SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For decades, Steve Hemmingsen was the face of KELOLAND News, serving as a reporter and anchorman from 1969 until his retirement in 2000. As part of the celebration of KELOLAND TV’s 70th anniversary, we caught up with the former newsman who’s now a snowbird living in Florida.
Hemmingsen covered some of the biggest stories in KELOLAND’s history. The Rapid City Flood. The plane crash that killed Governor George Mickelson. An inmate riot at the South Dakota penitentiary. Hemmingsen, along with then-Chief Photographer Dexter Gronseth, were also among the very first Americans to visit Vietnam following the end of the war.
“That opened even my eyes to, ‘Hey, there’s a whole ‘nother world out there,'” Hemmingsen said.
Generations of viewers also remember Hemmingsen as the longtime anchor of the 6 and 10 o’clock news.
“You were automatically kind of a big fish in a small pond, might be a carp, but a big fish,” Hemmingsen said.
Following his retirement, Hemmingsen moved to a cabin on Lake Hendricks in Minnesota and now lives full-time in South Florida.
“I found out a lesson twice now. You don’t want to move to a getaway spot because then you’ve taken away your getaway spot. So I’m not sure this will be the last move, but I’m more or less enjoying it except for a little interlude like Hurricane Ian,” Hemmingsen said.
In Hemmingsen’s day, reporters shot stories on film before making the switch to videotape. Hemmingsen marvels at the wireless platforms of today, including our Zoom interview for this story.
“I’m amazed by this technology, what we can do now. I remember when we got the satellite truck and thought that was the be-all and end-all. And the last I heard it was collecting pigeon droppings someplace,” Hemmingsen said.
Hemmingsen’s writing style was always blunt and to-the-point.
“I know I was accused of being opinionated, but the stories were always balanced,” Hemmingsen said.
Hemmingsen says that legacy of fairness was a hallmark of KELOLAND News from the very beginning.
“I always thought my mission was just to not screw it up. And I think I succeeded in not screwing it up,” Hemmingsen said.
Hemmingsen’s coverage in Vietnam also included the Vietnamese government returning the remains of 27 Americans killed in action during the war.
Hemmingsen says he still follows local news by checking stories on KELOLAND.com.
He spends much of his retirement working in his shop in Florida.