Former KUMD Volunteer: Eric Eskola

Living the News, from the Capitol to the TV Screen


Eric Eskola

In 1971, Eric Eskola, ’75 (BA Speech Communication), wanted to work in radio. In the fall of his freshman year, he showed up at the UMD radio station and was immediately given air time. “I was the play-by-play announcer for UMD football and basketball games,” said Eskola. “I also did the morning show, a music show, and a cross section of other programs.” KUMD’s current director, Mike Dean, was around at the time. “Eric was great as the voice of the Bulldogs. He sounded just like the sports announcer, Howard Cosell.”

Even with all those radio programs, UMD’s radio station wasn’t enough for Eskola. He began working at Duluth’s KDAL radio and TV station. He volunteered at the UMD radio station consistently until classes and his hours at KDAL took over his schedule.

Eskola began his KDAL career by making $1.50 an hour, filing 16mm film stock footage. “I was indispensable,” he said. “No one else could find anything, so they had to keep me.” He worked with Marsh Nelson, the ledgenday news anchor and sports reporter and then graduated to broadcast reporter. He did side stints as a professional wrestling announcer at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. “I’ve been a pro-wrestling fan ever since,” he said. He has a Jesse “The Body” Ventura folding chair in his office at the Capitol to prove it.

Eskola’s first encounter with Ventura began in Duluth in the late 1970s, when he announced, “And now in this corner, weighing 248 pounds, from Ventura, California, Jesse Ventura.” Jesse came up to the ropes and growled at Eskola, “That’s 278, not 248.” After the match Ventura leaned over the ropes, pointed at Eskola, and said, “Just remember kid, I made you…I made you.” Twenty years later, practically to the day, Eskola had what he called, “A surreal moment,” when he stood next to the wrestler-turned-Minnesota-Governor, and watched Ventura take the oath of office.

Eskola has served the last 21 years as WCCO-Radio’s political correspondent. His achievements include Associated Press and broadcasting awards, and he has been named one of the 100 Smartest Minnesotans by Law and Politics Magazine.

Often referred to as “one of the best political reporters in Minnesota,” he’s been known to work through the night covering breaking news. He starts his day early. “I’m at WCCO’s offices by 5:30 in the morning reading the news with Sid Hartman and Dave Lee,” he said. By 7:45 a.m., he’s at the Capitol, pitching his own brand of unique stories to WCCO-Radio throughout the day. The pace used to let up during the summer but in recent years, “We just don’t get a break,” Eskola said. “The legislative session blends into political campaigns and then election coverage.” Undoubtedly because of Eskola’s extensive knowledge of Minnesota’s politics and government, WCCO has given him freedom. “They’ve given me a long leash,” Eskola said. “I’m grateful for the remarkable freedom and their commitment to using me as a resource.”

Most Minnesotans know Eskola as co-host of the weekly public affairs program, "Almanac," along with his wife Cathy Wurzer. Wearing his trademark scarf, Eskola and Wurzer open their long-standing and popular show with a humor piece. Guest political analysts, a trivia quiz for viewers, and musical performances round out the program.

Eskola credits UMD for his interest in music. UMD faculty member R. Dale Miller and KUMD staff Frank Noviello and Mike Dean exposed Eskola to jazz. “I still love jazz to this day,” he said. "I even take jazz guitar lessons.”

Eskola recognizes that KUMD helped him determine his career choice early in life. “Between KUMD and KDAL, I had incredible professional training,” he said. “I’ve been so lucky. I’ve been blessed in my career.”

KUMD’s 50th Anniversary

Anniversary Concert at the DECC
Shawn Colvin, Iris Dement and Pat Donohue will perform on Friday, May 4 at 7:30 pm at the DECC Auditorium in Duluth in honor of KUMD's Anniversary. All seats are $27. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 218-727-2121, Duluth Younkers, all Ticketmaster locations and in person at the DECC ticket office.

Anniversary Celebration at UMD
On May 5, KUMD will celebrate 50 years of broadcasting. Join past volunteers and members for a day’s worth of events including an open house at the KUMD studio and a live broadcast from the Marshall Performing Arts Center featuring Jim Hall, Hattie and the Black Frames, Azure du Jour, and the Randy Lee Quartet. Afterward a dinner and program will be held. To register see the Registration web page. For more information, contact Station Manager Mike Dean at 218-726-8097, 1-800-566-5863 or mikedean@kumd.org.

Additional Profiles of KUMD Alumni
Frank Noviello | Phil Glende | Walt Kramer

— written by Cheryl Reitan UMD Homepage 2007

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan, creitan@d.umn.edu
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto, slatto@d.umn.edu, 218-726-8830

 

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