Twin Cities’ viewers lost the services of a great journalist and a good guy this week when management at KARE-11 apparently forced out long-time News Director Tom Lindner, who had been at the station 19 years, 15 as the head of news.
Neither the general manager nor Lindner gave a specific reason for the departure. Most viewers don’t know Lindner, but he probably had more influence on local television news over the last couple decades than practically anyone else. And he used his influence to get his colleagues to tell visually compelling and well-produced stories about this community.
He worked with Paul Magers and Pat Miles when KARE was the dominant station. He kept the audience coming after Magers’ departure in 2003. He hired great story tellers like Boyd Huppert, developed young reporters like Mark Daly and empowered young producers and photojournalists to stretch themselves. And from what I can tell from the accolades on Thursday night’s broadcast, he touched a lot of people he worked with.
I’ve known Tom since 1981 when I made the jump from a reporter’s job at the old Tribune to the assignment desk at WCCO-TV. He was a news show producer back then and he took me under his wing and showed me how television news is supposed to work. We had a lot of fun in those days covering breaking news and political stories and the usual crime stories. Tom always did things with enthusiasm, energy and professionalism, but he never lost his sense of humor. He took the work seriously, but he never too himself too seriously. He had a refreshing attitude that he’s somehow maintained to this day in a business that makes many people cynical.
Tom left WCCO for a time to work in Chicago, but he returned and later became executive producer. When he was passed over to become news director, he was let go by the person who got the job, the same guy who let me go from WCCO a few months later. Tom and I were always able to joke with each other about our departures and about the man who changed the course of our careers. I got out of television for good, but Tom had it in his blood and eventually ended up at KARE and later became news director.
I can’t imagine why his career at KARE is coming to an end. He managed to last longer than most news directors in a business where firings and forced resignations are almost as common as in baseball or the NBA. Local television news is the subject of much criticism, some of it justified some not so much. It doesn’t cover many stories in depth. There’s too much crime news. There’s too much banter among anchors. There’s too much sensationalism. And more. But when done right, a television story can capture the human condition in a way that no other medium, new or old, can do. You connect with the subject, you understand what he or she is going through, you are moved. Under Tom Lindner’s leadership, KARE told more of those stories better than anyone else. They have the audience and the awards to prove it.
For that and a lot more, the journalism community and the greater Twin Cities community will miss Lindner’s behind-the-scenes leadership. I wish him the best. I know he will land on his feet. He always does.
For KARE-11’s farewell story: