What’s a typical day like covering local news in America’s largest viewing area by geography? Expect you might have to drive 350 miles — one way. You might start out in one state and end up in three others. You could begin your day in the newsroom then find yourself in the mountains at over […]
Expect you might have to drive 350 miles — one way.
You might start out in one state and end up in three others.
You could begin your day in the newsroom then find yourself in the mountains at over 7,000 feet.
You could wake up in one time zone and go “live” in another.
And the weather? In winter, it can drop to minus 42 degrees. In summer, it can rise to 110 degrees.
Welcome to the KELOLand, where a network of television stations covers the news in all of South Dakota, plus parts of North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
While Sioux Falls may be market No. 110, the area it covers is roughly the size of England, or New Zealand. About 107,000 square miles.
“We call ourselves KELOLand,” said Jay Huizenga, KELOLand’s general manager. “We have KELO in Sioux Falls, northwest of us is a satellite station called KDLO, in the central part of the state near the state capitol of Pierre is KPLO, and then our fourth station, KCLO, is in Rapid City.”
KELO is the CBS affiliate in Sioux Falls owned by Media General.
Covering local news in KELOLand, according to Huizenga, can be a logistical challenge.
“Basically, our coverage area, we go east to Worthington, Minn. We go west to Spearfish, S.D., which is west of Rapid City, that’s 445 miles approximately. North and south, we go 235 miles from Yankton to Aberdeen.”
“When there’s a major story, outside where the majority of our news people are located, we just pick up, get in the car and go.”
Huizenga says their reporters are able to do a live shot from almost everywhere in their viewing area.
“We’re using a lot of backpack technology, a couple live vans and we still have a sat truck,” said Huizenga.
“We just go where the news is when we need to.”
While Huizenga admits that they can’t do every story in every community, “we do plenty of news about Sioux Falls, and we try to do a balance of stories from around the area, and we try and do updates and stories from Rapid City as well.”
Covering the largest viewing area in the country takes a corporate commitment says Huizenga.
“We’re lucky our corporate owners have given us the opportunity to have a good sized group of anchors and reporters. We have a good base of reporters and anchors that have chosen to live here, and we have reporters that we know maybe be looking to move on or back to their home market.”
Marketing KELOLand has never changed; the concept was created in the 1950s by the original owners and they have never used channel numbers in their advertising.
“We’ve been in business for over 60 years and there has not been a ratings book where KELO news has not been No. 1,” said Huizenga.
One of the pillars of KELOLand’S coverage is weather.
“We’re probable the only station in the country that has three live Doppler radars, one in the west, one in the central part of the state, and one in the east. We work hard to be the place to go for weather.”
Huizenga recalls one year in which they had to cover a “blizzard on one side of the state and tornadoes on the other.”
It’s at times like that, says Huizenga, that “those three Doppler radars were extremely helpful.”