Waking up with Jason DeRusha

A look behind the scenes with the hardest-working man in Minnesota media

"No!" she says, laughing. "What are you talking about?!"

He smirks. "Just saying. I'm sitting way back in coach; I'm never going to be the headline. It's your first-class flyers."

C.J., the Star Tribune columnist, wondered in print this summer whether the pairing of DeRusha and Yuccas would end badly for the station. But ratings compiled by WCCO, which are based on data from Nielson Company, suggest that the current Morning Show lineup is more popular than the last.

Tony Nelson
DeRusha hard at work on a food segment with authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Tony Nelson
DeRusha hard at work on a food segment with authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

"Jason is certainly a part of that," says Caputa. "We've been encouraged by these numbers. In general, when you make anchor changes, you look for there to be a dip."

C.J. has since softened her position, saying, "My information on the transition is that he has not been a pain in the butt." She admits that DeRusha's ego is no bigger than anyone else's in local television. So when asked why she continues to call him out, she says, "Because his is more obvious."

"He just radiates it," she adds. "I guess most of them just hide it better."

It's a fact of life: People who spend their day telling strangers how the world works have egos. Julio Ojeda-Zapata, a tech reporter for the Pioneer Press, says DeRusha shouldn't be blamed for having active accounts on Twitter and Facebook — it's the nature of the modern media beast.

"He's a perfect kind of animal for that habitat," Ojeda-Zapata says.

Indeed, without his self-confidence, DeRusha may never have made it in the competitive world of TV news.

"We demand people in those roles have a certain amount of ego," says Scott Libin, a former WCCO news director and faculty member at the Poynter Institute. "You kind of have to put yourself out there every day, and then we criticize them."

The better question is how to manage one's ego, and DeRusha has always kept his in check, Libin says. If the worst somebody can say about him is that he's a self-promoter, "that's a forgivable sin."

By DeRusha's own admission, the person you see on TV is 80 percent real and 20 percent restraint. Sometimes, he conceals his natural reaction to stories discussed on air to maintain the aura of an objective TV anchorman.

"Everybody to a certain degree is playing a character," he admits.

DeRusha's next step is anyone's guess, but he's certainly not as consumed with getting to the national stage as he once was as a young man. He's been here in the Twin Cities for 10 years now, with two children who've never lived anywhere else.

"If they called me I would certainly consider it," he says of CBS brass. "But it's not the no-brainer it would have been five years ago when I was a reporter."

DeRusha's running late. After covering the Vikings game in New York, where he shot CBS promos with Charlie Rose, he's back in the Twin Cities. It's his first day home and already his schedule is stacked.

In the morning, he dashed out of a food segment to go to the eye doctor, then swung back to the studio for the noon broadcast. After that, he hopped on the radio for Chad Hartman's show, then drove to a photo studio in the Northeast Arts District, where he's preparing to pose for a newspaper cover.

At the moment, he's holding down two conversations while listening to a third on the other side of the room. He overhears the photographer recounting the scene from the film Eastern Promises where Viggo Mortensen acts out a fight in the nude.

"Is that what we're doing here?" DeRusha asks. "I mean, I'm game for almost anything, but we're gonna draw the line at totally full frontal."

Without hesitation, DeRusha agrees to wear a magenta bathrobe and slippers. When the shoot ends, he sends a picture of the outfit to his wife and gets an immediate reply: "it's a manly pink."

Although DeRusha is due in Maple Grove in about an hour — to catch his kids at the bus stop — he lingers to talk shop about art, food, and photography. He bounces from one topic to another until tripping on familiar ground: his reputation for being an egotist.

"I know that perception is out there, and I think it's because I'm out there," he says. "Isn't that an OK trade-off, though? If that's the rip on me, that's fine. I'm still gonna work harder than anybody else."

And then he's off, to spend the afternoon with his family and prepare for another public appearance in Minnetonka.

There just aren't enough hours in the day. For Jason DeRusha, 2:28 a.m. can't come soon enough.

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