Tom Banse

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition," "Weekday," and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years. During the early 1990s, he worked in the Seattle bureau of United Press International. He got his start in radio at WCAL–FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies. In 1996, he spent two months reporting from Bonn and Berlin, Germany on an Arthur F. Burns Fellowship. In 1999, he traversed the globe to cover the Pacific Rim (Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan) on a Jefferson Fellowship.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place where there are no radios.

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NPR Story
3:58 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Alaska Airlines Launching Rescue Flights To Mexico

Vacationers eager to get out of Los Cabos, Mexico, lined up on the tarmac Wednesday.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is dispatching jets Thursday to evacuate American vacationers from Los Cabos, Mexico.

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NPR Story
4:11 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Unemployment Rate Holds Steady In August In Washington State

The latest reading on unemployment in Washington state shows the rate holding steady in August at 5.6 percent. That's half a percentage point below the national rate according to a report from Washington's employment department Wednesday.

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NPR Story
4:37 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Suspected Enterovirus Outbreak Widens In Northwest

Public health authorities in Washington and Idaho are now investigating at least 79 cases of a serious respiratory illness that affects children.

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NPR Story
6:09 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Hockey Inquiry Turns On Whether Players Are 'Student Athletes' Or Workers

This map shows the five U.S.-based teams in the Western Hockey League

The Western Hockey League opens its regular season next weekend. The players you'll see on the ice are mostly teenagers. That fact has state labor investigators asking if the four Washington teams are breaking child labor laws.

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Wildfires
9:41 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Why Remotely Monitored Video Cameras Are Replacing Some Human Fire Lookouts In The West

These remotely-monitored cameras scan for forest fires from a historic fire lookout in Douglas County, Oregon.
Credit Courtesy of DFPA

Remotely monitored video cameras are replacing some human fire lookouts on mountaintops around the Northwest.

A private non-profit called the Douglas Forest Protective Association was the first in the region to switch to remote camera fire detection. The southwest Oregon-based association deployed its first system in 2007.

The firefighting consortium's Kyle Reed said it has now replaced all of its manned fire lookouts with video cameras.

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Wildfires
5:02 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Remotely Monitored Video Cameras Replace Some Human Fire Lookouts

These remotely-monitored cameras scan for forest fires from a historic fire lookout in Douglas County, Oregon.
Douglas Forest Protective Association

Remotely monitored video cameras are replacing some human fire lookouts on mountaintops around the Northwest.

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NPR Story
8:44 am
Mon September 8, 2014

$58 Million Judgment Adds To Woes Of Cigarette Maker On Yakama Reservation

King Mountain Tobacco grows a portion of the tobacco it manufactures into cigarettes on the Yakama reservation.

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 11:24 pm

A federal judge in Eastern Washington has ruled a cigarette maker on the Yakama Indian Reservation owes $58 million in unpaid taxes and penalties.

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Military Health Care
3:48 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Army Suspends Brig. Gen. In Charge of Western Region Medical Care

File photo of Brig. Gen. John Cho speaking at an Army town hall meeting in March 2014.

The Army Surgeon General Thursday suspended the commander in charge of Army hospitals in 20 western states.

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NPR Story
8:37 am
Tue August 19, 2014

Five Hospitals In Washington And Oregon Among Victims Of Computer Hack

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 10:56 am

A national hospital chain says it suspects Chinese hackers breached its computer system earlier this year. Patients whose doctors work with any of five hospitals in the Northwest might have had financial data stolen.

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NPR Story
12:42 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

What Happens When 911 Callers Don't Speak English?

Dispatch supervisor Brenda Faxon and director Mark Buchholz in the Willamette Valley 911 Communications Center in Salem.

Originally published on Mon August 18, 2014 9:04 pm

In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English.

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Public Safety
10:16 am
Mon August 18, 2014

How Northwest Emergency Dispatchers Get Help To 911 Callers Who Don't Speak English

Dispatch supervisor Brenda Faxon and director Mark Buchholz in the Willamette Valley 911 Communications Center in Salem.
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English.

A recent emergency call came in to the Willamette Valley 911 Center in Salem, Oregon where the caller didn't speak the same language as the dispatcher. This call could have happened anywhere in the West. A call in a foreign language is a near-daily occurrence in this region's urban counties.

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Wildlife
5:51 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Triple Rescue And Rehab Ends Well For Lucky Ospreys

Rehabbed osprey flies away after its release Wednesday in Finley, Washington.
Andrea Berglin

Originally published on Sun August 17, 2014 6:23 pm

Three young ospreys and a parent are flying free along the Columbia River today after surviving close calls with litter.

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Wildlife
4:00 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Feds Decide Wolverine Does Not Merit Threatened Species Status

File photo

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 4:36 pm

The wolverine is not going on the threatened species list after all. Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced federal protected status for the fierce and rare carnivore is unwarranted at this time.

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Science
9:32 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Are Western Wildfires Really Getting Worse? 3 Recent Studies Say No

Smoke rises from the Snag Canyon fire burning in southeast Washington.
Credit Inciweb

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it’s ever been. But there’s a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

Three fresh science papers from separate institutions each makes the case that today's forest fires in the West burn less than in historical times. One of the co-authors is Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon.

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NPR Story
8:42 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Seattle Runner Smashes Speed Record For Full Length Of Pacific Crest Trail

Seattle native Joe McConaughy reached the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail in record time Sunday.

Originally published on Mon August 11, 2014 11:23 am

A 23-year-old Seattle man has smashed the speed record for hiking the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail. Recent college grad Joe McConaughy crossed into Canada on Sunday, exactly 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes after leaving the Mexican border on the storied trail.

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NPR Story
6:36 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Is Wildfire Severity Really Getting Worse?

File photo. Is this year's fire season the worst it has ever been? New research suggest it is not.

Originally published on Mon August 11, 2014 11:21 am

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it's ever been. But there's a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

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Wildlife
10:38 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Fatal Attraction: Ospreys In A Bind With Baling Twine, Fishing Line

This is how ospreys' unhealthy affinity for baling twine can kill. Idaho Fish and Game biologist Beth Waterbury rescued this osprey in the nick of time.
Beth Waterbury Idaho Fish and Game

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 4:21 pm

Osprey nests are a common sight near rivers, lakes and bays in the Northwest. If you look closely with binoculars, you might notice some of these large raptors like to line their nests with discarded baling twine or fishing line. The problem is it can kill them.

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NPR Story
6:41 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

How A Fat Grizzly Bear Could Help You Avoid Diabetes

Washington State University is home to the nation's only captive grizzly bear research center.

Washington State University’s mascot is the cougar, but the university is also home to the nation’s only captive grizzly bear research center. A new study involving those bears yields insights into possible therapies for human obesity and diabetes.

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NPR Story
6:09 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Oregon Terminal Developer Gets Blessing For Natural Gas Exports

File photo of an LNG terminal in Nynashamn, Sweden.

A proposed liquefied natural gas terminal near Astoria, Oregon, received the U.S. Department of Energy’s blessing Thursday to export to all overseas markets. It's a necessary approval to make the controversial project pencil out, but many hurdles remain.

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Agriculture
6:19 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Northwest Farmers Worried About Visa Backup For Legal Migrant Workers

File photo of workers at a berry farm outside of Eltopia, Washington.

Originally published on Wed July 30, 2014 8:03 pm

A breakdown in a U.S. State Department computer system that processes foreign worker visas has sowed major worries at some Northwest orchards.

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