Darcy Pohland is remembered not only as a tenacious television news reporter but also as someone who was not afraid to raise issues important to the disability community. Pohland’s death was announced March 5. She’d apparently died in her sleep at her Minneapolis home. She was 48 years old. In the days prior to her death, Pohland had indicated to coworkers at WCCO Television that she had not been feeling well.
Pohland’s death stunned the Twin Cities journalism community and saddened WCCO-TV television news viewers. Many people sent condolences to the television station and posted them on the WCCO-TV Web site. Included in those comments were comments from persons with disabilities whom Pohland had reached out to and inspired.
One viewer wrote:
“My husband and I felt like we knew Darcy because we have watched WCCO for so many years. We thought she got some really hard assignments given her wheelchair status. But, Darcy always came through with a sincere smile. When I became paraplegic a little over a year ago I was confused. How do you get around your house? What do you wear that looks good sitting? How do you get around restaurants, shopping areas, etc.? I contacted the only person I “knew.” That was Darcy. She took the time to e-mail me back with some good advice. She touched my life for a brief moment in time. But a time when I needed someone, she was there for me. Thank you, Darcy.”
“She was the heartbeat of the station, and in many ways the heartbeat of the community,” WCCO-TV General Manager Susan Adams Loyd said during an appearance on WCCO Radio’s “Mondale and Jones” show. “She was never afraid to ask the hard questions or tackle the tough issues. She exuded energy in everything she did. The speed at which she moved at all times, despite the disability — it was a non-issue for her in how she approached her job.”
“She was not confined; she would not be confined,” WCCO-TV News Director Scott Libin told the Pioneer Press. “She didn’t want to be known as the ‘quadriplegic reporter.’ She was a reporter, a Gophers fan, a Vikings fan and oh, by the way, she also had a disability.”
Pohland’s death made national news. She was one of only a few paraplegic reporters in the Twin Cities TV news business. She was well-liked and well-respected by competitors as area television and radio stations aired reports and tributes after her death.
According to her station biography, Pohland had worked for WCCO-TV for 20 years. She began her career as an intern and worked her way through the ranks to become one of the few quadriplegic TV reporters in the country.
She grew up in Mendota Heights and was a graduate of Henry Sibley High School, where she was active in music, theater and marching band. She went on to attend George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Pohland broke her neck in the summer of 1983 when she dove into the shallow end of a swimming pool. “With support and encouragement from friends, family, medical personnel and WCCO-TV staffers, she has built the career she always dreamed of but thought impossible after her accident,” her wcco.com biography stated. After her accident she spent five months at the University of Minnesota’s Rehabilitation Center.
Pohland moved back to Minnesota after her accident and graduated from the U of M. She began working at WCCO TV in 1986. She worked as an assignment desk assistant, dispatcher and editor before becoming an on-air reporter in 1994.
In her station biography, Pohland said her favorite word was “perseverance” and her least favorite word was “cripple.” When asked what her favorite story was, Pohland’s response was “the next one.” She was known as an extremely competitive reporter, who once damaged her wheelchair while trying to chase down someone for a quote.
Pohland was a general assignment reporter, who also covered the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis city government. In one recent report, she noted the limited accessible parking at the University of Minnesota’s new TCF Stadium.
Pohland was a University of Minnesota and Minnesota Vikings fan. Her late father was a U of M track star, and she would wear his letter sweater to home Gopher football games. She also loved figure skating, musical theater, books and her two Tonkinese cats, Cleo and Kai, according to her biography.
WCCO-TV reporter Jason DeRusha was one of several co-workers who wrote of and spoke of Pohland after her death. In his station blog, he wrote after her death, “She had the biggest smile and the loudest laugh of anyone I’ve ever met. . . I can’t imagine our newsroom, and my life without her. I, like all of my coworkers, have spent the past hour or so in tears. It’s painful when you lose a friend or a relative, but it’s just devastating to lose someone like Darcy.”
DeRusha also wrote, “Darcy was the only television news reporter in the country working every single day in a wheelchair. Darcy rolled through the cold, the snow, the rain, the wind. She covered the construction projects, the murders, the fires, and the inspirational. She filled in for me (March 4), her last story was a Good Question on why jingles are so catchy. She did it all, and she did it in a wheelchair. You had to look out for her in the newsroom. She’d get that thing rolling, and she’d knock you down if you were in the way!”
The memorial service for Pohland was held at the Guthrie Theater March 12. Mayor R.T. Rybak declared that day to be Darcy Pohland Day in the City of Minneapolis.
“Darcy was a real pro as a journalist, and she was a friend,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak. “She was a tough-minded reporter who asked tough questions, especially of former colleagues like me. I’ll miss every single thing about her — except the really tough questions.
“She also loved Minneapolis — and as the outpouring of the last week has reminded us, Minneapolis loved her back,” Rybak said.
Pohland is survived by two brothers and their families. Her parents preceded her in death. Her mother died in February this year.
Memorials are preferred to be sent to animal rescue organizations and to Courage Center, or a charity of choice.