Zortman Honored by National Farmers Union

Bill Zortman, anchor for KELO-AM radio, received the Milt Hakel Award for Excellence in Agricultural Journalism from the National Farmers Union (NFU) at their convention last month.

The award is named in honor of Milton Hakel, a Farmers Union communicator. NFU gives the award to someone who demonstrates exceptional coverage of agricultural issues.

Zortman’s 50-year career in broadcasting has enabled him to be present for some of history’s most notable moments.

“I was working as a news director for a television station in Montgomery, Alabama, and we decided to do a show featuring individuals that participated in the march from Selma to Montgomery,” Zortman said. “We also got to interview the mayor at the time, and he was still mayor 30 years later. We got halfway through the two-hour show, and the mayor wanted to leave because of hard questions.”

Zortman was able to convince the mayor to stay and complete the television special. A week after that, he received a call from a man buying 40 television stations nationwide.

“He wanted me to be an original shareholder and go all over the country and talk about broadcasting,” Zortman said. “It has changed my life, and I have been able to work with 40 television stations.”

He currently hosts a podcast called “It’s Your Business,” which covers business issues with a focus on agriculture. His show includes a segment featuring Doug Sombke, president of the South Dakota Farmers Union; Rob Larew, president of NFU; and other Farmers Union leaders. Zortman was honored to receive the Milt Hakel Award for his efforts in farm broadcasting.

“They said I was perfect for this award because I represented agriculture and their organization,” Zortman said. “I care about telling both sides of the story, and I want to represent people correctly.”

He does not plan on easing off anytime soon.

“At my age, you’re not supposed to be getting awards; you’re supposed to be putting your feet up,” Zortman said. “I’m not going to do that. I will keep working as hard as I can to make a difference.”