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Jack Zaleski, Published April 27 2013

Zaleski: Bossart worked in an era of change

Chelsea, Vt. - I was away from Fargo when I learned of the death of Marv Bossart, the veteran WDAY television news anchorman. I was not surprised; he’d been ill for some time. But I was saddened because one of the region’s broadcast journalism pioneers was gone. He was the last of WDAY’s legendary trio: Boyd Christenson in sports, Dewey Bergquist on weather and Marv in the news chair.

Marv certainly was a broadcast pioneer; and that early group on the local news show indeed was legendary by virtue of perennial viewership ratings that dominated the market for decades. But because Marv anchored the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news for nearly 40 years, he was a transitional figure. He was both participant and catalyst during a time of accelerating change in broadcast news – in all media, for that matter.

When Marv started in the business the notion of a female co-anchor was either experimental or so radical it was just not done. Marv and the team at WDAY did it early. The result was a better newscast, not because a woman shared the stage with Marv but rather because a competent journalist, who happened to be female, was in front of the camera. Marv’s journalism education at Medill at Northwestern University defined his insistence on high-quality reporting. His co-anchors through the years were first professional journalists, notable among them Maureen Zimmerman and Najla Amundson.

Several years ago, Rob Kupec, who was with WDAY then, brought together four aging journalists for a radio discussion about their work. I was honored to be with Al Aamodt, then with WDAY, and by far the best broadcast news director ever to work in the market; the late Terry DeVine, one of The Forum’s top editors who demanded and got excellence from his reporters; and Marv, who had been retired a few years. Kupec moderated a lively session during which the four of us reminisced about our newsroom experiences, ruminated on changes affecting our craft, and told tall tales that had us laughing at ourselves. Marv knew how to tell a story.

Among the four of us, there were more than 150 years of print and broadcast experience in the radio studio that day. It was a marvelous hour with seasoned colleagues who practiced journalism at its best and demanded the same from the reporters in their newsrooms.

Journalism in print and on the air continues to change – some say for the better. Others disagree. Marv was part of a first wave of major change, and he adapted. Among his passions was mentoring young broadcasters who came into his orbit. When they moved on (most did, many stayed), they were better equipped for basic reporting and for the forces affecting media.

When Marv was in the anchor’s chair, he did it right. His standards were high. He imparted that ethic to dozens of young journalists and a few older ones as well. That’s a great legacy.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.