WXOW morning news anchor Dustin Luecke appeared to be headed in one of two directions right out of high school: theater or broadcasting.

He was involved in Onalaska High School’s “Topper TV,” and, as his teacher for the class attests, he excelled at it.

“He was kind of a natural for it,” said Eric Thompson, who taught technology education for the high school. He is now retired.

But as much as he enjoyed learning all aspects of broadcasting while taking the class – which involved putting together a student news show that aired every Friday – he also found a love for theater while in high school and pursued that.

He attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth as a theater major … briefly. After just one semester, he decided broadcast journalism would be a better fit. And because the university didn’t offer broadcasting as a major, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

While in college, Luecke worked behind the scenes on the morning show for WXOW’s sister station, WQOW in Eau Claire. After graduation, he started working at WXOW as a weekend reporter, later becoming a weekend sports anchor.

And for the past two years he’s been a “Daybreak” anchor at the station.

“It was just kind of lucky circumstance knowing some people who gave me a chance,” Luecke said.

Thompson said he’d lost touch with Luecke after he graduated from Onalaska High School in 2006. But a few years ago, while Luecke was out reporting for a story, they ran into each other and have stayed in contact ever since.

Thompson described Luecke as a great student who was a lot of fun to work with. He said it was fun seeing him turn something he did as part of a class into a profession, and not at all a surprise.

“I’m always glad when any of my students is in a profession that’s something they really love doing and is successful at,” Thompson said.

The profession is one Luecke says he sees himself staying in for possibly a long time to come. It’s also one that he finds requires a heavy dose of caffeine.

“I usually start with coffee, continue with coffee during the show, and finish with more coffee after the show,” Luecke said.

He said he usually rolls into work between 2:30 and 3 a.m. He and his co-anchor, Brittany Lake, then start looking over scripts that were prepared, do some writing and work on breaking stories.

Things sometimes are very rushed. “Throw on some makeup, fix the hair, put on a jacket and run out there, sometimes a minute before the show, and try to make it look like we’ve been sitting there ready for the last 15 minutes,” Luecke said.

When the two-hour show ends at 7 a.m., he does some reporting for future stories and sets up guests for future shows.

His day typically ends around 11 a.m. He said he usually then will take a short nap before picking up his son, Damian, from daycare.

“Then we have playtime, a bottle, and wait for mom to come home,” Luecke said, directing the comment toward his grinning, 5-month-old son. “And daddy will still sometimes fall asleep on the couch at 8:30.”

Luecke admits that the hours he works aren’t ideal for sleep, but if the opportunity to work an evening show came up, he’d have to give it some thought.

Besides golf in the summer, working the morning show allows Luecke to continue to pursue his other hobby – theater. It’s something both he and his wife, Dominique, are involved in. And it’s something he probably wouldn’t get to do if he had to work in the evenings.

“We like doing what we do in the community theater,” Luecke said. “That would be a big decision.”

Luecke said his most memorable story happened this past spring – when he was able to combine both his interest in theater and news.

He was invited to join an a capella group from Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau for a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York.

“It was such a whirlwind thing, but to be a part of that and share in that experience was pretty special,” Luecke said.

As a news anchor, he said he doesn’t recognized very often.

“I catch people looking at you,” interjected his wife, Dominque, from another room.

Interestingly, he said, he’s been recognized more often for the theater productions he’s been involved in.

However, he said being recognized as an anchor is part of the job and is expected. It’s also appreciated.

“It makes getting up at the time I do a lot easier knowing that there are people who watch and are appreciative of the work that we do,” Luecke said.

He said he hasn’t thought much about his long-term career plans, but just knows that he’s happy and comfortable where he’s at.

“I love doing what I do, and if I can keep anchoring and reporting throughout my working life, as long as I still love it, I’d love to do that,” Luecke said.

“I love doing what I do, and if I can keep anchoring and reporting throughout my working life, as long as I still love it, I’d love to do that.” Dustin Luecke

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La Crosse Tribune entertainment and county government reporter

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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