Skip Loescher, the TV anchor long a household name in the Twin Cities, has died in Annapolis, Md.
He broke ground in the late 1960s and the 1970s with his consumer-oriented “Action News” segment for WCCO-TV. And he kept viewers up on important national and world news as chief of the station’s Washington bureau in 1980s.
Loescher, who also worked at KSTP-TV, left journalism briefly to serve as press secretary for then-U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale but returned to his craft after Mondale became vice president in 1977. Loescher ended his career as a CNN correspondent in 2004.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2009, Loescher died Oct. 4. He was 71.
“Those who remember Skip from the Channel 4 newscasting days here will surely feel they’ve lost one of the stronger icons in local broadcasting television,” said former colleague Barry ZeVan of Golden Valley.
A gravelly voiced, straightforward newsman who was cool under pressure, Loescher started in radio while at Indiana State University. He worked at several stations including in Austin, Minn., before coming to WCCO-TV. As its first St. Paul bureau chief, he reported live from the studio downtown. In Washington, he pioneered live satellite feeds for the evening news five days a week.
“He could cover just about anything and had a nose for news, just kind of lived it and breathed it,” said WCCO sports broadcaster Mark Rosen.
In the 1970s, Rosen knew Loescher as a mentor who was part of a “dream team” of newscasters for “The Scene Tonight,” along with Dave Moore, Hal Scott and Bud Kraehling. “Skip had that presence on the air at a time when I think people were just starting to realize you had a consumer advocate in the business,” he said.
“When Skip Loescher was reporting for Action News, some housewife in Anoka or wherever had a problem, and Skip got to the bottom of it, it would cause a ripple. That was how he made his mark.”
His longtime photographer, Skip Erickson of Golden, Colo., worked with him in Washington, serving viewers of WCCO and WFRB in Green Bay, until the bureau closed in 1989.
“There was no better reporter than Skip to share the foxhole of broadcast journalism — not only did he understand the medium, the story and the politics, he was always willing to carry the tripod and the light case,” Erickson said.
The Iran-contra hearings led to their biggest stories. They covered the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, Chernobyl’s radiation disaster and the spy trial of Clayton Lonetree, a St. Paul-born Marine who was seduced by a KGB agent in Moscow.
“Behind the face of a serious and focused correspondent was a whole lot of compassion, heart and humor,” Erickson said.
In 1990, Loescher joined CNN as Washington bureau chief for its Newsource affiliate service, primarily covering politics, but also both Gulf wars; tornadoes, hurricanes and the 9/11 terror attacks, said his producer, Dave Ottalini.
“He was the best reporter I ever worked with,” Ottalini said. “I don’t know anybody who could grasp a story as quickly as he could, and get it down quickly on paper.”
Survivors include wife, Beverly Braun; children Jeffery, Michael, Suzzanne, Stephen and Leslie; and 13 grandchildren. A memorial service will be held later.