisions are being made in lots of places right now.
I wish the KSAX staff good luck in the days ahead. And I hope that we'll see or hear or read you again soon.