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KUOW salutes reporter Tom Banse

caption: KUOW and Northwest News correspondent Tom Banse (right) interviews then Washington Governor Gary Locke in 1997.
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KUOW and Northwest News correspondent Tom Banse (right) interviews then Washington Governor Gary Locke in 1997.
Washington State Archives

It's a bittersweet day at KUOW as we say goodbye to a legend — journalist Tom Banse.

For the last 37 years, one reporter has brought listeners to every corner of the state as he’s broken news, covered politics, the environment, and told countless stories about the fascinating people around us.

Whether he was covering the state Legislature, or tracking wild cougars, Banse has brought Pacific Northwest stories to life for listeners and been a source of countless driveway moments throughout the years.

But after 37 years of diligent reporting, Banse is retiring.

Soundside host Libby Denkmann caught up with him to talk about what inspired him to pick up a microphone in the first place, and the stories that have lingered with him.

The beginnings of Banse

Believe it or not, reporting wasn't Banse's first plan. Initially, he moved to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with the idea that he'd eventually become a diplomat, or maybe a biologist. But a slow Friday night changed the trajectory of his life.

"My roommate said he was gonna go to the organizing meeting for the college radio station," Banse said.

Banse wasn't interested in hosting a music show, but when the news director stood up and told the room they were looking for students to deliver newscasts, a star was born.

"They assigned me the news at midnight on Tuesdays, and I got such a thrill from that little bit of reading wire service copy, national news headlines, Minnesota news, the baseball score, and tomorrow's weather, that I couldn't fall asleep till two or three o'clock in the morning," Banse said. "So that was a sign that maybe I should pursue that angle a little more."

Banse pursued his interest in radio journalism during school breaks at KUOW, where he interned four days a week, unpaid. He spent the other three days a week serving cotton candy at the Woodland Park Zoo.

"I had two days off the whole summer, and it was still one of the best summers of my life because I learned at the feet of legends at KUOW, including the recently retired Marcie Sillman, who was back then the person editing my scripts some days and whipping me into shape," Banse said.

Over the years, Banse's reporting has taken him to every single one of Washington's 39 counties, and all 36 counties in Oregon.

Along the way, he's made his mark in radio — and in the memories of listeners — by always finding creative ways to keep people engaged, and deliver the unexpected.

Listen to the full interview above.

Special thanks to Katy Sewall for her production help.

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