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Oct. 11, 2012 Volume 34, No. 8

Legendary agribusiness broadcaster to speak Monday at MU Litton Lecture

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Orion Samuelson’s broadcasting career spans seven decades

On Nov. 22, 1963, Orion Samuelson was on air at WGN Radio in Chicago when he was handed a United Press International bulletin.

In a deep, refined voice, he read the bulletin to listeners: President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas and pronounced dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

“It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Samuelson said.

Samuelson, the lauded agribusiness director at WGN since 1960, has made many important announcements on radio and television during his 60 years in broadcasting. He’ll talk about his remarkable career and ways to develop leadership at the inaugural Jerry Litton Lecture at 

7 p.m. Monday in MU’s Monsanto Auditorium. Litton, BS’ 61, was a national leader in agriculture issues before his death in 1976. The event is sponsored by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.  

Born in Ontario, Wis., Samuelson grew up on a dairy farm where he awoke most mornings at 5 o’clock to milk cows. His broadcasting career began in 1952 as a radio disc jockey. Three years later, Samuelson was working on air at WBAY TV in Green Bay, Wis. 

His upward career trajectory continued when he joined WGN Radio. He’s been there ever since. Samuelson’s three-minute reports on farm markets run more than 15 times daily. His syndicated “National Farm Report” and “Samuelson Sez” commentary programs are heard by hundreds of thousands of listeners each week. 

Samuelson also co-hosts the hour-long WGN Radio program “Morning Show” and is seen weekly on RFD-TV’s “This Week in Agri-Business.”

Over decades, Samuelson has traveled with television crews to 43 countries to cover agriculture. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

Samuelson said he enjoys working in both radio and TV, though he approaches each differently. “In radio you paint word pictures,” Samuelson said. “In TV, you explain what is not obvious.”

Over the years, some professionals harden and fail to be open to innovation and new ideas. Not Samuelson. He is a major supporter, for example, of ethanol fuel. “It provides jobs in rural communities that have been dying,” he said. “From an economic standpoint, it makes sense.”

This summer, he was a reassuring voice for agriculture workers during the drought, which decimated corn and soy crops. He said this year’s Midwest conditions were worse than the droughts of 1988 and 1956, both of which he reported on. 

While Samuelson’s career is impressive, it has not been without misstep. In 1998, he launched an agriculture channel on satellite television that shuttered in less than a year. But he has no regrets. “Had I not tried, I would have wondered all of my life if it would’ve worked,” he said.

Though he’s now at an age when most people are retired, Samuelson has no plans of slowing down. He loves his profession.

“Every day is different,” he said.