It was a sad day for journalism and for the community this week when it was announced that long-time WCCO radio state Capitol reporter Eric Eskola had taken a buyout from the station and was leaving later this month. A fixture at the Good Neighbor since 1980 and in his cluttered, cozy basement office at the Capitol since 1985, Eskola has brought his listeners years of straight-forward, interesting and informative reporting.
In an era of angry talk radio and mean politics, Eskola was the guy you could trust to explain for the average listener what the heck was going on at the Capitol and in politics. He made sense of things and he got politicians to explain themselves. He took his work seriously, but he never took himself too seriously. His live sports discussions with the Strib’s Sid Hartman were often hilarious.
He put more of his personality on display on his weekly “Almanac” show on Twin Cities Public television, which he will continue to host with his wife, Cathy Wurzer of Minnesota Public Radio. The devilish smile, the trademark scarf and the plain-spoken questions are all Eskola traditions that will endure.
But I for one will miss that authoritative voice on the radio. His departure symbolizes the end of an era for CCO radio, the once dominant AM station in the region, if not the country. Several other key players at CCO have left recently including Dark Star, Tim Russell and newsman Jeff McKinney. The audience has grown older and smaller. FM stations have captured ratings. Talk radio has assumed a larger role. Public radio has filled the news niche. So the role of a station like WCCO, once a brand known far and wide as “CCOland,” has changed dramatically.
Eskola has always prided himself as a kid from Duluth. He attended UMD, worked at the campus radio station, did play-by-play for UMD football and basketball. He later worked at KDAL radio and television in Duluth and was occasionally an announcer for pro wrestling at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. According to an account on the UMD web site, Eskola announced a match involving then wrestler Jesse Ventura. He incorrectly gave Ventura’s weight and the future governor corrected him, “That’s 278, not 248,” he said. Afterward, the account says, Ventura reminded Eskola, “Just remember kid, I made you.” Twenty years later in what Eskola described as a “surreal” moment, he was standing next to the guy whose weight he had gotten wrong, watching him being sworn in as governor of Minnesota.
A former WCCO official once told me that Eskola could have been a star, with his own show, voicing ads and making a lot more money than he did as a reporter. But, the official explained, Eric wasn’t interested in all that. He just wanted to be a good reporter, period.
Here’s wishing Eric the best and hoping that radio and television stations and newspapers still have a place for someone who just wants to be a good reporter and tell the story.
From Around the Web
More from Star Tribune
More from Doug Stone
Once again the Senate has failed to extend unemployment benefits for a meager three months for 1.7 million long-term unemployed Americans, who since the end of December have been without any financial help from the richest country in the world.
It’s been a couple days since I said my tearful goodbyes to 10 international journalists with whom I had the pleasure to meet, befriend and travel with as part of a nine-week program called the World Press Institute, based at the University of St. Thomas.
Sadie came into our lives on a December day in 1995 at an orphanage in Xiamen, China, in the southeastern part of the country across the water from Taiwan. She was six months old and couldn’t hold her head up by herself. This weekend, 17 ½ years later, we dropped her off at Monmouth College, a small liberal arts school in Monmouth, Illinois, where she starts a new phase in her life. How did it happen so fast? All those swim meets, basketball games, softball tournaments, school programs, birthday parties, water ski shows, doctors’ visits, family vacations, grade school, junior high and high school graduations and all the rest are over. Just like that.
In his now famous speech in 2011 during the debate over the marriage amendment, former Republican Rep. John Kriesel said, “When my grand kids look at me, I will be proud to look at them and say you know what, I was on the right side of history.”
And now the Minnesota House, caving to gun rights supporters, joins the U.S. Senate in failing to expand background checks for purchasing guns at gun shows. At least the U.S. Senate voted on a similar measure, which failed by six votes.