Mankato news anchor’s broadcast captures national attention

Published 1:55 pm Friday, December 9, 2011

MANKATO, Minn. – A few months ago a reporter at KEYC television news drew national attention for a feelgood story about a dad who did the right thing after one of his twin sons won $50,000 while pretending to be his brother.

Now the station’s weekend anchor is drawing national attention on the Internet, but her story isn’t as warm and fuzzy.

Annie Stensrud was on the main page of the Huffington Post’s Media section Wednesday. The national Internet news source had one of its quick polls next to her name.

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The question: “Is this anchor drunk?” The two answers to choose from: “Definitely!” and “No way.”

It was a question loyal KEYC watchers in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa had been asking each other since Sunday night.

The station’s 10 p.m. newscast, which started about 15 minutes late due to a football game, began with a blurry-eyed Stensrud stumbling over her words. Her words became more slurred and mixed up as she read through stories about a new medical center in New Ulm and an event at Farmamerica.

Her broadcast ended abruptly after about three minutes. When news returned after a commercial break, it was filled with weather and sports segments. Stensrud was not seen again and didn’t appear in the closing shot, as she usually does, with meteorologist Mitch Keegan and weekend sports anchor Erick Lind.

The station’s news broadcasts Monday and Tuesday made no mention of the incident. That changed Wednesday after Stensrud’s segment was uploaded to YouTube and quickly picked up by the Huffington Post and a handful of blogs.

Dan Ruiter, KEYC news director, said viewers are jumping to conclusions if they assume Stensrud was intoxicated. There is no proof of that, he said.

There was another YouTube video that made the rounds in February with a headline suggesting a television journalist reporting live from the Grammy Awards was under the influence. It turned out the woman was suffering a stroke on the air.

In an official statement released Wednesday, KEYC Vice President and General Manager Dennis Wahlstrom declined to say whether Stensrud still is working for the station.

“Sunday night’s uncharacteristic newscast on KEYC Mankato can hardly be considered private,” Wahlstrom said in his written statement. “Nonetheless, in our judgment, the matter represents a personnel issue to be resolved internally.”

The Internet life of Stensrud’s broadcast began on the Rants & Raves section of Mankato’s Craigslist. The first post was within a half-hour after the broadcast ended. Before 1 a.m. Monday, someone made a post saying he or she had a digital recording of the broadcast.

Two days of posts explaining how to load the recording on YouTube followed. Someone loaded the video on Craigslist early Wednesday morning, and the Huffington Post picked it up by that afternoon.