Korrie Wenzel

Publisher, The Daily Republic

Mitchell, SD

[SD-E 0101]

I was in sports for many years here, and the editor at the time suggested I move into news for a couple of years to get a feel for it because she knew I wanted to rise up in our newsroom. And it’s very hard to go straight from sports to editor. And I always wanted to be an editor. And in one of my first years in news, I covered a tornado – a devastating tornado – in Spencer S.D., which is about 30 miles from here. And it really showed me what it takes to be in this business, and the impact that you can have.

We competed directly. CNN, and all these big networks brought satellite trucks, and the big newspapers were all here. Some of our competitors were there all the time and the Associated Press brought in extra people, and here was The Daily Republic – this small town newspaper, 12,000 circulation – and I thought we held our own.

And it taught me what it takes. But also it taught me by watching how everyone else reacted in the media there. It taught me a lot of the do’s and don’ts about intrusiveness and how you cover people.

I learned that sources appreciate being handled in a certain way. And that sometimes, frankly, people just need to be left alone. And I didn’t feel that all the media outlets were very good about that during the Spencer tornado. That was a town of about 350 people. And when we got there early on, they were happy to visit with anybody, but as the days went on and the weeks wore on they, understandably, became very tired of the media. And again, we like to think big, but we still, in my opinion, have a heart and understand that these are our people here.

The Spencer tornado probably more than anything put me in the direction of saying, “Newspapers can make a difference and people want to read you.” They didn’t have a TV. Those people didn’t have power. They didn’t have anything, but they’d sure – I’d see them reading The Daily Republic. And nothing made me prouder and that was a great moment for us.

Another moment was another weather-related [event], and I was actually in sports.

We had what appeared to be a tornado, but it was a microburst [that] hit Mitchell. And it happened on a Saturday morning – at 3 in the morning. Well, of course, we don’t have a Sunday paper.

We came in a dawn and put out an extra edition. We advertised it on the radio, and when I walked out the door there were people lined up to get it – on a Saturday at six o’clock in the afternoon. And there again nothing made me prouder.

It was the best day I ever had at work.