Rick Kupchella

Cofounder, I.E. Network; Cofounder and president, BringMeTheNews
Rick Kupchella

• Creating new media models, with an eye toward social betterment

After 30 years in the television news business, longtime KARE11 anchor and reporter Rick Kupchella found himself wondering: “Where am I most likely to be able to produce extraordinary television?”

His final contract with KARE let Kupchella pursue outside work. During that time, he began building his own production company, I.E. Network. (The letters stand for “informed engagement.”)

The idea behind I.E. Network: produce news programming with an eye toward civic debate and social betterment. It’s a model that combines media, public affairs, and marketing services. Kupchella seeks corporate or nonprofit partners to fund content that matches his own values and interests. “I’m trying to find this space where high public purpose, which is what journalism is on its best days, meets commercial enterprise,” he says.

So far, Kupchella has focused on health and wellness, with partners including Medtronic, UnitedHealth Group, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Kupchella’s one-hour documentary on Minnesota’s obesity epidemic aired on all of the state’s NBC stations in 2010. This year, Kupchella and I.E. Network will be working with Senator Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen to put together a “congressional wellness caucus.”

In the media world, Kupchella is best known for his other start-up: a fast-growing news aggregation service called BringMeTheNews, which produces a Web site and regular newscasts for 30 Minnesota radio stations. BringMeTheNews is now looking to expand into other states.