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Turner made a positive impact on local TV and the community

A local broadcasting pioneer who touched the lives of many is no longer with us.

Bruce Turner passed away peacefully at the age of 82 on Jan. 9. Turner is best known for his work as WNMU-TV’s original station manager, a career that spanned 56 years before his retirement in 2019.

Turner was born on Feb. 7, 1938, in downstate Sturgis, where he also graduated high school. After stints as a disc jockey for Sturgis-area radio station WSTR-FM and an announcer for Marinette, Wisconsin-area radio station WMAM, Turner moved to Marquette in 1959 to join WDMJ-TV, better known today as WLUC-TV.

WDMJ signed onto the airwaves for the first time three years prior on April 28, 1956. With limited resources and personnel, Turner wore many hats at the station, including news, weather and sports assignments along with other duties. According to Turner’s obituary, he became one of the most well-known voices in early local television.

Eric Smith, general manager for WNMU-TV, remembered Turner as a broadcaster for the people, serving the best interests of the station’s audience.

“Bruce was what I considered to be a broadcaster’s broadcaster,” he said. “He embodied all things someone hoping to be a broadcaster aspires to be. Integrity, honesty, developing and scheduling great programs and serving the needs of the public. The licenses granted to broadcasters by the Federal Communications Commission are done so to serve the public’s interest, and Bruce took that to heart. It was the core of all of his work. Decisions made at the station were made in the way Bruce served.

“The programs he searched for were in response to questions and comments that came in from the viewers. He took great pride into putting things on the air to educate and best inform the cultural interests of the Upper Peninsula community.”

While pleasing an audience was important to Turner, he ultimately knew the station was meant to serve NMU students in a hands-on learning environment through student-produced programs such as Public Eye News, High School Quiz Bowl, Media Meet and more.

“Bruce understood that WNMU-TV fundamentally exists to provide to the students of the university and help young broadcasters hone and develop their careers,” Smith said. “Bruce had a passion for experiential learning. He launched Public Eye News, which is directed, staffed and operated by students at NMU.

“Students would come down, volunteer their time and Bruce spent his time sharing information with them about good journalism, writing and also critiquing their performances to get the best out of students who were going to graduate and launch their careers in broadcasting.”

Marquette lost a real trailblazer with Turner. We at the Journal mourn his loss, and would like to send our sincere gratitude for all he has done for local media.

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