My name is Bonnie Jo Hanson. Iâ€™m the new county reporter here at the Times-Record, and I will also be covering agriculture and education.
I hail from a rural area in southern Ohio, close to Huntington W. Va. Now I live in Marion with a husband, Greg, and one kid. Two of my kids, Anthony and Libby, are grown and gone, Christian is still at home. I also have a bunch of animals â€“ three dogs and two cats. (We canâ€™t say no, but our house is getting really small and hairy.)
Iâ€™ve been away from the newspaper business for a few years. I was in the Navy when Anthony was growing up and working ridiculous hours when Libby was little, so I missed a lot of their lives.Thatâ€™s why we moved from Central Minnesota to North Dakota, where we could relax a little, and I didnâ€™t have to work outside the home. But now our babyâ€™s 11, and being a stay-at-home mom makes no sense when thereâ€™s no child to stay home with!
I went to school, first to be a nurse (turned out I donâ€™t have the stomach or the compassion for nursing) then an art teacher, at a little college in Southern Ohio called Rio Grande College. But most of my education was earned one class at a time when I was on shore in San Diego or Virginia Beach.
I became interested in journalism when I worked for an amazing woman in Melrose, Minn. She was an agricultural journalist, and encouraged me to start writing. I did reports and brochures for her environmental consulting business, and worked as an environmental technician as well. Through the company, she paid for me to take whatever classes I could fit in. I studied everything from mass communications to small business management. When she moved her business to the Twin Cities, I opted not to go.
As a reporter at the Paynesville Press, I covered agriculture, the city, and the military as we had a lot of young men and women going to and coming home from the wars. I loved writing the military stories, but many times, after particularly emotional interviews, I sobbed on my steering wheel before heading back to the office.
Local government stories, which Iâ€™ll also be covering here in Valley City, satisfy my hunger for news. If you really want to know whatâ€™s going on in the community, go to a city council or county board meeting. But I know not everyone can go to every meeting, so itâ€™s my job to bring the local government to you. And I have to do that in a way that is accurate, understandable, and interesting enough to get a reader to the end. Thatâ€™s where the challenge lies, because road construction can be a pretty dry subject, but to readers on that street, it could be one of the most important issues they are facing.
Ag stories are my favorite and I was thrilled when I was asked to cover agriculture again. Farmers are amazing, they work crazy hours, they have to be savvy enough to work through big-business finances, and understand high-tech electronics and still be able to spend days elbow-deep in grease when the tractor breaks down just before planting or be able to sit in a combine (even if it has all the bells and whistles) for days at a time without a break.
Farm wives donâ€™t get enough respect either. Many of the farm wives I interviewed had jobs outside the home and still did the books, kept the guys fed, and were the official farm gophers in addition to taking care of a home and children. When I write an ag story, I want you to get to know the farmer as well as the whole farm family and maybe even the dog!
After I left the Press, I worked at the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn. I was in the advertising department where I wrote and edited ad copy. The staff there were brilliant and I learned more about newspapers and people there than anywhere I had ever worked.
Even when Iâ€™m not reporting, I canâ€™t imagine not working at a newspaper. The activity, the deadlines, the intensity when a big project is due, I love it all. I especially like the variety of people I get to meet and work with. In the course of this new job, Iâ€™ll get to meet and interview retired folks, working mothers, guys who wish they didnâ€™t have to work so hard, rich people, poor people, and even politicians and government officials. Where else but a newspaper could I do that?