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Emily Welker, Published June 21 2013

Local Fox anchor Austen Schauer to leave TV for Park Christian job

FARGO – Viewers of the local Fox affiliate’s newscasts will soon say goodbye to a familiar face.

Austen Schauer, a 36-year veteran of TV news in the region, announced Friday he is stepping down as co-anchor at KVRR later this summer to work as a fundraiser for Park Christian School in Moorhead.

His departure from TV is also a split-up from KVRR news director Jim Shaw, who has worked side-by-side with Schauer nearly continuously since 1980.

“This is not just another opening,” Shaw said Friday, moments after announcing to newsroom staff that Schauer’s last show is Aug. 2. “I’m losing the guy I’ve spent more hours with than my spouse.”

“It’ll be tough leaving Jim too,” said Schauer, a groomsman at Shaw’s wedding. “But for now, I want to concentrate on the good.”

Schauer will help Park Christian raise money for a planned $20 million to $25 million new school it hopes to break ground on in south Moorhead by 2017.

It’s the first non-air job Schauer will hold in more than three decades on the air, beginning at the ABC affiliate in Grand Forks, WDAZ, in 1977, then going in 1980 to report alongside – literally, at adjacent desks — then-reporter Shaw at WDAY in Fargo.

WDAY, like The Forum, is owned by Forum Communications Co.

The pair worked together until Shaw left WDAY to accept the news director gig at the newly created KVRR News in fall 1999.

“I came over here and didn’t have a staff,” said Shaw, of the first days at KVRR. “When I left WDAY I never thought I’d work with Austen again ... he’s the one who approached me.”

Shaw recalls warning Schauer that launching a new TV news operation would not be easy. “It was a big gamble – it could have been a flop,” he said.

Schauer moved over to KVRR in mid-2000.

“He’s so doggone good – fabulous producer, great news sense – and he works well with the young people we have here,” Shaw said.

Schauer is the second of the “original three” who came from WDAY with Shaw to leave this year, after longtime meteorologist Kip Hines took a job in marketing with Titan Machinery in January.

“It’s emotional – it’s difficult,” the 56-year-old said of the move away from the anchor desk. “We’re the small group, the little guys. You get tight with people.”

Schauer said the move to Park Christian began when

Erv Inniger, former basketball coach at North Dakota State University now coaching at Park Christian, approached him two or three months ago to talk about the job. He’ll start at the school on Aug. 12.

“I’m a P.K. – preacher’s kid,” he said. “I’ve always had ministry close to my heart.”

Kent Hannestad, president of Park Christian, said Schauer’s had relatives who attended the school over the years, but it was “a big step of faith for him.”

Shaw said it’s too early to see a front-runner for the anchor opening. Especially with the ratings boost Fox enjoyed in the May book, it’s tough to think about replacing Schauer, he said.

And after a long career in TV news, Schauer was glad to leave on his own terms.

“One thing about broadcasting, most times they’re showing you the door,” he said. “How can I complain about 36 years? And when I leave, it’ll be somebody else’s opportunity.”