WILL Ag Director Dave Dickey retires
Illinois Public Media’s agricultural services director Dave Dickey will retire June 30 after 28 years at WILL-AM. He was a sports and news reporter before becoming ag director in 2003.
Dickey, whose gravel-voiced “Gooooood morning” starts each weekday’s Opening Market Report, said he’s tried to carry on the strong tradition of agriculture reporting at WILL-AM, while also looking to the future. Before taking the job, he had talked extensively with previous ag director Charles Lindy about how to report ethically on the business of agriculture. “We talked about being fair and balanced and about being advocates for all sides. That all stuck with me, and when I became ag director, I tried to be true to that legacy.”
A search is underway at Illinois Public Media for a new agricultural services director to continue the mission of providing information for farmers and others in agriculture. Dickey said he believes that during his tenure, WILL has made the agriculture service more useful to more people. He and fellow WILLAg broadcaster Todd Gleason have worked hard at staying in front of trends, he said.
“When the Web first became more relevant, when podcasts became more relevant, we were out in front,” he said. “We were doing those things here before the station as a whole did them. We just did it because we knew it was the right thing to do. We saw a future in which information would be consumed in so many other ways than in real time on the radio.”
One of Dickey’s other roles at WILL has been working with Urbana University High School students on oral history projects that they turned into radio documentaries. He’s produced 15 programs with the students, influencing the lives of scores of teenagers.
“Of all the things I have done in a more than a quarter-century career at WILL, what I’ll remember most is working with students on the Uni documentaries,” he said. “It was exciting because their enthusiasm and passion kept me young.”
Scott Cameron, Illinois Public Media director of news and public affairs, said Dickey leaves a remarkable legacy at Illinois Public Media. “In his time as ag director, he’s grown WILLAg into a regional powerhouse, on air and online. For years, he’s also been a mentor and leader in the newsroom. We’re going to miss him.”
When he was in high school, Dickey worked after school and in the summer shoveling out animal pens, putting up hay and milking cows on a dairy farm in Richmond, Ill. But he didn’t dream then that agriculture would figure so prominently in his career.
Dickey spent seven years in the military before getting his journalism degree from the University of Illinois. He began working at WILL when he was a senior, and after graduating became part of the newsroom staff. Among his many reporting awards: First place Associated Press awards in the categories of investigative report and documentary series for his stories “Inside the Economics of College Athletics” in 1999.
He said he learned over his years as a news reporter that he never knew where and when he’d find his next big story. When Dickey was the most junior reporter in the WILL Newsroom in 1998, President Bill Clinton visited Champaign-Urbana. All the more experienced reporters went to the Assembly Hall to cover his speech. “They got a fancy press badge and got to hear the President,” he said.
Dickey, on the other hand, got the routine assignment of watching the President’s plane leave from Willard Airport in Champaign, Ill. “Of course his plane gets stuck in the mud, and I’m live on the air talking about how they can’t get the dang thing out of the mud. I’m making it up as I go along with no script, just winging it.” Dickey ended up winning an Associated Press award for live radio reporting for the coverage, and learned the value of being in the right place at the right time.
He is also a licensed Methodist minister, and serves as pastor of Shiloh United Methodist Church north of Mahomet, Ill. He has formerly served as assistant pastor at the Wesley Foundation in Urbana, Ill., as well as at Bondville, Ill., and Fisher, Ill., United Methodist churches.