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My thoughts on Christine Brown

cbSomeone came up to me yesterday and said, “That’s something about your former anchor, Christine, getting laid off.”

No. You must have heard it wrong, I said.  She probably retired. Packing her bags for Mazatlan, maybe, but  not sent packing. Not Christine. She is the TV station.

“No. Read it in the paper.”

I got online. Sure enough. There it is. Brown laid off in station restructuring.

Twenty-eight years at one station. That’s rare in any profession. Virtually unheard of in broadcasting. Then laid off. I can almost hear the conversation in the conference room.

“…We’re undergoing restructuring that affects you…We will need you to sign these forms…your keys, company credit card… Happy New Year…” 

Christine’s last day was December 31.

I’m sure Christine is doing fine. I imagine her Facebook is jammed with good wishes from the gazillions of journalists whom she, well, I won’t say nurtured, she whipped into shape after she hired them. A no-nonsense news director.  Her newsroom was a boot camp. Ask some of my former co-workers: Faith Martin, Jordan Youngs (Both still in the Tri-Cities and doing marvelous), Claire Graham and Blake Jensen,now in Spokane, Melanie, who now anchors in Pennsylvania, Adam, who went on to Boston, now in Atlanta, Bryant in Philly, Lisa in LA; the list goes on and on and on.

But Christine taught her people not only discipline, but compassion. Christine is responsible for the success of the Coats For Kids campaign, which has provided winter clothing for tens of thousands of kids over the years, the annual Family Food Drive that just got nuts with the truckloads of corporate and individual donations that came in during the rain or shine, snow or ice, freezing or sub-freezing on the air telethon. A crazy, wonderful experience. Christine also championed my personal favorite project of the year, the annual Red Cross Real Heroes Breakfast, honoring ordinary people in the community for their extraordinary deeds.

I’m worried these projects won’t get the same priority post-restructuring.

Christine, if you aren’t there already, go to the beach. Have a big margarita for me. One of those the size of a bird bath.  Sit back and enjoy. And don’t forget to wear a hat and sunscreen.




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To shop or not to shop on Thanksgiving

Gray Thursday last year in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Gray Thursday last year in Hillsboro, Oregon.

I’m torn on whether the malls and big retailers should demand their employees work on Thanksgiving.  It’s Thanksgiving, after all.  Can’t we wait one day before we commence with five weeks of commercializing the crap out of the holidays?

However, over the river and through to woods to Grandma’s house on Thursday morning, it’s nice to stop along the way at McDonald’s or Starbucks, or to top-off the tank.

Forgot the rolls? Thank goodness the supermarket is open until six.

After the feast, a lot of families take in a movie. Someone has to butter the popcorn and sweep the aisles.

Someone has to suit up if we’re going to watch the big game.

Bartenders, cops and firefighters, the doctors and nurses on duty in the emergency rooms, the selfless volunteers who serve holiday meals for the hungry; they work holidays.

Anybody know anyone serving in the military?

And journalists, I can’t forget about them.  While their surfeited bosses sit at home or sun themselves on a beach somewhere, journalists unable to fly home for a brief weekend settle for a cup of Top Ramon at their desks.

With some professions, working the holidays just comes with the territory.

Like the Pope. He always works Christmas and Easter.


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I’ll be poolside signing autographs and sipping mimosas…What’s that? Come again?

lossy-page1-800px-RESIDENTS_OF_CENTURY_VILLAGE,_A_NEW_RETIREMENT_COMMUNITY_SUN_THEMSELVES_AT_POOLSIDE._THE_ENTIRE_VILLAGE_OF_7,838..._-_NARA_-_548548.tifJournalists rarely, okay, never get to sit back and relish their accomplishments. A reporter can hand over a peace prize-winning article and the next morning the editor will say, “That was a good story. What do you have for me today?”

I wasn’t so naïve, okay, maybe a little, to think it would be much different outside of news, but to complete a novel, write a whole book, with a plot, complex characters, big words; that’s worthy of some basking. Right?

So I tell members of my critique group that I’ve finished my novel. The first thing Judy says to me, “So what are you working on now?”

Stay tuned.


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Attribution: Willi Heidelbach

Attribution: Willi Heidelbach

I’m done.

From a weekend past time to every day all the time, I’ve finished the novel. The members of my critique group still need to go through the manuscript and find what’s missing, what’s wrong, and what stinks. Then I’ll go back to work and hopefully fix it.  Barring any unexpected burps or writer’s block, I’m on schedule to be finished finished by the end of the year.

Now comes the hard part, finding a publisher.

In TV news you can be passed over for a job because they don’t like the color or style of your hair, or your squeaky voice, or you blink too much. It’s wholly subjective. Ask any woman anchor. What’s her viewer mail mostly about? Her hair, her wardrobe, and the necklace she seems to wear every day.

Similar subjectivity prevails in the publishing world. One literary agent will say she likes your characters but the story failed to hold her attention. An editor will say he likes the plot but couldn’t identify with the characters. Another rejection letter will simply say, “It didn’t grab me.”

In comparison, the publishing world makes TV news look almost logical.

So what’s the novel about? A lot of people have asked me.  Stay tuned.


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My home away from home


This past weekend was a good weekend to visit Red Mountain—no, not because it was the Seahawks’ bye week—because Red Mountain held its annual block party.  Wine enthusiasts from throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond traveled to meet and talk to the Red Mt. winemakers, learn their stories, learn about the science and art and history of grape growing and wine making.

And taste the wines.

But going to Red Mountain is like going to Disneyland. You can’t do it all in a day.  About two dozen wineries took part this weekend, and wine tasting experts say your taste buds can usually handle about a half dozen tasting rooms and then call it day.

My taste buds had gone blissfully numb after the third tasting room.

2014-09-27_14-02-50_400Some personal highlights include my stop at Hamilton  Cellars, which opened its new, solar-powered tasting room just in time for the block party. With a spectacular panoramic view of the countryside, Hamilton Cellars is the first and only tasting room in Washington State that will make its own energy and sell it back to the grid.

Down the hill, Greg and Shae Frichette didn’t stop pouring for guests during my stop at the Frichette Winery. Their barn-turned tasting room is friendly and casual. They call the experience Edu-tainment. They ask visitors to pair different wines with the appetizers of homemade humus, which is made from garbanzo beans grown at the family farm in Eastern Washington’s Legume Country. If you’re at all intimidated about wine or the wine tasting experience, make it a point to stop off and visit Frichette. The Merlot is mind-bending. I’m going back in November when they release their new Semillon (a white).

The block party may be over for another year, but the experience continues up on Red Mountain. With the fantastic autumn weather and the crush about to begin, next weekend would be a perfect time to turn off the football and treat you and your friends to the wine tasting experience.

Besides, the Seahawks play on Monday Night Football.

BTW, Wine Enthusiast Magazine has nominated the Red MT AVA for Wine Region of the Year.

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A Starting Point

The Tuesday after Labor Day feels like a transition, a “start.” Summer vacation has ended and you start back to work. The kids –and their teachers—start back to class. Football season kicks off. I notice the leaves of the poplars have started to change; now they flutter gold in the shorter days.

And did it feel a little chilly to you this morning?falltime 2011 004

As you start your autumn, I admit there is a restlessness within me that I won’t be there with you. For six years you allowed me to be on your TV in the morning while you got ready for work, rustled the kids out of bed, cleaned up whatever the cat threw up or dragged in overnight. I will miss sharing the news with you, but I won’t lie to you (I never have). I don’t miss the alarm going off  at 2:44 in the morning. When you no longer have to get up when you’re supposed to, you will love it. If you have earned your retirement, you certainly know what I mean when I say it feels so liberating to start my day not when I have to, but when I darn well feel like it.

Sure, I still get up at the crack of dawn to work on the novel, but for me, sunrise is sleeping in! At mid morning I take a break from writing. The dogs get their walk, the lawn might get mowed, and then I’m back to the book for another few hours.  I’m shooting to finish SALAD DAYS before the end of the year.

Will a publisher print it? I don’t know, but I’m following my passion. And that’s a start.




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Why I didn’t install a dog door…

512px-Coyote_closeupI’m taking a stroll with a glass of wine at twilight and notice two of my dogs have wandered off; something apparently has caught their interest. So I call out their names and here come Kingston and Sawyer—with two young coyote right behind them, trotting in like they had accepted an invitation for a sleep over.

Me being the bad guy, I flap my arms and inform the coyote they are not welcome.  One turned tail immediately while the other stopped in its tracks, as if waiting to see if King and Sawyer would change my mind.  I don’t mean to be a profiling snob, I tell my dogs, but coyotes have a reputation. They are not playmates.

Coyote are predators, but not necessarily aggressive, to people, anyway.  The last recorded attack in Washington happened two years ago in Kent when three coyotes ganged up on a man in his backyard (The ER treated him for scratches and he eventually received 24 rabies shots). The attack prompted Fish and Wildlife to advise homeowners to stow their trash and keep an eye on their children, small dogs and cats. The game wardens warned that coyote encounters are bound to happen more often as humans build homes where coyote hunt for their food.

Aha. Coyote eat fruit.  I’m told in the winter they rely on the leftovers in the orchards.  I figure the peaches and nectarines in my yard and the ripening apples in the surrounding orchards are bringing in the coyotes.Gpa_bill_coyote_pup

Adorable as they appeared, I did not change my mind about the slumber party, and after another shout, the two coyote disappeared into the sage brush, but they didn’t act like they were thoroughly dissuaded. I think they’ll be back. The apples are coming in, and my dogs like visitors.


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