Longtime Eastern Iowa newsman Dean Borg, whose career took him from Iowa to Southeast Asia and Europe, and included interviews with every president from John Kennedy to Barack Obama, has died.
Borg, 81, a longtime Iowa Public Radio political correspondent and former host of Iowa PBS’ “Iowa Press,” died Sunday of complications caused by pancreatic cancer.
Borg, a Forest City native, whose professional career started at WMT in Cedar Rapids, was known by media colleagues for his civility as much as his tenacity
“Dean was a mentor that shared more than a half-century of journalism experience with his colleagues and our viewers,” said Iowa PBS senior producer Andrew Batt, who worked with Borg on the long-running “Iowa Press” program. “He believed ‘Iowa Press’ and public affairs journalism was a public service, and Dean strived for truth and in-depth information in an era of partisan political coverage. His calm demeanor and professionalism leaves a void for all of us.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds referred to Borg as an “icon” who will be remembered for his “curiosity and fairness of an inquiring journalist and his unwavering pride in both his state and Forest City roots.”
Robert Costas of PBS’ “Washington Week” tweeted that Borg’s “civil and reporting-based show was one of the gems of PBS for decades.”
Borg appeared on Iowa PBS’ inaugural “Iowa Press” broadcast in 1971 and, until his retirement in January 2017, hosted the statewide program. Borg was so committed to the show that he often battled snowstorms to make the trip from his Mount Vernon home to the Iowa PBS studio in Johnston to host the show. He once showed up still wearing a hospital wristband after being treated for a broken leg earlier in the day.
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“I always admired Dean’s work ethic — arrived early, stayed late,” said David Yepsen, a former Des Moines Register political reporter and columnist who was a regular on the “Iowa Press” panel before succeeding Borg as moderator-host. “He always remembered the viewer was king: If we got into too much jargon or insider stuff, he would ask the guest to explain things.”
And Radio Iowa news director O. Kay Henderson, a member of the “Iowa Press” panel of reporters, remembers Borg as in two parts — personal and professional.
“There’s the personal part — a true gentleman, a good friend and a devoted family man,” Henderson said. “Then, there’s the professional part — the tenacious, determined journalist and I think that explains his popularity with the ‘Iowa Press’ audience. I think they could see and sense all of that.”
Borg graduated from Iowa State University as the Outstanding Broadcast Journalist in 1959, and later earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Iowa.
He reported from Little Rock, Ark., where forced school integrations was taking place in the 1950s. In the 1960s, Borg reported on economic challenges faced by Midwest farmers.
He produced news and public affairs coverage from South Vietnam and Southeast Asia, as well as Europe. He also produced news and health programming for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and hosted nationwide television public affairs programs on military affairs topics for NBC.
“To say we all admired Dean is the most colossal understatement,” said Molly Phillips, Iowa PBS general manager and executive director. “His experience, intelligence, tenacity and, most of all, integrity was what made him such a unique and invaluable journalist and friend. Whether it was a Statehouse issue, a presidential candidate interview or a gubernatorial debate, Dean always brought his best to each broadcast.”
In addition to his work for Iowa PBS, from 2000 until his passing, Borg reported for Iowa Public Radio. His work often was carried nationally by other broadcast networks, including PBS and NPR.
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“Iowa Public Radio has lost a treasured and respected colleague, and Iowans have lost one of the best reporters the state has ever seen,” said IPR Executive Director Myrna Johnson. Borg “gave us context and reporting that helped us understand our world — always with a steady hand and complete integrity.”
Borg was recognized many times by his colleagues with honors. He was inducted into the Gold Circle Honor Society at the National Academy of Television Arts and Science in recognition of making a significant contribution to television well above and beyond that required by his job.
The Iowa Broadcast News Association honored Borg with the Jack Shelley Award. He also held the Mitchell V. Charnley Award from the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association. ISU honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Citation, the highest award given by ISU to an alumnus, and its journalism school bestowed its highest honor, the Schwartz Award for outstanding achievement in journalism.
Borg is survived by his wife, Sheila of Mount Vernon, four sons and a daughter. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the family will hold private funeral services. A memorial service may be scheduled later in the year. Memorials are preferred to the Mount Vernon Schools Foundation. Donations to the Iowa PBS Foundation will help fund an annual internship.
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