Word around KARE 11 is that news director Jane Helmke wasn’t much of a fan of now former traffic guy Pete Busch.
Based on how Busch referred to Helmke, mostly as “she,” I’m guessing he picked up on that, and that’s part of why his last day on “KARE 11 Sunrise,” after nearly 10 years, was Jan. 10. The other factor may have been a new weather and traffic graphics package KARE 11 is reportedly using and that Busch suspects all Gannett TV stations will install.
“They wanted to go a different direction. That’s what their news director told me after I applied for the job and didn’t get it,” he said last week with a laugh.
“She didn’t want me there anymore [is] the impression I got out of the whole thing,” Busch told me.
To clarify, “she,” was a reference to Jane Helmke?
“That would be absolutely correct,” Busch said adding a mysterious, “Ha.”
Helmke did not return a phone call or respond to a tweet seeking a callback.
“I worked for Clear Channel,” said Busch. “The last couple of months Channel 11 got a new graphics traffic and weather package, which in a sense meant they didn’t need our services. I was using a map used since [about] 1990. It was part of what Metro Traffic slash Clear Channel offered. Never changed because nobody ever wanted to change it. So they got a new graphics thing and a window for them to say, You know, we don’t need you guys.”
“They’ve got Bryan Piatt doing the traffic in the mornings and it’s not, like, his deal,” Busch told me.
“I would say I hope not [when asked if his successor is Piatt]. He’s a reporter right now, I don’t know why he’d want to go and do traffic. I always said the traffic people are at the bottom of the barrel when it came to television and radio.”
However, I’ve heard that KARE may want somebody who can do traffic and some real reporting, as necessary, to replace Busch. Piatt tweeted me that he’s filling in until a permanent person is named.
Bush had a prediction and a tidbit.
The prediction: “Whatever happened here is going to happen in other cities. I’m guessing that’s what it is. Talent doesn’t go with the graphics package. You get a graphics package, you have to get the people who can do it.”
The tidbit: “Pretty much every traffic report you hear [on the radio] is coming out of Chicago right now. They don’t even come from up here, other than ’CCO Radio. It’s all pretty generic. You can usually tell when you listen to people doing traffic on the radio, ’cause they don’t know how to pronounce half the roads around here.”
Busch, a married father of three, said, “I’m doing some other stuff; not doing anything in broadcasting right now.”
During his signoff, Busch made what I assumed was a joke about potential new career paths that included a spirits business with his mom. “Yeah, we’re still running the moonshine business down in Jordan,” he said, laughing.
That’s a joke, correct? “That is a joke,” he said finally sounding serious.
“I get to sleep in for the first time in 28 years, and I’m still young, I’m only 38,” he said, making another joke. “You do the math. We start young in the traffic world. I doubt there’ll be another person up here who’ll be hanging around doing traffic 28 years from now. I really do. I had a good time. As long as I worked for Clear Channel or Metro Traffic, this could have happened at any time. It happened at [Fox 9]; they wanted to do something different. I was on [KDWB-FM], which was funny because I was on there for 15 years, then. This has happened before — more so in television than radio.”