Heemstra Wins Tom Brokaw Award

Jody Heemstra (DRG Media Group, Pierre, South Dakota) was named the 2021 recipient of the Tom Brokaw Award from the South Dakota Broadcasters Association (SDBA).

The Tom Brokaw Award is presented each year in a cooperative effort between the SDBA and the Media & Journalism Department of the University of South Dakota (USD). The award is unique to USD and is one of its highest honors. It is commemorated by an award to the recipient each year and by adding their name to a plaque on permanent display in the Al Neuharth Media Center at USD. The Tom Brokaw Award recognizes excellence in broadcasting, especially in the areas of electronic journalism (on or off-air involvements) and public affairs.

“I found out I was receiving the Tom Brokaw Award when DRG Media Group General Manager Diane Deis called an impromptu staff meeting on a Tuesday morning and shared the news,” Heemstra said. “I was most definitely surprised. Pleasantly surprised, of course.”

The award was presented at the SDBA East River Training Seminars in Sioux Falls July 27, 2021.

“My parents, Dale and Eileen Heemstra, attended the luncheon where I received the award. My program director while I worked in Watertown, Todd Enderson, who has become a friend and mentor, was also able to attend. I was truly honored to have each of them there.”

“I don’t know how many people were involved with my nomination, but I do know radio news broadcaster and friend J.P. Skelly (KORN Radio; Mitchell, South Dakota) and former NAFB President and great friend Susan Littlefield (KRVN/Rural Radio Network; Nebraska) teamed up to put my name in for consideration,” Heemstra said. “I had no idea they were ‘plotting’ together; however, thinking back at some of the seemingly random questions I answered, I should have known they were up to something.”

“Heemstra has covered everything from state and local events to a presidential visit to the Dakota Ethanol plant near Wentworth,” Skelly said in his nomination. “She’s a versatile and reliable journalist, taking advantage of opportunities to learn and grow. It’s been a joy watching Heemstra grow as a broadcast journalist and a person of integrity.”

“Jody Heemstra has the talent of telling a story, sharing an idea, and educating you all in one newscast,” Littlefield said in her nomination. “She understands the crucial role her stories and newscasts play in sharing the story of agriculture.”

“I don’t do radio news or farm news because it’s easy. More often than not, it’s difficult,” Heemstra said. “When I started writing news for my broadcasts, I didn’t have to think much about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. As long as I wrote the story so I could correctly pronounce things, that’s all that mattered. Now, with the addition of websites, phone apps, and social media, not only do I have to be ever cognizant of word selection and voice inflection, but also of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

“Over the past year and a half, I think the racial discrimination problems in the United States, the global COVID-19 pandemic, the extreme mistrust of mainstream media, and the divisive political climate prove words matter. Word selection matters. What we (local news broadcast journalists) say and how we say it matters. What we are writing now, will be some of what future generations find when researching history. This is our time. What we do matters,” Heemstra concluded.