News anchor Dennis Weimann, left, and weathercaster Stacy Christenson have worked at Lakeland News since its 1998 inception. The two Bemidji State University grads have made a career out of serving the community they've long called home. (Micah Friez / Bemidji State)
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By Micah Friez

Published 10:36 a.m. on July 14, 2023

Nearly every weeknight for the past 25 years, north-central Minnesotans have invited Dennis Weimann and Stacy Christenson into their homes.

The two Bemidji State University graduates have served Bemidji and much of the state by covering the region at Lakeland News for a quarter century. As the telecast celebrated its 25th anniversary on Thursday, the longstanding duo held their heads high with the pride of knowing they’ve been there since the very beginning.

And, in more ways than one, BSU was at the start of it all.

“It’s home now,” Christenson said. “Bemidji is where we are now, and BSU is such a big part of ‘home.’”

Before 2015, Lakeland PBS broadcasted from Bangsberg Hall on the Bemidji State campus. They now work out of a new facility on the south shore – just a stone’s throw away from the Sanford Center and every Beaver hockey home game – and continue to fill a need of sharing the news to Bemidjians and beyond.

“We enjoy the people here, we enjoy the relationships here and we enjoy the pace of life here,” Weimann said. “Anything I can do with the news to give back and create that sense of community by telling the stories that are happening in this area, that’s what we strive to do.”

'We took a shot at it, and it lasted'

Stacy Christenson, left, and Dennis Weimann share a laugh during the inaugural Lakeland News broadcast on July 13, 1998. (YouTube screenshot)

For Lakeland to air its first broadcast in 1998, it needed to recruit a news team. And there was no better place to search than in its own backyard.

Weimann first came to BSU on a football scholarship and co-captained the Beavers while earning a degree in mass communication. He graduated in 1990 and worked in North Dakota for eight years before former Bemidji State professor Bob Smith urged him to apply for the news director position at the jumpstart Lakeland program back in Bemidji.

Weimann seized the job and then had to assemble a news team. One of his first hires was Christenson, a soon-to-be 1998 BSU graduate who earned a full-ride academic scholarship and, as of this spring, is now the middle of three generations of Bemidji State grads in her family. Christenson started at Lakeland as an intern, was quickly promoted to a full-time position and fell into the weather role because there was no one else to do it.

Lakeland News weathercaster Stacy Christenson delivers the weather during the show's inaugural broadcast on July 13, 1998. (YouTube screenshot)
Lakeland News weathercaster Stacy Christenson, left, is now one of three generations of Bemidji State graduates in her family. Stacy's father, Richard Christenson, right, graduated in 1971, while her daughter, Emma Spaeth, center, graduated in 2023. (Contributed)

More than 100 other reporters have come and gone since then, but Weimann and Christenson have proven to be the two most valuable hires – even if the intention wasn’t always to be here this long.

“My plan was to do what pretty much everyone else has done: come in, get some experience, move on,” Christenson said. “But I got married, and we started a family. … We talked about it and decided that we like it here. I like what I do, I like the people I work with, so let’s stay.”

“At the time, we didn’t know for sure (what would happen),” Weimann said of Lakeland’s future. “It was kind of a gamble at the time, what they were doing. But we took a shot at it, and it lasted.”

For Christenson and Weimann, Lakeland News has been a fulfilling vocation. Twenty-five years of serving the same community has created a rich sense of purpose and drive both inside and outside the studio.

“It’s so much fun to be out and meeting people, finding out what this has meant to them and how we can serve them better,” Christenson said. “When you’re bouncing around (from city to city), you don’t make those connections. So it’s been great. I’ve loved it here.”

Lakeland News broadcasted its 25th anniversary show on Thursday, July 13, 2023. On the desk, from left, were former sports anchor Reid Ferrin, news director Dennis Weimann and weathercaster Stacy Christenson. (YouTube screenshot)
Guests take in the displays and memorabilia at Lakeland News during its 25th anniversary open house on Thursday, July 13, 2023. (Micah Friez / Bemidji State)

In sports, Reid Ferrin assumed the station’s inaugural anchor role right out of college. The 1998 BSU graduate was with Lakeland News until 1999 and now lives in Atlanta, but he reunited with his former coworkers to reassemble the original ensemble for Thursday night’s 25th anniversary broadcast.

The trio did what they always do – deliver the news – but Thursday’s show also featured a heavy dose of nostalgia. The three had many people to thank and did so with teary eyes.

“This all might sound like a farewell, but it’s not,” Weimann said on the broadcast. “No one’s going anywhere – except Reid, who’s flying back to Georgia on Saturday. The rest of us will continue to be here providing the only local newscast originating out of north-central Minnesota. We value Lakeland country, we live alongside you and we cherish this area. … Without the audience and viewers we have, we would not be continuing 25 years later.”

Watch the full Lakeland News 25th anniversary broadcast

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