Remembering WOI's Don Forsling

Feb 12, 2018

Long time Iowa broadcaster and public radio pioneer Don Forsling passed away February 6th at the age of 80.  

He had a radio career that spanned more than 50 years. Nearly forty of those years were spent at WOI radio in Ames, now part of the Iowa Public Radio network. Forsling held a number of different positions at WOI including station manager, but he is best known as the original host of Talk of Iowa and a morning variety show called, The Morning Report.

Former colleagues gathered on the radio to remember Forsling on Talk of Iowa, including host Charity Nebbe. "He was one of my greatest teachers in radio. I use things he taught me every single day on the air, and he was also a very dear friend of mine," says Nebbe.

Forsling also was an important part of the public radio revolution when public radio stations around the country were brought together as a network, and National Public Radio was created to provide content to those stations.  He was a member of the Board of Directors that guided the course of NPR as the service was getting started in the early 1970s.

Rick Lewis, who worked at WOI, NPR and Audible.com, got his start in radio when Forsling hired him as an overnight announcer. "In later years more than one member of those NPR boards told me how Don would sit quietly through hours of discussion and then summarize everything in about ten words, crystallizing the issues in ways no one else could manage to do."

Below are some of the things Forsling's friends and former colleagues had to say about him:

"His sense of humor would always come through in little remarks, and this little smirk out of the side of his mouth. I could always tell he was pulling my leg." - Jim Pease, wildlife biologist and longtime guest on Talk of Iowa

"He had a vision for the medium, the art, the craft and he was so creative... But he knew who he was talking to and wanted to make it entertaining for them." - Jake Graves, WOI classical announcer

"People didn't think he knew as much about things as he did, but that was by design. I think he created his questions in such a way that he drew the answers out from the people he was talking to, and they were the focus of the interview." - Don Wirth, Business Manager at WOI

"Once that microphone opened, there was somebody completely unexpected, different, brilliant on the air. He was born to sit behind the microphone the way that Vladimir Horowitz was born to play the piano, or Sinatra was born to sing." - Karen Bryan, WOI classical announcer, host of Stage and Screen

"He had this wonderful sense of humor. He played great music. He had spectacular news judgment, and then at the end of the show on would come Doug Brown with a morning march to get you all fired up to start the day." - Michael Gartner, former president of NBC and Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for the Ames Tribune

"Don talked to people directly. And I think while that has become very common in public broadcasting now, maybe not as common as it should be, public radio back in those days in the late 70s early 80s was a very stiff and formal affair. And Don spoke to you, as though you were the only person listening to him." - Todd Mundt, senior managing editor of Here and Now at WBUR

"Don was curious, sarcastic, dark, iconic... and what a voice, my God. He was the quintessential broadcaster. It just all kind of culminated in this sense of humor that was just crazy." - Mark Moran, associate general manager for News at KJZZ

"I really enjoyed working with Don. Initimidating, yes. His voice was as good as anyone in the world, and he once told me he was too funky for public radio." - Doug Cooper, WHO Radio