Last month, longtime KBJR news director Barbara Reyelts and newscast anchor Michelle Lee both announced their impending retirement. Their departure reflects changes in the Duluth TV News market that began when WDIO’s legendary Dennis Anderson retired five years ago.
Lee steps down Dec. 27. She has been doing TV news in Duluth since 1983 and has anchored the 6 and 10 p.m. news for most of recent memory.
I vividly recall the excitement at my hometown Cherry School the day Michelle Lee came to emcee our regional spelling bee. From the bleachers she looked just like she did on TV, only she had big furry boots because it was well below zero that day. We never saw her up close, but my friends and I spent far too much time staring at her car in the parking lot at recess. We were surprised it wasn’t nicer. Looking back, this may have been my first lesson in local journalism.
Reyelts will retire sometime in the coming year. She’s been at the station for 38 years, making her name as an investigative reporter before working her way up to News Director.
I’ll always remember the exchange Reyelts had with George Clooney when he came to town to film a movie. She identified herself as a reporter for the “CBS and NBC affiliates” in Duluth. At the time they were both served by one monolithic news department.
“Now that’s a small town,” said Clooney. “I’m the priest and the heart surgeon.”
Reyelts also stopped me once at an election night party because she thought I might be one of the campaign managers, but I was really just a student reporter from KUWS who thought I should wear a suit on election night. Such is the nature of my brushes with local fame.
The news of Lee’s and Reyelts’s retirement broke during the Christmas City of the North Parade in November, so this isn’t new. KBJR has been commemorating Lee on the news all week. I’m sure they’ll do the same for Reyelts before she steps down.
Nevertheless, I thought these women deserved recognition for their contributions to local news reporting heading into the holidays. As usual, the TV will keep making noise, with different faces doing the blah-blah-blah. Let’s hope they’re as good as Michelle and Barbara.