With Barbara Reyelts: Grammar Nazi

Barbara Reyelts may be Duluth’s quintessential newswoman. Her charisma and geniality have greeted Northlanders for years on our evening news program, always delivering the news with consistency and finesse. Barbara is currently the News Director at the Northland’s NewsCenter, in other words, she’s the head honcho. One can’t help from visioning a Duluth-style Veronica Corningstone while in her presence. l would suppose in his hay-day Denny Anderson would’ve been a good Ron Burgundy. Barbara and I recently sat down together at the NewsCenter to talk about life on the airwaves, being a mother and playing the drums in a bagpipe band.

MJ: How many years have you been anchoring?
BR: 31 years.

MJ: I hear you’re now the longest running anchor in Duluth.
BR: Now I am. Michelle Lee has been in the business longer than I, but I’ve been on the air longer in Duluth than she has. Denny had me beat by a couple years, but now I guess I am. (Dennis Anderson has retired)

MJ: What keeps you in the business and loving your job?
BR: Let me say that it’s not anchoring. I do anchor a little but not as much as I used to. What keeps me in the business is news. I love the news. I love being where the action is. I like to know what’s happening first. I love to meet all the people. I get to meet a lot of people from a lot of walks of life.

MJ: Are there any standout stories that you recall working over the years?
BR: There are a few. General Motors had a car that they had on the market for many years, the Suburban. We had a couple of accidents in Duluth involving the driver’s seat on these GM Suburbans. There were certain bolts that held the driver seat upright in driving position and every once in a while those bolts would shear off and the driver would find themselves lying flat in the back seat because there seat had broken backwards. Sometimes going 65 miles an hour on the freeway. So I checked with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and found out that they had a number of reported accidents with these vehicles, but that General Motors had done nothing to fix the problem. So I did a story on it here in Duluth. Did some more research of numbers across the nation and found out there had been some fatalities and other serious accidents that were all attributable to this bolt that had sheered off. I took it to NHTSA, they looked into it, and talked to General Motors. Eventually General Motors was forced to recall hundreds of thousands of cars across America. NBC eventually picked up the story from us and ran it nationally. The stories that save people’s lives are the ones I’m most proud of.

MJ: What do you love about the Twin Ports?
BR: I’ve lived on Park Point for all the years i’ve been in Duluth. We have an unobstructed view of both the lake and the harbor on both sides. You wake up in the morning and you look at the lake and it couldn’t be more beautiful. The city is certainly the most beautiful city in which I’ve ever lived. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through work, church and living in the area. It’s the people that make me love the whole Northland area.

MJ: What do you do in your spare time? Any hobbies or activities you’re involved in?
BR: Some very wacky ones! I play in a bagpipe band. I’m of Scottish descent on both of my parents sides. Both my father and brother play the bagpipes. I don’t actually play the bagpipes, I’m a drummer. We play in parades around the Northland and Iron Range. It’s a lot of fun. I also teach Scottish dancing and have done so for about 40 years.

MJ: Do you have any memorable on-air bloopers you can share?
BR:  As we move into fishing season we always have to remind young reporters around the fishing opener that it’s cr-ah-ppies not crappies. One time I was sitting next to someone on air and in referencing the deer hunting opener he said, “Get ready folks it’s deer humping season!” Especially in light of that young man they picked up in Superior! My kids have grown up with me on being on TV. On a Friday night sometimes I would have the kids with me on set sitting under the desk while we were on air. I’d have my hand on them to ensure their quietness. They knew that when the red light on the camera was on that it was time to be very quiet.

MJ: What are you passionate about?
BR: I’m a very passionate mother and grandmother. I’m also passionate about the news. I’m the News Director here now. I’m passionate about getting the facts right. Getting names right. And getting spelling and grammar right. Ask anyone around. I’m the grammar nazi. Very few stories make it on air before I check for grammar and spelling.