Northland Spotlight: Jarrod Thomas
This month’s feature story of a Northland alumnus spotlights Jarrod Thomas, who attended Northland Community & Technical College in the early 90’s and graduated from the Radio/TV Broadcasting program. Jarrod Thomas grew up in East Grand Forks and graduated from EGF Senior High (class of 91’). He then chose Northland Community & Technical College directly after high school and graduated in 1993 from the Radio/TV Broadcasting program. “I now live in Grand Forks, ND, but East Grand Forks is home and always will be home.”
Recruited to play football for the Pioneers, Jarrod knew Northland was the right choice for him. Jarrod noted, “I didn’t have a major initially. But, I distinctly remember walking by the radio/communications department (at Northland) and looking inside and thinking, yeah, that looks pretty cool. I think I want to try and do that.” Jarrod remarked, “I’m that kid, and I think a lot of us who have any staying power in the broadcasting business can tell the same or similar story of, I was always fascinating by radio.” Northland is home to Pioneer 90.1 FM. Studios are located on both the East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls campuses, where students are welcome to get their start on air.
When asked who made a difference and positively influenced him during his time at Northland, Jarrod said, without hesitation, “The great, and I mean this with all sincerity, the great Howard Rokke. This is a man that has done more for radio broadcasting than anybody I can think of.”
Another instructor that Jarrod considered a mentor within radio was the late Don Jorstad. “Don sort of handled the sales part of it when I was going through the program. I distinctly remember watching Don do production and cut ads and just wishing that one day I could sound like Don; if I could even get in the same zip code of Don Jorstad I would really have it.” Jarrod went on to say, “Don was a fantastic guy and mentor. He always had a smile on his face and a quick wit. I miss Don, I really do.”
Have you developed a signature style? Jarrod commented, “I think so, I tried to learn from a lot of different announcers that I heard at the time. In those days, Shadoe Stevens was a guy that I tried to mimic who was from the Jamestown area. Rick Dees was another announcer during that time. I also appreciate the talent of Howard Stern, and guys like that. I think every radio guy has a bit of a gift to talk, and that played into it as well as I developed my own style.”
Was your life as a student during your time at Northland active? JT noted, “I worked on the school newspaper at the time. I played baseball and football as a Pioneer. I was involved with play-by-play announcing both at the high school level and some college events too. It was certainly active and it was all new to me too, which was pretty cool.”
EDUCATION IS CRUCIAL TO A SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN ANY INDUSTRY
What are the positives of attending Northland? “Well, here is one thing I distinctly remember, the student teacher interaction was second to none. I think that’s a focus of the instructors and the people that worked there, that if you need something, they would find the time to help you. They will find time to make sure you get what you need. It was fantastic; classes were small enough to where I had quality instructor access and interaction. When I went on to another college that certainly didn’t exist.
Jarrod was asked to share his account of getting his first radio job after graduating. “This is an interesting story… My aunt, Roberta Beauchamp… put in a favor for me with a guy named Rom Ogaard… I’m not even sure he even listened to my tape, but figured, hey, I need someone to come in to do weather overnights for Bruce Williams…and thought, what the heck. This was at KNOX radio, which is where I work now.” Rom is now the radio program coordinator at Northland and hosts his broadcast, Northern Thunder, as Ron West weekdays from 2pm to 6pm on Northland’s Pioneer 90.1 FM.
Were you nervous at your first job within radio? “Yes, I think you’re nervous because you are taught one set of practices and how they are to be applied. I wanted to do good, I had big dreams. In those days it (the successful radio career path) was Grand Forks to St. Cloud, St Cloud to Omaha, Omaha to Chicago, Chicago to New York, and then you are a big star! So you want to make sure the foundation you lay is good. Absolutely I was nervous.” Getting that education is crucial to a successful career in any industry. “Even if it was only reading the weather at the top of every hour for 30 seconds, and — no more than 30 seconds, by the way! Make sure you get in and get out of that forecast.”
“After graduating, I went from KNOX to XL93. From XL93, during the flood of 97, I jetted to Fargo quick, did 6 months of something called Moose Country that no longer exists. Then came back to Clear Channel, and spent the next 10 years there. I worked morning drive and then decided I was ready for a change. So I took a chance and ended up out at Leighton Broadcasting, back at KNOX.” That move resulted in Jarrod taking on the position as the operations manager of the five-station cluster here in Grand Forks. “I am also the program director of 97 KYCK and KGFK — something called 95.7 the Forks, and I have a talk show, three hours a day on KNOX.”
A FANTASTIC NORTHLAND EXPERIENCE
How would you describe Northland? “I think it was a fantastic experience. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without it. I like to say it this way – it gives you college in sort of that nice first, manageable bite-size chunk. Get in, get the foundation laid, and then if you want to go on (to further your education) — you certainly don’t have to — but if you want to, you are more than prepared to move on.” Jarrod concluded, “Northland is absolutely affordable, that’s a wonderful thing!”
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