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Legendary Siouxland broadcast executive Bill Turner dies at age 90
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Legendary Siouxland broadcast executive Bill Turner dies at age 90

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SIOUX CITY -- Legendary Siouxland broadcast executive William F. (Bill) Turner, best known for ushering in the golden age of television news as the general manager for both KCAU and KTIV for much of 1970s and 1980s, died Tuesday in Naples, Florida, at the age of 90.

Getting his start in broadcasting as a part-time sports announcer when he was still a New Britain, Connecticut, high school student in the early days of television, Turner graduated from Morse College, in Hartford, then joined WHAY in New Britain, where he quickly rose to become station manager.

In 1954, Turner and his wife, Dolly, moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, where he joined the Duhamel Broadcasting Group as part of a team whose mission was to build a new TV station that would be affiliated with all three networks.

In 1966, Turner and his family moved to Sioux City, where he joined Forward Communications Corporation, which owned KCAU at the time. 

Turner is credited with building KCAU-TV into a regional powerhouse since the station went on to win a series of national awards in recognition of its innovative news and creative services department.

Veteran documentary filmmaker and photographer George Lindblade was hired to be in charge on KCAU's creative services in the late 1960s.

"Bill succeeded because he was driven," Lindblade said. "He wanted KCAU to be successful and it went on to be the No. 1 most profitable station in the ABC network."

In large part, it was due to a news department that got around.

"KCAU sent crews to cover the Rapid City flood (in 1972) Wounded Knee Occupation (when approximately 200 Oglala Lakota members seized a town of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1973)," Lindblade recalled. "In Bill's mind, a TV station needed to make its presence felt. He wanted his people to be in the middle of the action."

But Turner didn't wanted people to stick around too long.

"Bill didn't need 'lifers,'" Lindblade said. "He wanted young people to gain experience and then move on to bigger and better things."   

This is how KCAU ended up with such illustrious alumni as animation director Ron Clements ("The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin") and episodic TV director John Behring ("Blue Bloods," "Gotham").

However, Turner also appreciated continuity. He got that when he hired Dave Nixon Sr. to replace KCAU weatherman Ken Lawson in 1969. 

Eventually, Nixon became the station's new anchor when newscaster Charlie Harness left the station.

"I had worked in radio in Minneapolis but Bill gave me my start in TV," Nixon said. "Bill had a philosophy that the local station that had the best newscast would win the rating war.

"Bill would always come in with 'Lawrence Welk' accent of his and say, 'You better lead the news with something local.' That's exactly what we did. Night after night, we led with something local."    

After serving as KCAU's general manager for 20 years, Turner moved across town to KTIV-TV, where he helped turn that station into a ratings leader.

Plus he was reunited with a familiar face at KTIV -- Nixon.

"I left KCAU in 1978 to become an anchor at WHO-TV (in Des Moines)," Nixon remembered. "A few year later, the then-station manager at KTIV persuaded me to anchor their newscast. I was back on Sioux City TV but at a different station.

"When Bill became KTIV's general manger (in the mid-to-late 1980s), it felt like old times," he said. 

Indeed, Nixon always admired Turner's vision as well as his commitment to public service in the community.

"Bill wanted his people to be involved with River-Cade and with service organization because he was," Nixon said. "Bill was always Mr. Public Service."

In addition, Turner served on the board of directors for National Association of Broadcasters for many years.

"Bill was a trailblazer and he was a terrific boss," Lindblade said. "He believed in hiring good talent and he wanted to bring out their best. 

Funeral services for Turner are pending.

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