Reporter’s Notebook: WJON Memories, Farewell Central MN
UNDATED -- I have some bittersweet news to share, after nearly three and a half years at WJON - Townsquare Media – St. Cloud - Friday will be my last day. I (Chrissy Gaetke) will be moving on in my career to exciting new challenges but will forever cherish my time in the newsroom and as your Rush Hour host.
Looking back at the thousands of stories I’ve published over these past few years, it was hard to decide on which ones truly were my favorites. I had to leave out many stories so this post wouldn't be a novel but I think I picked out some good highlights.
I’ve had the opportunity to interview officials, politicians, business owners, educators, friends and family. Below are some stories I’d like to shine a second spotlight on before my pen (or printer) runs out of ink.
If I had to pick one story that I was most proud of, one that fully encompasses why I went into this field, it would no doubt be the piece I did on my former journalism teacher Mrs. Mary Grundhoefer. I published the story almost a year ago. This story took me back to my high school and my hometown, memories of a challenging time flooded back to me throughout the entire interview. This woman was not only my favorite teacher throughout school but someone who truly cared about my education and future. She inspired me to pursue a higher education and to do what I love, writing.
It’s no secret that if you’ve ever listened to me and my former colleague Richard Leguil on Rush Hour that I love wine, Minnesota wine to be specific. Well, this is a somewhat new found love for me. I did an in-depth story on Minnesota wineries back in July 2016. An in-depth story typically requires months of research, interview planning and editing before it can to be published. I had so much fun with this story because I got to learn about a whole industry that I just assumed Minnesota wasn’t a part of because of our cold winters. The story led me all around the state, I got to try different types of wine and learn about cold-hardy grapes. If you haven’t tried a Minnesota wine, I highly encourage you too; we even have a winery close to St. Cloud – Millner Heritage Winery in Kimball. If you’re wondering, I prefer whites to reds.
Another memorable (and scary) experience was when I got to do a paranormal investigation. I did a short haunted series during Halloween in 2016 and I featured one of the most haunted bars in the state, Billy’s Bar in downtown Anoka. I worked with Anoka Paranormal Investigations, one of the most highly regarded paranormal investigations teams in the state. To this day they frequently use my video I made on Billy’s during expos and other events. Working with API was like working with a team of scientists, everything was precise and well planned. I also got the crap scared out of me on camera and that's just good video!
A smaller story but noteworthy story I got to do once that I loved was the time I got to feature my dogs. I did a story about making sure you don’t leave your dog in a hot car and it was great to be able to feature my dogs, Piggy (American Bulldog) and Morgan (black long haired Yorkie Poo). Morgan has since passed, she was 16-years-old, and so the video is now a family memory.
I’ve also had the pleasure of featuring some wonderful people on Rush Hour. We focused a lot on education throughout the show, Richard covered K-12 and I covered higher education as our regular beats in the newsroom this meant we had many connections and many show guests in the education field. Last summer, I had the privilege of being the first reporter in central Minnesota to interview SCSU President Robbyn Wacker and SCTCC President Annesa Cheek. Both women were featured as “Rookies of the Week” on Rush Hour and have always been a pleasure to interview.
While we’re on the topic of college, Rush Hour also hosted Kelly Radi, a central Minnesota author known for her book "Out to Sea: A Parent's Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage." After Radi’s interview on Rush Hour, she reached out to me and wanted to do a piece on me for her blog. This was exciting because I was “on the other side the mic” Radi interviewed me for her #RealLifeWonderWoman blog. I was honored to be featured. P.S. She's working on another book!
Speaking of real-life wonder women, Tami Kruzel is definitely in that category. You might recognize her as the founder of the Sartell non-profit What Would Bri Do. Tami lost her daughter BriAnna to unknown causes in 2013. Bri was just 18. In memory of her daughter, Tami and her family started What Would Bri Do. The organization hosts annual fundraisers and events throughout the year, right now their big initiative is raising funds for a grief lodge for central Minnesota. I first met Tami when WWBD was starting to take off, I was able to interview her on camera and share her story. This was my first major interview for WJON and also the most emotional interview I have ever done.
Aside from Tami’s interview, only one other story can compete on the toughness level, my story about my brother. It was hard to remain focused; it was challenging to not let my emotions take over and it is now a piece of family history. I had the opportunity to interview my older brother Jacob Gaetke after he got out of the United States Navy. The story was a part of a series I was working on, highlighting the most stressful jobs in the US. I chose my brother as a way to better understand him. My brother has always inspired me to be my best, work hard and never take people for granted. This interview reflects how committed he was to protecting our country and putting family first. I was able to learn about his life while he was away for seven years. After this interview, I felt that I had a better understanding of what he went through and the challenges he was facing coming out of the military.
Meanwhile, outside of the newsroom, I’ve been able to also have a lot of fun!
Broadcasting live from the Benton County Fair in 2018…
True story: it took Richard and I a solid couple of minutes to figure out why a radio was at our booth at the fair, we eventually found out it was a backup way to make sure we were broadcasting. #blondemoment
And yes Richard and I ate our body weight in cheese curds that week…
You might not know but I actually started in the WJON newsroom before graduating with my Mass Communications degree at SCSU. I had one semester left, on graduation day I was able to celebrate with the whole newsroom!
Holly Ball was for sure a highlight in 2017 and 2018. Pictured is my fiancé Petr.
Throughout my time at WJON I’ve been blessed to be able to meet and work with so many wonderful and inspiring people. Thanks for all of the memories central Minnesota!