13 at 65: Radio, TV partnership provides familiar face to farmers

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Over four decades in broadcasting, Kelly Lenz has become the voice - and face - farmers trust for the latest information and perspectives on the agriculture industry.

A partnership between WIBW-TV and WIBW-AM radio expanded Lenz' reach from the broadcast booth to the television airwaves, where he spent more than 20 years hosting Midday in Kansas.

"It was a great marriage, especially from the standpoint of agricultural broadcasting. It enhanced the image we had on the radio side," Lenz said. "For me it was the visual recognition and trying to get used to that. When you’re on TV, people know you but you don’t necessarily know them!"

Lenz said doing TV gave him the chance to meet people who listened to his radio programs every day.

"I don’t know what it is about ag broadcasting but our audience deeply appreciates what we do, the stories we cover, the market insight that we have in our programs - and that was also present when we were doing television," Lenz said. "There were a lot of stories through the years that we covered, a lot of stories we covered for both radio and television. I was very pleased that on the television side, whenever they had an ag-related story, they came to us to add some expertise to that story."

Lenz said his years working with television provided many memorable moments. He recalls a series on what it cost to grow an acre of soybeans. In a year when prices were down, he chuckles that they somehow ended up making money on their acre.

Behind the scenes, he shared the story of the "crime scene" tape that surrounded a production office in the old Menninger Hill building that radio and TV shared after a raccoon got inside and ransacked it.

Plus, he went outside his comfort zone from time to time. The WIBW-TV video archive includes evidence of what Lenz said was making good on a dare from a Kansas State University intern. Lenz rode a bull in the 1980 K-State Collegiate Rodeo, lasting six seconds.

"I have never again done anything so foolish in my life!" Lenz said.

Lenz works solely in radio now, with an appreciation for all television adds to the mix - and not just because his schedule then had him sleeping in a bit later in the mornings!

"I think WIBW-TV has a great reputation because you are believable," Lenz said. "You’ve always been there with the news that counts and the news people want to hear. So many great people that I worked with at WIBW-TV - I don’t want to start names because I don’t know where to stop."

Viewers still see the WIBW Radio farm reporters on Midday in Kansas. The partnership continued, even after the radio and TV stations went under separate ownership in 1996.