At 16, Boyd Huppert did his first broadcast writing. Four decades later, he’s still going.
As a teenager, he oversaw the controls of a local radio station during Green Bay Packers broadcasts. Between commercials he gathered death notices from local funeral homes to compose obituaries.
From the beginning, Huppert has never shied away from hard work. “The harder I work, the luckier I get” is one of his favorite quotes, and it shows in the care he puts into each piece. He said his work ethic comes from growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, set by his dad’s example.
Huppert’s career in television began after he graduated from University of Wisconsin – River Falls. After working at stations in Wisconsin and Nebraska, he found his home at KARE 11 in Minneapolis, where he works today, producing the narrative feature “Land of 10,000 Stories” segment.
His first task when starting a new installment is finding the focus. He doesn’t just look at the story as a list of facts; it’s about the characters and their emotions and stories. It’s multidimensional. The digging begins with the facts that people tell him, and continues until he uncovers the common thread of human interest that gives a story its deeper layers.
One of his favorite and most famous story series is about the close relationship between Emmett and Erling, a 3-year-old boy and a World War II veteran who lived next door. It was the kind of story that could have been easily overlooked, but Huppert gave it the time it deserved. He saw the story that others could have missed: the mutual respect, the tenderness. The real story that Huppert uncovered spoke to viewers, and they connected with the message. That just shows the power of journalism, Huppert says.
Stories like this take delicate listening and understanding skills, which he practices carefully.
Huppert is humble about his successes, as well as the long and ever-growing list of awards his work has won, including multiple national Sigma Delta Chi awards from SPJ. He speaks of hard work, high expectations and the wonderful opportunity he has to pick the types of stories that most journalists aspire to cover.
“If I work hard today, tomorrow will take care of itself,” he said. It’s a lesson he has tried to teach his kids.
SPJ was a resume-filler when Huppert first joined as a college student. But he’s stayed because of SPJ advocacy efforts. He said it’s important to have someone fighting for press freedoms, even when he isn’t able to take up the case with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., himself.
Recently Minnesota banned still and video cameras from all state prisons. When he discussed it with his co-worker and SPJ chapter president Ben Garvin, there was already a plan in place for the local chapter’s response. To Huppert, SPJ’s greatest value lies in knowing someone is ready to stand up for the importance of a free press like Garvin was.
Huppert also teaches at different training programs, including SPJ’s traveling JournCamp events and the Excellence in Journalism conference. He reiterates the importance of finding the story’s focus before you begin writing. Those who attend his sessions come away with a new passion for narrative storytelling and an inspiration to tell stories that move viewers. He was even a self-professed “workshop junkie” at the start of his career, attending events by SPJ, National Press Photographers Association, Radio Television Digital News Association and others. That’s how he got closer to the level of work he saw from his journalism heroes.
Huppert is always thinking about his next story, thanks to the tips that pour in from viewers and fans. His love for journalism keeps him pursuing new stories, figuring out how best to showcase people’s narratives to the community.
“That the Emmett and Erling stories have been shared tens of millions of times gives me hope for those who take pride in the craft and believe there is still a bright future for storytelling and journalism,” he said.