New Reporter Joins the TR

My name is Bonnie Jo Hanson. I’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 – three dogs and two cats. (We can’t say no, but our house is getting really small and hairy.)

I’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.That’s why we moved from Central Minnesota to North Dakota, where we could relax a little, and I didn’t have to work outside the home. But now our baby’s 11, and being a stay-at-home mom makes no sense when there’s no child to stay home with!
I went to school, first to be a nurse (turned out I don’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 I’ll also be covering here in Valley City, satisfy my hunger for news. If you really want to know what’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 it’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. That’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 don’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 I’m not reporting, I can’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, I’ll get to meet and interview retired folks, working mothers, guys who wish they didn’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?