Note: This article originally appeared in the Granite Falls Tribune progress Edition in February 2017
“The biggest change in the past year has been working with Fagen Construction and MSR architects and dozens of local subcontractors to construct the state-of-the-art television campus that will become our new home in late 2017,” stated Les Heen, Pioneer’s President and General Manager. “Pioneer will start the year-long process of moving to our new studio campus in Granite Falls in the spring of 2017.”
Pioneer is setting in motion a plan to fill this space with highly trained staff, critical new equipment, and the creative resources needed to share the stories of our region and bring the world to the region through trusted news and enriching programs. Their vision is to create a vibrant regional hub where generations come together to share, to learn, to celebrate the stories of the past and the possibilities for the future.
Pioneer’s goal is to use this new Granite Falls television campus to become more creative, to build more community and to make more connections. They want to keep growing their capacity to form face-to-face relationships and to amplify what is good so they can strengthen the civic infrastructure and regional identity of our viewing area.
More than 1.1 million people live in Pioneer’s core service area. “We serve the under-served, underrepresented audiences of the very young, the elderly and the poor through a variety of broadcast and online platforms.” according to Heen “We serve the children, the farmers, the artists, the sportsmen and the families of our region with quality programming. We are very honored to have the job of telling and sharing inspiring stories about the great people who live in the small towns and farming communities of the Upper Midwest!,” he added.
Pioneer has a history of producing a variety of award winning, quality pieces of content. In 2016, two locally produced Postcards programs by Pioneer Public Television received Emmy Awards issued by the Upper Midwest Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Pioneer has won an Upper Midwest Emmy Award every year for the past four years and this is the first time that two awards have been earned in the same year in the 50 year history of the station.
Town Ball: A Forgotten History won an award in the Historic/Cultural/Nostalgic – Single Story category. It tells the story of black baseball phenome, John Donaldson, and small town baseball leagues through interviews with Janet Timmerman, Museums Coordinator for Murray County in Slayton, and Minnesota baseball historians, Peter Gorton and Frank White.
Captured in Silver also won an award in the Historic/Cultural/Nostalgic – Single Story category and features David Rambow (formerly of Pipestone) who has revived the tricky and painstaking process of wet plate photography to make rich, handmade photographs.
Pioneer’s documentary Adventure Unknown about Spicer native Alexa Score was the top vote-getter among 27 films nationwide competing in the 2016 Audience Awards Adventure Shorts Film Festival. As a result of winning the contest, the film will now be shown at the International Audience Awards Film Festival at the Laemmle Theater in North Hollywood in April 2017.
The second season of Compass started in January 2017. In 2016, Pioneer Public Television launched this brand new public affairs program. The half-hour show features packaged reports and interviews with community leaders from throughout the region who are taking action and advancing solutions on issues ranging from education, transportation, law enforcement, small town development, healthcare and environmental protection. These packaged stories are then used as a starting point for in-studio discussions with regionally recognized leaders and practitioners.
In the fall of 2016, Pioneer launched Pioneer Digital Studios, a section of Pioneer’s web site featuring short, compelling videos on topics of interest to our members and viewers from a five state viewing area in the Upper Midwest. The videos reflect the experience and insight of people living in small towns and farming communities. Granite Falls rodeo star Tanner Aus was featured in one of the Pioneer Digital Studios series about Manhood in Rural America.
Pioneer has added three new employees this past year to produce two new seasons of Prairie Sportsman thanks to funding from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.
Pioneer is working on creating a new format and raising funds for its popular Funtime Polka show. They are hoping to produce some local documentaries featuring veterans from the Vietnam War. They are in the midst of fundraising for a pilot of a local talent Variety Show and they have some new episodes of Poems from the Field to release in 2017.
In 2016, Pioneer began to lay the groundwork for a capital campaign to raise funds for the future of public television with help from a group of passionate volunteer leaders. The campaign will support critical equipment, infrastructure, new programs and staff development. “We look forward to sharing more about that effort in the coming year, which will include some one-of-a-kind recognition opportunities for donors,” said Heen.
“We can’t see into the future, but we can have a hand in creating it.” Heen added. “We intend to invest in our people, bring more live and local content and prepare to meet 21st century television media needs for the region. In many respects, the future for Pioneer has never been brighter as all of the groundwork we’ve laid is now coming into view.”
“We have greatly appreciated the support of the Appleton community for these many years,” said Pioneer’s board chair Pat Kubly. “We also look forward to a new era of producing quality television in Granite Falls.” she added. “We are incredibly moved by this transformational gift of a new studio from the Fagens and we look forward to involving many more community members over the course of the next year!”