Les Anderson, longtime metro news reporter for KSKA in Anchorage, Alaska, is retiring after a career in which he "once stood by a wet mule in a Wisconsin parking lot, wearing hillbilly clothes and promoting a new citrus pop for a commercial radio station," reports the Anchorage Daily News.
Anderson came to public radio in an interesting way, beginning as a college professor at University of Wisconsin. Decades ago, an English composition student asked him what can be done with an English degree; Anderson went to his office and pondered the question. "Then he decided to see if he, with a master's degree in English, could make a career in radio," the paper said. His first pubcasting job was at KEYA on the Turtle Mountain Indian Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota. In 1979 he moved to Alaska as manager of the Kotzebue radio station, KOTZ.
He told the paper how he ended up with his tribal name: "I gained my Inupiaq name through an on-air mispronunciation in Kotzebue. I was reading through a stack of Tundra Messages one late summer Friday morning. I came to one message from a little grandson to his grandmother to have fun in Point Hope where she was visiting and to pick — in Inupiaq — plenty of salmonberries. I knew the word but in haste to get through the stack, mispronounced it. I could hear the Inupiat laughter through two closed doors. I had the grandmother scouring the tundra outside Point Hope picking white owls. The next Monday, Nellie Moore announced on the air that White Owl was my new name."
The station plans a retirement celebration for Jan. 27.