Todd Haugen signs off after 43-year career in broadcasting
This week, Todd Haugen retired from a radio career that might never have begun without his friend’s urging.
BEMIDJI — A friend had to push Todd Haugen to apply for a part-time broadcasting job at KBUN Radio.
“I told him I’d never done radio before,” Haugen recalls, "and I wasn’t sure I’d be any good at it. He said it’s probably pretty basic to start; you just have to turn some dials and push some buttons.”
Turns out it was significantly more than that, and Haugen got to be very good at it.
For 43 years.
This week, he signed off from a career that might never have begun without his friend’s urging. A Bemidji State University graduate, Haugen was teaching ski lessons part-time at Buena Vista during the winter of 1979-80. He needed a second job to make ends meet, so he took the position at KBUN.
After the ski season ended and he was out of that job, Haugen got a call from Mardy Karger, his boss and future co-host. Karger summoned Todd to a meeting with station manager Ned Goodwin.
“Mardy said the boss wanted to talk to me right away,” Haugen remembered. “I thought, ‘Oh nuts. I’m going to get fired from that job, too. I wonder what I did.’”
But he didn’t get fired. He was offered his first full-time position as KBUN’s afternoon drive host. Aside from a short stint in major-market radio at Oklahoma City in 1985, Haugen has spent his entire career at Paul Bunyan Broadcasting, now a division of Hubbard Broadcasting with five stations. That includes more than 30 years alongside Karger and more than 10,000 interviews on Chat-About, a popular talk segment that dates back to 1956.
After Karger signed off in 2015, Haugen’s most recent morning co-host has been Larissa Donovan, who also serves as news director.
“Todd believed in me before anyone else did,” Donovan said of Haugen. “He completely changed the trajectory of my life, and for that, I will always be grateful to him. There were many doubts at my initial hire to news that I was too young to handle the gravity of the role.”
Haugen, 65, majored in geography at Bemidji State, and also had a passion for live theater going back to his high school days in Grand Forks, N.D. He said his only brush with broadcasting came in a BSU speech class taught by Louis Marchand.
While he will entertain opportunities to return to the theater stage or take on other work after leaving radio, Haugen plans to spend more time with his wife, Danelle, and daughters Savannah and Giselle. He was appointed to an open seat on the Bemidji School Board in March and will complete his term at the end of the year.
Haugen said he will miss interacting with colleagues and his adoring audience, many of whom feel like they know him.
“The really hard part (of the job) is being good at relating to people and just being a person that people want to listen to because they like you,” he said. “If they don’t like you very much they’re probably not going to listen to you. That ability to relate to people, so that when they see you and they say, ‘Gosh, I feel like I already know you. You’re a friend of mine but I’ve never met you before.’ That’s when you know you’re doing your job. That’s really cool.”