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UWRF alumnus excels at journalism career

April 9, 2009

Boyd Huppert, a broadcast journalist for KARE-11 out of the Twin Cities, has won four Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) Edward R. Murrow journalism awards, a National Headliner Grand Award, a Gabriel Award and was also awarded the first ever National Press Photographer Association’s (NPPA) Journalist of the Year award. Huppert also won a National Emmy for feature reporting and over 30 regional Emmys.

His work has been syndicated and shown nationally on CNN and NBC. But Huppert’s beginnings were humble, growing up on a farm just south of the University he would one day graduate from UW-River Falls.
Huppert is a prime example of the kind of success and national acclaim that an education and degree from UWRF can provide.

Living just outside the city limits on the family farm, Huppert said it just seemed natural to attend UWRF for college. At the time, tuition was under $1,000 a year and the campus was a mere three miles from the homestead, saving Huppert money on room and board.

Like most college-bound students, Huppert said he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. Becoming a journalist was something he stumbled upon, Huppert said in an e-mail interview.

“One day in high school, one of my teachers, Don Richards—now the mayor of River Falls—approached me about a part-time job at WEVR,” Huppert said. “Don was doing high school play-by-play for the station at the time and he told me about an opening on Sunday afternoons playing commercials during the Brewers and Packers games. Just like that, I was in broadcasting. I did all sorts of things at WEVR from playing records to writing and voicing commercials, but over time I gravitated toward news.”

Michael Norman, a retired professor of journalism and former chair of the department, said he remembers Huppert as a student: shy, soft-spoken and naturally gifted at what he did.

“Boyd was an extraordinarily committed student with an intense desire to learn all he could about broadcast journalism, whether in radio or television—the only two choices back then,” Norman said. “His talent was very, very apparent as an undergraduate. He would devote hours to reporting a story or shooting video on the big, old video cameras we used.”

According to Norman, Huppert was someone that his fellow students listened to and respected. But Huppert was humble about it.

“He never assumed he knew everything and wanted to keep on challenging himself,” Norman said.

During his time at UWRF, Huppert worked several internship positions, all TV broadcasting. It was those positions that convinced Huppert a career in TV news reporting was the right fit for him. The date was 1974, 25 years ago.

The education he received has served Huppert well, and he said he does not regret for a second his decision to attend the hometown college.

“I’ve worked with reporters from some of the premiere journalism programs in the county: Columbia, Northwestern and Missouri. I’ve never felt lacking for having attended River Falls,” Huppert said. “To this day I stay in touch with several of my journalism classmates; [we] cut our teeth together on the third floor of North Hall. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Huppert was fortunate enough to have a job waiting for him immediately following college. The summer before senior year he had interned at WSAW-TV in Wausau, Wis. The new director of the station, Mark Zelich, held a spot for Huppert until he graduated.

“I owe him a great deal for giving me my ticket in,” Huppert said.

A week before moving to Wausau to fill the position, Huppert married his high school sweetheart, Sheri.

“Sheri’s a native of Prescott, [Wis.],” Huppert said. “We were 17 when we met at the Pierce County Fair. Can’t get much more grounded in a relationship than that.”

Two years into working for WSAW-TV, Huppert moved to Omaha, Neb., after accepting a reporting job at KETV. Three years after that, a job opened up at WITI in Milwaukee that Huppert applied for and received.

“My goal all along was to make it back to the Twin Cities area,” Huppert said. “In 1996 I accepted a position at KARE and have been here ever since. In June, I will celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary and 25 years as a reporter.”

Over his career, Huppert has had many highlights. But the one that he said sticks out in his mind as the greatest was his coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“That stands out as the most fun I’ve ever had on assignment.”

But the story that stands alone as the one Huppert is singularly the most proud of is a piece about Kaziah Hancock, an artist in Utah who painted portraits of fallen soldiers from Iraq. The piece was picked up by NBC and played on The Today Show. Because of that exposure, the piece became eligible for a national Emmy nomination.

According to emmyonline.org, the official Web site for the Emmys, the News and Documentary Emmy Award is “a major national broadcast journalism competition. It promotes journalistic excellence by awarding the coveted Emmy to the very best news reports and documentary films aired on national television each year.”

Huppert won.

“I was thrilled to be nominated and went to New York for the ceremony never expecting to win,” Huppert said. “The stars just seemed to be aligned. I’ll never forget it.”

Although statistics regarding the actual number of UWRF journalism graduates working in the journalism field, Colleen Callahan, the current department chair, said that only a very few graduates go on to win national awards.

Even with national acclaim, there is still a side of reporting that Huppert doesn’t enjoy— anything crime related. 

“I like it when people are happy to see me,” Huppert said. “I’m less happy covering the dark side of our society. I still cover plenty of crime and work hard to find the human stories there, too. But as I get older I gain far more satisfaction focusing on the extraordinary accomplishments of ordinary people.”

Huppert has dedicated his life to informing the public and presenting unbiased, award-winning journalism. But he said he sees the writing on the wall, signaling a change on the horizon. Like all areas of journalism, the TV industry is struggling to find advertising and a legitimate way to compete with the Internet.

“Things are changing very rapidly now, in ways I never would have imagined. Trouble is, no one has been able to figure out a model to earn enough money on the Internet to support a full service news staff,” Huppert said. “People need to realize Google and Yahoo are not gathering news about our communities. The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press and the television networks and affiliates are the news gatherers. As their budgets tighten and staffs are reduced, the very role of the press in our democracy is being challenged. I don’t know how this is going to evolve, but I don’t like where it’s going.”