Legendary Broadcaster Grant Price dies at age 85 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Legendary Broadcaster Grant Price dies at age 85

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by Ron Steele

Iowans have lost a true icon of broadcast news. The legendary Grant Price, former News Director of KWWL, WMT and KXEL, died Friday night at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo. He was 85.

Perhaps no person has had more positive influence on the broadcasting industry in Iowa than Grant Price. Over a career which spanned four decades on the air and many more as a college professor, Grant Price molded literally hundreds of aspiring young broadcasters into serious journalists dedicated to finding the truth, and informing viewers and listeners with a perspective relevant to their lives.

It is very difficult to find words which adequately describe this man, to whom so many of us owe our careers. He was not just a boss; he was truly a friend, who lived life with a determination to make the world a better place to live. There was nothing more important to Grant than his family, faith and friends.

Grant joined KWWL Radio and Television in 1972, as Vice-president of News and Public Affairs. Another KWWL legend, the late Robert Buckmaster, then the President of Blackhawk, hired Grant with one goal in mind; make KWWL the top-rated, most watched television news station in the Eastern Iowa market. Grant far exceeded that goal, taking KWWL-TV to the top of news ratings supremacy with an amazing, well-calculated team plan. At one point during Grant's reign as News Director, KWWL-TV had more viewers than the other local television stations combined.

Respected by both his peers and those outside the broadcast industry, Grant was an Iowa broadcast industry advocate in bringing EMC, Expanded Media Coverage, commonly known as ‘cameras in the courtroom,' to Iowa. Under Grant's leadership, KWWL-TV became the first Iowa television station to ever televise a District Court trial with television cameras in the courtroom from beginning to end. The trial was that of Michael Moses of Waterloo, and it resulted in the conviction of Moses for the murders of two Waterloo women.

Grant was a very serious and fair journalist.  He knew that one question always led to another, even more importantly, he knew that one of the keys to being a great reporter means being a great listener. The ‘follow up', he would say, is usually going to be a lot more important than the original question. "Don't think ahead," he once told me. ‘Listen,' so you will always know what to ask next.'  Grant always insisted KWWL-TV produce culturally relevant news programs. He loved producing longer form programs, like documentaries and town hall meeting formats. A special, two-hour AIDS town hall meeting, telecast on KWWL-TV, was among the first of its kind in the country, and helped bring awareness to the HIV crisis. Under Grant's leadership, KWWL won one of television's highest honors; a prestigious Alfred I. duPont--Columbia University Award.  Many of Grant's former reporters have gone on to major market television and network reporting and producing jobs.  

Grant's reputation for demanding that reporters always be respectful and fair to all interview subjects is truly legendary. Grant wanted the answers and he wanted the truth. But, he had high character standards, and expected all of his employees to strive for those same high standards, He would never ask anyone to do something he wouldn't do himself. That's just one reason why reporters worked so hard for him and respected him with such passion.

Grant was so respected; he was selected to ask a question during a Richard Nixon Presidential News Conference. That's a privilege usually reserved for the National White House Press Corps. Grant's very tough question to Nixon about the impact of feed grain exports on domestic reserves, and a resulting disastrous break in farm prices drove President Nixon to famously remark, "The farmers have never had it so good."

A caring and benevolent man. Grant made a $2-million pledge to his beloved Wartburg College in Waverly. The money established a Grant Price Chair in the Wartburg Communication Arts Department, as well as the Fadra F. Price Communication Arts Scholarship, honoring the memory of his late wife. The pledge also established a Grant Price Scholarship and helps maintain the new Archives of Iowa Broadcasting.

In recent years, in addition to his teaching duties at Wartburg, Grant worked passionately with Dr. Jeff Stein, in creating the Archives, permanently located in the Vogel Library at Wartburg College.  The two also worked closely to create Wartburg's high-quality, electronic media and journalism department. Wartburg's TV8 television newscast, produced by students, consistantly wins top honors at the Iowa Broadcast News Association's annual awards banquet.

Grant has won every major award in Iowa broadcasting, including the Jack Shelley award. He is also a member of the Iowa Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Funeral services for Price are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church in Waterloo.  Visitation is from 4-7 Tuesday at Locke Funeral Home.

We offer our sincere condolences to Grant's daughters, Laurie Price Kemp of St. Paul, and Julie Price Barnd of Marion, and their families.  Your father was a truly remarkable man, whose influence will continue to be felt far beyond the Iowa broadcasting industry. We are all better people for having known Grant Price.

Ron Steele

News Anchor/Reporter

KWWL-TV

 

A tribute to Grant Price, including file video clips, has been posted at the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting Web site: http://www.iowabroadcasting.com/index.html

There are also tributes posted on the main page of the Iowa Broadcast News Association: www..ibna.org and at the IBNA's online newsletter site: http://www.ibna.org/newsletter/newsletter.html.

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