WDAZ anchor Milo Smith to take UND Alumni Association job

Longtime evening news anchor Milo Smith is leaving WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks to become associate director of communications for UND's Alumni Association.

Milo Smith
Milo Smith

Longtime evening news anchor Milo Smith is leaving WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks to become associate director of communications for UND's Alumni Association.

Smith, 43, is a graduate of North Dakota State University in Fargo.

"That did come up in the interview process," he said with a laugh of his new employer. "They were well aware of that."

Born in West Fargo, N.D., Smith moved to Bowman, in the southwestern corner of the state, in fifth grade. His mother has passed away. His father is retired after a career as a diesel mechanic. Smith helped his dad a little in his shop. "I was mostly a take-apart guy, and he would put it back together."

He began at NDSU in engineering -- for about a week.


Then, he switched to mass communications.

"I had worked at the local country music AM station in Bowman in high school, doing overnight shifts. I spun records. That piqued my interest." In broadcasting, not country music, he says.

During college, a part-time job at KTHI TV station in Fargo brought him mentoring time with local news vets Charlie Johnson, Pat Karley, Doug Hamilton and Robin Huebner.

"There were some very good reporters and anchors, and they taught us a bunch."

He began his TV work, after Fargo, in Dickinson, N.D., and Bismarck, before spending a few years in eastern Washington.

He and his wife, Fawn Behrens-Smith, moved to Grand Forks almost a year to the day before the Flood of 1997. She's a facilities architect at UND.

Not long before April 1997, they moved into the new condos on the site of the former Elks Club on Belmont Road, in a garden-level unit that got blasted by floodwaters when the dikes broke in the historic deluge.

Fortunately, because of some earlier water problems, he had gotten most of their things out of the lower level, but he missed a day or two of work to do it. "We lost the washer and dryer, a desk."


It makes it easy to remember what is the biggest story he ever worked.

"The most burned-in-my-mind, of course, was covering the flood. I always said it's interesting that the most important thing I will ever do happened when I was 28 years old."

Knowing Smith would be wrapped up in work after the flood, his wife moved back to live with her family for a time.

For him, with no home, it was moving into the station, eating, sleeping and working in a town with no running water, "going seven days without shower," he says.

"Many of us slept on the floor here. Rob Horken made us pancakes."

What really saved them was a pair of portable toilets left at a nearby construction site they hauled over behind WDAZ, he said, laughing at the memory.

After the first week, he drove to his nearest relative, an uncle in Casselton, N.D., just to take a shower, then returned to keep up the steady broadcast schedule with his workmates.

A Winnipeg columnist wrote about WDAZ being "the little station that could," and that's how it felt, Smith said.


"There were behind-the-scenes-people who did some amazing work, too. It wasn't pretty. A lot of it was reading 'so-and-so is looking for so-and-so and needs a place to live.' It was not always crucial information, journalistically, but it was information. Which I guess is the most basic thing we do."

People for years after still would come up to him and tell him how important it was during the flood to get the information WDAZ was putting out, even when the community was mostly empty.

One family told WDAZ that the simple details broadcast about people looking for people led them to reuniting with an elderly parent who had been estranged from the family for decades.

At his new job, Smith will not be doing TV, but writing features on UND alumni and putting out news releases and maybe some donor solicitations, he said.

He told his children, a daughter, 11, and a son, 9, this week over dinner that he wouldn't be on the nightly news after next week.

"They were disappointed right away because I think they think it's kind of cool that their dad is on TV. But after they thought about it for a while, Caroline said, 'Well, nobody really says that to me very much anymore, that they saw you on TV.'"

Even local news is grim enough that he and his wife figure it's better the children don't watch it regularly at their ages, Smith said.

His last day in the anchor chair at WDAZ will be Oct. 15.


After the late Chuck Bundlie -- WDAZ's original evening anchor who held the spot from 1967 to 1983 -- Smith is the station's longest-serving evening anchor.

Getting off the late shift after 20 years of night work and going to a 9-to-5 routine will be a nice change, he said.

His anchoring meant his wife has been a sort of "single mom," for after-school things for their children for years, he said.

"It will be nice to be home at night and share in some of those duties."

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to .

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