In Steve Goodspeed’s first year as news director at WDIO-TV, there was a train derailment that caused a benzene spill resulting in the evacuation of 30,000 people from the area.
The next year, Northwest Airlink flight 5719 crashed in Hibbing on its way between Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and International Falls. In 1994 he got close to getting an on-air comment from President Bill Clinton who was in town to support U.S. Senate candidate Ann Wynia — and, in his downtime, decided for a quick jog and photo op on Skyline Parkway.
“I yelled out, ‘Mr. President! Mr. President!, Can we talk to you?’” Goodspeed recalled in a phone conversation on Thursday. “He, for a millisecond, paused. I thought, ‘He’s going to talk to us.’ He got back in his car.
“I’ve replayed that in my head.”
On June 24, one of Duluth’s most senior journalists was told by the station manager at the ABC affiliate that it was his last day. Goodspeed had been news director at WDIO for 27 years, considered a long time by regional industry standards.
“I was told that the station did not think I was the person they needed to continue leading the news department forward, and they decided to make a change,” said Goodspeed. “I was surprised and disappointed, but I do understand the station has the right to make the decision. I’m not the first news director to lose their job and unfortunately I won’t be the last. It was a great blessing to be here for 27 years.”
Goodspeed, who is 65, was seemingly not considering retirement.
“I don’t plan my vacations very well. I don’t plan my weekends very well,” he said. “I wasn’t planning my future very well.”
Barb Goodspeed — first a Sadie Hawkins date when they were students at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, now his wife of 42 years — had mentioned retirement, he said, but: “I was enjoying what I was doing.”
Debra Messer, the station’s general manager, said via email that there was nothing to discuss in regard to why Goodspeed isn’t at WDIO anymore. “Steve is a great journalist, well-respected, legacy broadcaster,” she said.
Goodspeed, a lifelong news consumer, stumbled onto journalism while studying at the University of Minnesota. He had a new motorcycle at the time, he said, and he wanted to be done with classes by noon on Fridays. A course in the history of journalism fit his lifestyle.
His senior year, he worked as a dispatcher at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, listening to the police scanner and directing reporters to the action.
After graduation, he was hired at WDIO by another journalist who went on to have a storied career — Dennis Anderson. Goodspeed spent three years at WDIO, covering the Iron Range, mining and politics, before moving to WFRV-TV in Green Bay, then KMSP-TV in the Twin Cities.
After eight years in Minneapolis, he got a call to return to WDIO as news director. “I’d always loved Duluth,” he said. “I decided early on that we were going to stay put as long as I loved my job and the people I worked with.”
Kevin Jacobsen, news director at KBJR-TV, met Goodspeed before he met-met him. The then-anchor happened to be celebrating his coworker’s birthday at a restaurant while Goodspeed and his family were celebrating a birthday at the next table.
After Jacobsen’s friend mused that it would be nice if they could get some cake, Goodspeed, still a stranger, came over with some slices.
It was a year before Jacobsen found out it was from the competition.
“I think it shows the kind of person he is,” said Jacobsen. “It was kind and generous.”
As a journalist, Jacobsen said, “(Goodspeed is) a true journalist who cares about the industry and the stories happening in our community.”
Barbara Reyelts, who was at KBJR-TV for 38 years until she retired in 2017, described Goodspeed as supportive of other journalists. When she won an award from the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association, Goodspeed led his team in a standing ovation when she walked into the pub afterward, she recalled.
In 2012, after major flooding in the region, Goodspeed and Reyelts joined forces for a fundraiser that aired on PBS — and won a joint Emmy Award for the effort, one of many the former news director and his team have accrued. They also worked together on the case for bringing cameras into courtrooms.
Dave Jensch, station manager at KBJR, said: “Steve Goodspeed and I were rival organizations for the 15 years that I was news director. He’s a wonderful man and a fierce competitor. He has the highest journalistic standards.”
Goodspeed’s peers credit him with mentoring many young journalists who have come through the market. This seemingly resonates with Goodspeed, as well.
“I have always enjoyed hiring new people,” he said. At first it’s overwhelming for them: the details, the deadlines.
“For some, it’s a light switch that comes on,” he said. “For others it’s like a dimmer switch that slowly comes on. That’s something else when you see it.”
In the month since he’s been gone from WDIO, Goodspeed has been out of the limelight, but active on Twitter, where he has retweeted the news stories created by his former colleagues. He’s always loved the big news.
“Those are the moments,” he said. “When you’re experiencing it and seeing everyone come together, literally tears come to your eyes you’re so proud, really proud of how people just respond. Those moments when everyone’s working so hard.”