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BusinessNorth contributor passes away
Mike Simonson, the story editor and contributor to the KUWS section of BusinessNorth online, died Oct. 5 at his Duluth home.
The highly respected radio journalist was 57 and was a 25-year employee of Wisconsin Public Radio, WPR reported in its morning newscast. He served the network from the KUWS studio at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, where he had worked since helping to establish the Superior bureau.
"This is so sad. I am stunned. I will not only remember Mike Simonson's extraordinary news reporting and storytelling skills, but his sense of humor and kindness,” WPR colleague Joy Cardin wrote in a Facebook tribute. “We were so lucky to have him. Rest in peace, Mike. Peace and comfort to his family and friends.
His professional career dates back to 1979, when he joined KDAL-AM in Duluth as a reporter. He later reported for KQDS before being as news director of a new station in Augusta, Georgia in 1984, according to his WPR biography.
He went on to join WSOC in Charlotte, N.C., where he worked as a reporter and then news director until 1988, where he was the first reporter to win the Radio-Television News Directors Association of the Carolinas "Radio Journalist of the Year" honor in successive years. In 1989 he switched to television and was hired as the assignment editor of WCNC-TV in Charlotte.
Simonson was hired by Wisconsin Public Radio in July, 1990, to be the first reporter in the newly-opened bureau in Superior, where he was recognized with numerous awards for his work. They included two National Headliner Awards, a Public Radio News Director award for the toxic spill coverage in 1992, and in 1997 the Edward R. Murrow Award for a series on discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS living in rural areas.
The awards he received were only outnumbered by the number of students he mentored as a UWS journalism instructor.
“My heart is broken to say good-bye to a friend and mentor. Mike taught me more about journalism in one semester than I learned in four years at UW-Superior,” Superior Daily Telegram Editor Shelley Nelson wrote on Facebook. “And not once in 17 years did he refer to me as a former student ... it was/is a privilege to be among his colleagues.”
“It's no exaggeration to say that we have lost a person who influenced both broadcast and print journalism across northwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota for decades,” noted Jon Ellis, assistant news director at WDIO-TV in Duluth.
Simonson was the weekly host of the Final Edition program, which featured a free-flowing discussion with local journalists about stories of regional interest, and the creator of Radio Superior, a reenactment of Twin Ports radio programs that began with World War II and progressed sequentially.
He is survived by his wife Jennifer, also a Duluth journalist. Funeral arrangements are pending.
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