Thanks to former WCCO promotions executive Daniel T. “Tom” Cousins, live studio broadcasts from the State Fair have become a fixture of the Great Minnesota Get-Together and the WCCO broadcast booth at the fairgrounds has become a landmark.
It was Cousins’ idea in 1968 to build a fully functioning, climate-controlled television studio that would be used only during the 12-day fair. WCCO has been broadcasting live from the State Fair ever since.
Nancy Nelson, who worked as WCCO’s “Saturday Night Weather Girl” for part of her long broadcasting career, said that Cousins recognized the importance of the State Fair, how it related to public relations and how it gave the station the ability to interact with its audience.
“This is the only time that people who view all of our ’CCO on-air folks regularly got to meet them,” Nelson said. “To this day it is an extraordinary presence for WCCO.”
Cousins spent 38 years in the promotions and public relation department of WCCO, but he felt the work went well beyond the word “promotions.” As president of the Broadcasters Promotion Association in 1976, he told Broadcast and Cable Magazine: “A lot of us think the word ‘promotion’ is a misnomer — even more than that. The word smacks of hoopla and high pressure that are not applicable to broadcast promotion.”
Cousins had challenged his colleagues in the industry to come up with a new word or phrase to more accurately define all the work they did. One of the suggestions that surfaced was “creative services,” a phrase that remains widely used today.
Cousins was born April 28, 1925, to Thomas and Rinda Cousins. He developed a love of words and adventure as a young boy on the family farm outside of Griswold, Iowa.
After spending two years in the Navy during World War II, Cousins pursued history and English degrees at Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, and started on a master’s degree in broadcast journalism at the University of Iowa. His studies were delayed from 1951-52 while he served in the Navy Reserve on board the USS Iowa during the Korean War.
Cousins finished his master’s degree and in 1954 joined the staff of WCCO-TV as an assistant promotion director and by 1959 was named promotions director.
Cousins spent the remainder of his career at WCCO and was always willing to share his writing and promotions expertise with other organizations, particularly the American Cancer Society, the Boy Scouts, the Minneapolis Advertising Club and the Broadcasters Promotion Association.
“Tom had a great sense of community and what a television station was responsible for,” Nelson said.
D.J. Leary, a longtime political and public affairs consultant, said that when WCCO sponsored a community event Cousins would not only help with the promotions but he also attended all the committee meetings for the events.
“Tom was a very big part of the civic life of Minnesota, and especially the Twin Cities, on behalf of WCCO,” Leary said.
Outside of work Cousins loved reading and completing crossword puzzles. He also was an accomplished and avid photographer. After retiring, he became publisher of the Weatherguide Calendar for the Freshwater Society. He also self- published two memoirs.
Cousins died on May 8 at age 89 of natural causes. He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Evelyn Meyers Cousins, and her son; and by Cousins’ nine children from his first marriage to his wife Rose Marie, who died in April 1973.
Services have been held.