Heartland Chapter Inductees


Brian Maass

Brian Maass is the kind of guy who brings his kids to an IRE meeting. Investigative reporting is not just a job for Maass. It is who he is. "Maass never stops working," says Kristine Strain, CBS Assistant News Director. "He works on vacations and holidays, in the middle of the night and at the crack of dawn. I have wondered all these years if the man ever sleeps. Why does he do this? It is not for fame or notoriety. He is driven by the desire to get everything right and to serve our community."

"Brian brings notable talent to the Heartland's Silver Circle," wrote Governor John W. Hickenlooper. "As he has honored the values of journalism for more than 30 years. Denver and Colorado are better because of his commitment to share our city and state's story. Brian has been reporting on Colorado's top issues in government for as long as I have been in the state - first as a brewer, and then as mayor and governor. In business and in government, we always kept an eye on the investigators because you never wanted to hear 'It's Brian Maass' on the other end of the phone. If you received that call, you knew one thing: Brian was checking into a tip that someone was being treated unfairly, or that a government employee was mismanaging their office, and an investigation was underway."

"I'm a strong defender of the media," John Hickenlooper continues, "and believe deeply in its purpose in our society. Brian and his stories have contributed greatly to improving city accountability - in Denver as well as the surrounding suburbs. He knows the power of sources and his medium and he never seeks to use them inappropriately. He maintains an integrity that is sometimes hard to find in investigative reporting these days."

Brian "is among the rare breed of journalist who is both doggedly determined and remarkably compassionate," writes Tim Wieland, News Director, CBS4 Denver. "Investigative reporters are known to be smart and aggressive, but not particularly warm or empathetic. I am impressed by Brian's ability to put himself into another person's position when investigating a story. He first looks for the logical, innocent explanation - before digging deeper and investigating more sinister motives. Upon gathering all the facts, Brian insists that we give those involved in his reporting appropriate time to respond. He always asks for a face-to-face interview or conversation - often asking multiple times - to get all sides of a story. The 'ambush interview' used by so many investigative reporters is only used as a last resort."

For more than twenty years, Brian has been a leading investigative reporter in Colorado and the country. Over the course of his distinguished career, Brian has won many prestigious awards, including multiple Edward R. Murrow Awards, Colorado Broadcaster Association Awards, and Emmy Awards®. While the awards are a nice affirmation of a job well done, what matters most to Brian is giving a voice to the voiceless, holding the powerful accountable - and making a difference in the lives of people living in Colorado and the agencies and systems that are supposed to protect them.

"Brian Maass is a champion in the large arena of television journalism due to his exceptionalism and work ethic," writes Todd Bertolet. "Brian Maass emerged as the sole reporter that possessed those extraordinary investigative journalistic qualities to transform the story of the murder of my sister, Toni Bertolet Henthorn, from a mere 'accidental fall' in Rocky Mountain National Park to the reality of the sinister plot of murder at the hands of her husband."

"Some of my best years in television news were spent supporting Brian and his investigations at News 4 in Denver while I was managing editor," writes Jacque Montgomery. "Brian's compassion in storytelling is matched by his dogged pursuit of the truth. He recognizes a story and goes after it. When breaking news like Columbine takes over the entire news day, Brian knows exactly how to use his skills to complement coverage. His completeness in fact-gathering sets the bar for investigative journalists."

Brian is not only a smart, responsible journalist - but also a leader and teacher. Other journalists in the newsroom turn to Brian for guidance. Brian can often be found offering story guidance, interview advice, script feedback, or contact suggestions to CBS4 reporters. He has earned that trust through his commitment to excellence and fairness.

Merril Teller

For nearly four decades, Merril Teller has played an important role, not just in the newsroom but also in the homes of the many Kansans who trust him with their lives. Generations of Kansans know Merril as the composed voice informing them when it's time to head for shelter - a source they can trust day in and day out.

Merril's career as a broadcaster started when he was a student, doing weather reports and forecasts for radio stations at Rutgers University and the University of Oklahoma. During his meteorology career, Merril has forecasted for private industries, radio stations, government bodies, and television.

After several years of broadcasting in Texas and Oklahoma, Merril moved to Kansas in 1981 and has served KWCH 12 in Wichita ever since. His work and dedication to the people of Kansas earned him an induction into the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2008.

"I have enjoyed the distinct opportunity to partner with Mr. Teller since May of 1995," writes Chance Hayes of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "During his time, Mr. Teller confronted all the challenges associated with inclement weather and delivered flawlessly in ensuring the people of Kansas were safe during some of the most dangerous weather scenarios in history. Likely the most prominent was the EF-5 tornado that struck the community of Greensburg, KS, in which a tornado 1 ¾ miles wide moved across the community, producing catastrophic damage."

"One other outbreak was on May 3rd, 1999, in which an F4 tornado moved across portions of the Wichita metropolitan area endangering thousands of lives. Each of these national significant outbreaks had the potential to produce a considerable number of fatalities and injuries. However, the knowledge and respect that Mr. Teller has within the community due to his calm and empathetic demeanor during traumatic times no doubt elicited people to act and seek shelter so that no harm would come to them or their families."

Merril is a teacher, mentor, and friend to many in the newsroom. "I've worked with Merril for almost 20 years now and to this day, turn to him for advice. He's always been a mentor to me in the business. He's a meteorologist first, but Merril has always had a voice in our news coverage as well," KWCH 12 Anchor Michael Schwanke.

Merril has always been dedicated to keeping Kansans informed and safe during severe weather. "Merril served as a calming voice for thousands of Kansans," KDVR Executive Producer Christina Karaoli Taylor said. "I remember when I first moved to Kansas, I was terrified of tornadoes. Watching Merril during severe weather made me feel safe. When I worked with him on shows at KWCH, I got an even greater appreciation for what he did for our viewers."

During his nearly 40 years at KWCH, Merril has broadcasted during some of Kansas' most legendary tornadoes and was often credited with saving the lives of those in their paths. Whether Merril's forecasting directed you to safety or simply helped you decide how to dress for the day ahead, viewers agree he's more than just the weatherman, he's a part of the community.

Humble and friendly, Merril greets every viewer he meets with a smile. "Merril's goofy attitude sets him apart from most. He can always find a fun and unique way to relate the forecast to the viewers. He's relatable and reliable, two qualities most meteorologists strive for. If you call him by the wrong name.