MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The world of journalism lost a giant.
Alan Austin was a producer and writer of award winning documentaries. He was also one of the original four who introduced WCCO’s I-Team to viewers.
His work at WCCO received two national Emmy awards, a Columbia Service Award and a Peabody. He’s being remembered for the impact he had on the world of investigative reporting.
“I always considered him my big brother,” former WCCO anchor and investigative reporter Don Shelby said.
In the world of journalism, Shelby says Al Austin was a giant to everyone who knew him.
“He was not only the most erudite reporter that I’d ever met in my life — vastly read, knew things that an average person would never know,” Shelby said.
Shelby says Austin was serious everyday he came to work.
“He was also the very best writer that I’d ever encountered in my entire life, and I owe him a great deal,” Shelby said.
Austin, Shelby, Mike Sullivan and Larry Schmidt were the founding members of WCCO’s I-Team. Austin was the heart.
“He believed that investigative reporting should not be done as just a litany of facts presented by a prosecutor, for instance,” Shelby said. “He said we have to embed these facts within a story that people will understand that people will gravitate to.”
Viewers did gravitate to the television whenever an I-Team story hit the air. Austin’s reporting from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Northern Ireland landed him a Columbia University-DuPont Silver Baton, a Peabody and Two Edward R. Murrow Awards.
Austin went on to write, produce and narrate nine documentaries on PBS’s Frontline, Nova and the Critical Event Series.
“I’m interpreting what I felt and grasped from his work, and his work ethic, and his writing, and his purposefulness and the seriousness in which he took his job,” said Shelby. “Something he said at an evening dinner — he might say two sentences that had the effect of an entire college education from me.”
Al Austin died after a battle with cancer. He was 83 years old.