Someone You Should Know: A Farewell to Jim Olson

Someone You Should Know

TV news is a unique thing.

When you turn our channel on in the morning or at night, you’re allowing us into your home — trusting us to tell you what you need to hear.

You might say I’m biased, but I believe there’s no one in North Dakota more trusted in that regard than Jim Olson. He’s been a fixture of local news for almost 33 years.

But on Friday, he’ll sign off on KX News for the last time.

This week’s Someone You Should Know is dedicated to the man who’s dedicated himself to us for so long.

In the mid-1980s, a new voice arrived on the airwaves of North Dakota — a voice that by now has become unmistakable.

Jim Olson was hired at KX in 1986 to deliver sports and weather on the weekends.

Jim Olson was hired by the Reiten family in 1986. Back then he got to flex his sports muscle a little more, including doing play-by-play for major tournaments on the KX Network.

It wasn’t long before his gifts as a broadcaster were put to use in the news department. Jim was named News Director at KXMC in the mid-90s, and in the two decades that followed, he took us into farmers’ fields, to the White House — even into his own kitchen.

He also put himself on the frontline of some of the biggest events our region has ever seen, like the deadly Canadian Pacific train derailment of 2002 in Minot.

But his biggest assignment of all came in the late spring of 2011. Days before the Mouse River would roar out of its banks in Minot, Jim went live on KX to warn the community of a “long-term, slow-moving disaster.”

Perhaps this will be Jim Olson’s great legacy at KX: he knew that his story and the community’s story were one and the same.

That live broadcast became a marathon of coverage: 171 hours of uninterrupted reporting on a story that would permanently change the Magic City.

In the months and years after the fact, we’ve heard Minot residents say the nonstop broadcast became a source of comfort during the disaster. “Everything is not spinning out of control,” he said to viewers on June 25th, 2011. “You’re doing just fine. Just come together and help each other out.”

Jim Olson (right) and his son and fellow anchor Perry Olson (left), discussing the Mouse River Flood of 2011 as it happened live on KX.

All the while, Jim’s own home was being flooded. Once the floodwaters receded, he took viewers on a virtual tour of his inundated home.

Perhaps that will be Jim Olson’s great legacy at KX: he knew that his story and the community’s story were one and the same — so he used his voice to tell those stories, big and small, with curiosity, dignity, and wit.

This segment is called Someone You Should Know — but maybe, in this case, it should be “Someone We All Already Know”. Because for years and years, folks like you have welcomed Jim into your home.

I have the great fortune of calling him “dad.” When I was younger, I loved when people would come up and say hello to him in restaurants, or at the mall. I’d hear those people — most of them strangers — talk to him like an old friend or a family member.

That doesn’t happen with just any news broadcaster.

I think we’re all pretty lucky to have gotten to know Jim over the last 33 years.

—Tim Olson, KX News

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