Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Yachats Gazette, August 30, 2012

real life reporting: marion brooks

The Yachats Gazette spoke with Marion Brooks, TV news anchor and reporter for WMAQ TV in Chicago, Illinois.

TYG: What is a TV news anchor? We don’t have TV at home, so we know practically nothing about television.
MB: Well, basically, what the news anchor element of my job is, is to read the news on the air. We have other people who sort of put it together, and I do some final editing and reviewing. But basically I tell the stories in a specific newscast. Our newscasts are about 30 minutes long. Sometimes I have a co-anchor, and sometimes I don’t (a co-anchor is someone I anchor with).

TYG: Yeah, cool!  What kind of reporting work do you do?
MB: Well, I do a lot of different things. I’ve been a reporter and an anchor my whole career. They’re two completely different types of jobs. A reporter goes out into the field and interviews people just like you’re doing now. I’d use a microphone, but I’d also have a camera person with me who would take your picture while we’re doing it. And then I will use that interview, and I will edit it—transcribe it, typically, and then I will pull out the sound bites, as they’re called: little snippets of the interview that I want to use. And then we’ll use the pictures from wherever we’re doing the story, […] and then I will write a script, and then a lot of times that same photographer will edit the materials together, and we’ll put it on the news! That’s the reporter part of my job. The anchor part of my job I just described to you, but I’m also a talk show host, where I interview people live on television about specific subjects.

TYG: That’s really cool! I actually have watched TV, but only in hotels.
MB: And have you seen newscasts there?

TYG: Sometimes. How do you collect your information?
MB: Well, I use a lot of different sources. Google is a good starting point, because a lot of that is about background and research. And once I get the research done, the best thing you can do is go directly to the source. So say there is a fire happening somewhere, and you pull up on the scene, well some of the official source folks there are going to be the firefighters, and the people who are affected, like someone who may be a victim of that fire, somebody who may have gotten out, somebody who makes a rescue and they’re not a firefighter—you may try to find whoever’s on the scene that may be directly connected to that situation. So, bottom line is that you want to go as close to the source as you can get.

TYG: That’s very interesting! Why did you choose this line of work? 
MB: Well, this lady had something to do with that [points to her mother who lives in Yachats]! I was planning to go to law school, but after I finished college I wasn’t quite ready to go to law school financially. And my mom would always say: “You know, you should try that line of work: journalism. I think you’d be really good at it!” And she felt that way because we have one of those households where you sit around and talk about issues at the table, and you sort of had to formulate your positions on things, and really stand your own. And that’s a lot of what you do in what I do. And she felt that I wrote well and spoke well, so it might be a good fit for me—and she was right! So I really like what I do. And you know another thing that’s really cool about it? [conspiratorially] I’m nosy. [laughter all around] “Curious” is the nicer way to say it, but I really am curious: […] I want to know everything about everything, and so it really fits when you’re a journalist, when you want to know a lot of stuff. 

TYG: What are the hours you currently work? Is that more or less than you used to work?
MB: My hours have been kind of all over the board: I’ve worked mornings, I’ve worked evenings, right now I sort of work midday: 11 to 7:30. So, it varies. But sometimes when something’s happening, you could end up working many, many, many hours—it really depends what’s going on. […] 

TYG: What skills do you have to have to be a reporter like you? 
MB: I think the most important thing you have to have is what I said: a natural curiosity. You have to be interested in things. That’s one. Two, you have to know how to write well. And a lot of what you develop as you go along, is that you learn to think, and you learn to process information, so you need really good analytical skills. And that’s stuff you can get through things like reading and analyzing literature, things like that. Those skills are really important. Writing, thinking, and you must be curious. If you’re not curious, you will not be a good reporter. 

 TYG: That makes for a lot of sense. What was your most exciting ever news report? 
MB: Exciting? Oh, I’ve done a lot of different stories. And some of the stuff that I like to do the best has to do with investigating. You get a tip on something, or you come up with an idea about something, and you get a chance to really look into it, and you may find out that there’s more to it than you thought there was. So those are the kind of stories that I really like. I’m working now on a story that I’ve been working on for 15 years.

TYG: Holy cow! What kind of story could you possibly follow for 15 years?
Yeah! Well, they don’t come to a conclusion! This story started out actually because of my investigation. I found out some stuff about something—it’s a murder—and because of the stuff I found out about it, it’s now in Federal court! So that’s why I’m still following it. It made its way through the State court system, and now it’s in the Federal court.

TYG: Wow, that’s amazing!
Yeah—a lot of stories take a long time. You just sort of sit and watch, and keep digging and keep digging, and it may take a long time for them to come together. […] When I was in St. Louis, there was a massive flood the entire summer, called the Great Flood of 1993. You weren’t even a thought yet in 1993! But that was a huge flood that affected a lot of people in the area. We spent the summer trying to report to people what rivers were rising and when, and what they needed to watch out for, and where there were sand-bagging operations so people wouldn’t lose their homes—a lot of people did lose their homes. So we tried to help them find help, and different resources and stuff like that. We do a lot of different sorts of stuff. That’s the other thing I really like about my job: I get to do a lot of different kinds of stuff.

TYG: Great! Thank you so much for your time!
You’re welcome! Can I ask you a question?

TYG: Sure!
What made you decide to become a young reporter? 
TYG: Well, three things, I’d say. One was, I’m obsessed with trains, and I kind of wanted to make some money to add on for my train set. Two is that I wanted to help the community, help local businesses and such. And three, I think I’m filling a void: there hasn’t been a local newspaper. I mean, there’s the City news, but there hasn’t been a private newspaper for a long time now.

continued: interview with dave baldwin

The Triple Play event turned out to be a great success, and another is in the works for next year! In the meantime, Dave has been busy with his Yachats baseball blog, “The Rubbery Shrubbery,” which chronicles the efforts of Yachatians to acquire a major league baseball franchise. Here the Yachats Gazette gives you the rest of the interview that was begun last month.

TYG: When did your career in poetry start?
Ah, let’s see…. I guess I got started in poetry when I was playing baseball and I was traveling from city to city… and you’ve got a lot of time on your hands every day when you’re on the road in baseball… and in each of these cities I would go to the library, and read. And I started reading a lot of poetry from that. And that got me started.

TYG: When did you start doing stuff on the air?
Um, baseball players are asked to do interviews and so forth all the time, so for as long as I can remember, even in high school, I was interviewed on television and on radio.

TYG: Wow—you must have been so brave!
Dave: [laughter] Oh, I don’t know… not necessarily! I was terrified the first few times!

TYG: How did you survive a burning airplane and a death-defying bus trip?
Ah! The burning airplane: We were flying from Dallas to Denver in a four-engine prop plane—it was a chartered flight, so just the team, but we had all of our equipment loaded on the plane too…. And over Kansas, I think it was Garden City, in southwestern Kansas, one of the engines caught on fire—started burning—and we were all, uh, very interested in that. [laughter]

TYG: You weren’t scared and running for the emergency exits?
Some of us were, yes. [laughter] There were a lot of white knuckles. The pilot, thank goodness, was able to bring us down into an emergency airfield. In places like that, when you’re out in the country, sometimes they’ve leveled off what would be a cornfield, and made it into a landing strip, just for emergencies. And so there we were, we got out of the plane, and everybody ran to get out of there, because you don’t know when the fuel tanks are going to explode or something terrible is gonna happen, so we were standing out in the middle of the cornfield at about 3:00 in the morning….

TYG: When did the fuel tanks finally explode, anyway?
Dave: They never did explode. Fire engines came from a nearby town, and they put the fire out, and nothing terrible happened. We had to get another plane the next day in order to go on to Denver. We were landing in Denver, and in Denver, at that time, at the old airfield, they had these air currents coming down from the mountain ranges, sometimes very strong cross-currents…. And our left wing got caught with one of these air currents, and it flipped up, and the right wing went down… and I was afraid to look, but someone said that [the right wingtip] came within half a foot or something [of the runway]….

TYG: What about the death-defying bus trip?
The bus trip was in Iowa, and we were in a thunderstorm—Iowa has some vicious storms! We drove by a telephone pole, out in the country, and the telephone pole was hit by lightning just as we went by it, and it just terrified the whole busload of us. We were scrunching down in our seats, and trying to stay safe.

TYG: I’m surprised, actually, that you all would have been hunkered down in your seats, because from what I’ve learned, cars and buses are actually the safest places to go in a thunderstorm.
Yes, but you know, when you’ve had an experience like that, your first impulse is to hide—and that’s what we were trying to do, hide from the lightning or something. […]

TYG: How on earth did you end up in Yachats, and what do you do here?
Oh, okay… well, I’m retired, so I don’t do anything except interviews… [laughter]

TYG: And the baseball thing….
And the baseball thing.

TYG: And paint….
And paint. And also writing a blog… but to get back to the question of how did we get here… My wife is from a town called Yoncalla, which is down toward Roseburg. And we would go to her family reunion on a ranch outside of Yoncalla every summer, coming up from San Diego—we were living down there for 18 years—and after we got through with the family reunion, we would need to have a vacation, and so [laughter] to relax, we would come over to the coast, and every time we came through Yachats, we thought, this is the perfect place to retire. And it is. […] What really attracted us is that it has the most people who are really accomplished at what they do—retired from very interesting careers, very well educated, probably one of the best educated towns at least in Oregon, and probably in the Pacific Northwest. And so we thought, well, this has got to be an interesting place to live.
TYG: That’s what attracted us too.

Dave: You didn’t ask me about genetics.
TYG: I was just going to ask you about your science career.
That was my real love—genetics. If I had my choice to do it all again, I’d be a geneticist. I worked as a geneticist at the University of Arizona and also at San Diego Children’s Hospital for a while. I got my PhD at the University of Arizona in ecological genetics. I was studying chromosomal rearrangements in Drosophila (fruit flies).

TYG: That sounds really interesting.
I thought it was. I could go into the lab, and I could forget to eat dinner—I would be there for hours and hours. It was fascinating. I was interested in chromosomal structure. I read as much as I can about genetics, and it’s changed so much. I got my PhD in 1979, and everything that we thought we knew then is in question now. Now they have started looking into what is called epigenetics, which is the control of gene activity. So you can know the genome of the organism—the structure of the genes—but unless you know how those genes regulated, you really don’t know anything. And now they’re beginning to map the regulations of the genes—which genes are turned on, and which genes are turned off, and how much they’re turned off—because this changes throughout the lifetime of the organism. It’s probably going to revolutionize some medical research.

TYG [graphic design department]: So how did genetics follow from engineering—don’t you have a Master’s in Engineering?
The Master’s in Engineering came AFTER the doctorate in genetics, because by the time I got through getting my doctorate in 1979, the baby boomers had moved through the universities, and the university enrollments were beginning to drop—they weren’t looking for new faculty members, they were looking to get RID of the old faculty members. And so I needed to find a way to make a living. And at that time it was easy to get a job as an engineer, and so I went back to school and got my Master’s in Engineering.

TYG: What kind of engineering?
 Dave: Systems Engineering, which is sort of a jack-of-all-trades kind of engineer, so that you study electrical engineering, you study hydrology, you study all kinds of different systems.

TYG: I’m surprised that you got a Master’s, because you only need a Bachelor’s degree.
Yeah, you’re right, that’s all you really need. I went into the Master’s program because they were taking students who didn’t have a bachelor’s in engineering, but had a degree in another field. And in fact my wife, Burgundy, has a degree in Home Economics, and they accepted her into the Master’s program in engineering. We both went through the same program. She turned out to be a much better engineer than I am.

new store in town: abundant naturals

The Yachats Gazette spoke with Heather Hoen-Smith, proprietor of Abundant Naturals, which is located at 271 Hwy 101.

TYG: When did your store first open?
I opened the store on August 15th.

TYG: Why did you open your store?
I opened the store because I hadn’t been working since April, and I’ve worked for other people all my life, and I decided it was time to work for myself. I also felt that Yachats could use a small health food store… minus the food. [laughs]

TYG: What kinds of products do you sell?
I sell products that I feel can help people maintain their health. I feel that it’s a person’s responsibility to maintain their own health, until they feel that it’s time to see a doctor because they can’t keep it under control by themselves any longer.

TYG: How much have you been selling lately? It looks like you’ve been selling a lot. I mean, this whole shelf practically is empty….
That whole shelf is empty because I used all my start-up money. So I have to make a little more money before I can fill the rest of those shelves. [laughs] But I’ve been doing very well, and the community seems very supportive.

TYG: Somebody told me you had rosemary shampoo.
Yes, the rosemary shampoo bar became very popular after Mary at the bookstore used it. I’ve been selling them at the farmer’s market, and people like them, but since Mary has used them, I’ve had a lot more people buying them. [laughter]

TYG: Where do you get your products from?
I make all the soaps myself. They’re all made with essential oils, no synthetic fragrances or dyes—because a lot of people, including myself, are sensitive to things like that. All the rest come from wholesalers, and I try to pick very responsible wholesalers, so I’m not getting anything I don’t feel is quality.

TYG: Where did you get the idea for this store?
Heather: Actually, the idea came from my husband. He was doing some work for Judith after the accident [when the truck hit the storefront], and she said, “Your wife needs to open a store.” And so he comes home and he tells me all about it, and I said, “Well, I don’t know….” And he goes, “Well, you could sell your soaps, and all kinds of supplements, and it would be a really good idea.” And I said, [more intensely] “Well, I don’t know….” And he pushed and he pushed, and… so now I have a store. [laughter] And something to do every day. 

TYG: Have you had a store before?
No, I have never had a store before. I’ve run other people’s stores. I’ve had experience in retail and management, but never for myself.

TYG: Where do you get your honey?
My honey comes from Creswell, Oregon, which is over by Eugene. The gentleman I buy it from started his business in 1975; he’s been keeping bees since then. He’s a very responsible beekeeper, and the honey is great. It’s raw and unfiltered, so it’s good for you.

TYG:  How do you make honey sticks?
I don’t make the honey sticks. The gentleman that makes the honey makes the honey sticks.

TYG: I have no idea how you would make, like, honey sticks.
I’ve wondered that myself. I may have to ask that question.  [laughter]

TYG: Hey, what are these, these gin-seng…?
The ginseng chews are a kind of taffy-like candy that has 200 milligrams of ginseng in it.

TYG: What is ginseng?
Ginseng is an Asian herb that they use for energy and… enhancing your mind, to make it work better. It’s not what I would consider a kid’s candy. It’s more of a grown-up’s candy. At least that’s what I’m telling my five-year-old.  [laughter]

TYG: What do you do with the rice protein?
The rice protein—people use it to supplement their meals. If they’re in a hurry and they can’t make themselves breakfast, they mix it with milk, or juice, or water, and it’s kinda like a smoothie… without the berries.

TYG: What products do you have from local businesses?
My soaps are the only ones that are made here in Yachats. All the others come from Oregon and California.

TYG: How did you get started making soaps?
Chemistry class in college. It was an applied chemistry class, and I loved it.

TYG: Are these soaps, or cheeses, or what?!
They’re all soaps—these on the top shelf are all shampoo bars. These ones are layered bars so when I pour them, I pour them in three different batches. The Evergreen is juniper, cedar, and fir. The Orange Spice is cinnamon and clove, orange and grapefruit, and ginger. The Lemon Grass is lemon grass, spearmint, and lime.

TYG: What about the rosemary?
That’s a shampoo bar. All the shampoo bars have the same base, which means they’re all the same oils, the same fats. And then I put different essential oils in them, so they have different fragrances.

TYG: How long have you been in Yachats?
I have lived in Yachats my entire life. I left for about six months, thinking that I wanted out of here, and I couldn’t wait to get back. I decided I was a small-town girl. My father and grandfather and uncle built a lot of Yachats; I can point out most of the houses. There are very few people in town who don’t know me or my family in some way. It’s really interesting growing up in a small town—you learn that you’re either gonna be good, and not get in trouble, or just know that Mom and Dad are gonna know about it before you get home.  [laughs]

Abundant Naturals, 541-547-3301, sells supplements and products for bath and body. They are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and are closed Wednesday and Sunday.