Tom Banse

Regional Reporter

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" 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 beyond the reach of email.


"It's All About The Flavor"
10:57 am
Thu April 23, 2015

Plant Breeders Aim To Save Northwest From Bland Veggies

OSU plant breeder Jim Myers examines tomatoes in a greenhouse on the Corvallis campus.
Credit Tom Banse/Northwest News Network

You know the beautiful, mass-produced tomatoes you can buy at the grocery store? You can drop one and it'll bounce back unharmed, but doesn't taste like much.

Now in greenhouses, small farms and research plots across the Pacific Northwest there's a flavor renaissance afoot. Conventional breeding is being used to create tastier and more colorful veggies.

Read more
8:20 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

Western Drought Response Kicks Into Higher Gear

Washington officials say the state is experiencing a 'snowpack drought.'

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 4:44 pm

California Governor Jerry Brown ordered statewide mandatory water saving measures Wednesday. Water managers are preparing for drought in Oregon and Washington state as well.

Read more
NPR Story
5:12 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Aging U.S. Veterans Seek To Return Captured WWII Flags To Japan

Obon 2015 co-founder Rex Ziak at Monday's Returning Ceremony in Astoria, Oregon.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 4:46 pm

Some aging veterans of World War II are embarking on one more mission. The object is to return Japanese flags taken as war souvenirs from Pacific battlefields.

Read more
5:53 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

Unseasonable Warmth Waking Black Bears Up Early

Unseasonably mild winter is bringing black bears out of hibernation earlier than usual.

Originally published on Thu March 12, 2015 5:35 pm

The daffodils and tulips are up and so are hungry black bears. Our unseasonably mild winter is bringing black bears out of hibernation earlier than usual.

Read more
6:31 pm
Wed March 11, 2015

Oregon, Washington Lawmakers Balk At Tougher Vaccination Mandate

NIAID Flickr

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 5:36 pm

Oregon and Washington lawmakers flinched within hours of each other Wednesday when it came to toughening mandatory vaccination requirements for schoolchildren.

Read more
Law and Justice
8:20 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Nearly One In Three 911 Calls Are Accidental

File photo of call takers at work at the Willamette Valley 911 Center.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 5:59 pm

A new statistic from Washington state illustrates a problem 911 dispatch centers throughout the Northwest grapple with. About a third of 911 calls in Washington state are mistaken.

Read more
Politics & Government
7:34 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Do Electric Cars Still Need Support From Taxpayers?

Electric cars charging at the Washington State Capitol
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 11:38 am

Have electric cars been on the market long enough to stand on their own without public subsidies?

Read more
Politics & Government
9:07 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

Washington, Oregon Lawmakers Propose To Abolish Daylight Saving Time

On this map, the blue areas observe DST, the red areas never have and the orange areas have in the past, but currently do not.
Paul Eggert Wikimedia

Originally published on Tue February 3, 2015 5:28 pm

Some Oregon and Washington legislators want to end the yearly practice of springing forward and falling back.

Read more
6:23 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Unreliable Snowfall Boosts Ski Resort Interest In Snowmaking

From the base area at White Pass, you can see the acreage covered by snowmaking at right and brown patches where the snow guns can't reach.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 9:44 am

It's been a tough winter so far for many Cascade Mountains ski resorts. Five in Oregon and Washington have suspended operations until they get more snow.

Workers at the Summit at Snoqualmie are even gathering snow from parking lots and building edges and moving it uphill to keep a few runs open.

Nationally, the Pacific Northwest stands out for its low reliance on snowmaking, but that may change.

A ‘lifesaver’ for the resort

Read more
Politics & Government
1:55 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Oregon, Washington Propose $12 State Minimum Wages

File photo. Activists rally in support of a $15 per hour minimum wage on the steps of the Washington capitol building in Olympia.
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 9:00 pm

Oregon could leapfrog Washington to have the highest state minimum wage in the country if the Democratically-controlled legislature approves a proposed increase.

Read more
NPR Story
10:33 am
Sat January 24, 2015

Passengers Unlikely To Benefit From Decline In Airline Fuel Costs

Alaska Airlines announced record profits for the fourth quarter and for calendar year 2014.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 3:09 pm

The steep drop in oil prices is helping to pad the bottom line of Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. But don't expect lower fares on the horizon.

Read more
detect rare or invasive species
12:12 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Science Fiction Becomes Reality For Species Surveys

Postdoc researcher Jimmy O'Donnell at the UW lab bench where he processes eDNA samples.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 8:46 am

On the original "Star Trek" series, landing parties from the starship Enterprise used a versatile device they called the Tricorder to instantly read out what was in their surroundings.

Read more
hemp farming laws
5:54 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Complications Abound For Hemp Farming In Northwest

File photo of a hemp field outside Southminster, England.
Glyn Baker Creative Commons

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 5:42 pm

Hemp advocates have launched a renewed bid to make hemp farming lawful in Washington state.

Read more
10:45 pm
Fri January 9, 2015

Adventurers Attempt Winter Thru-Hike Of Pacific Crest Trail

Looking across to Mount Jefferson in Oregon.
Shawn Forry and Justin Lichter

Originally published on Fri January 9, 2015 5:38 pm

A pair of experienced long distance hikers are more than halfway through a full traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail - in the dead of winter.

Read more
3:20 pm
Fri January 9, 2015

Prison Inmates Enlisted To Rear Threatened Plants And Animals

Inmate Joseph Njonge at work in the Stafford Creek Corrections Center conservation nursery.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:33 pm

The work of rearing threatened plants and animals for restoration to the wild takes time and patience and it is labor intensive. In Oregon and Washington, a growing population doing that work is inmates.

Read more
scheduled to stand trial in January
3:45 pm
Tue December 30, 2014

Judge Mulls Whether To Dismiss Charges Against Soccer Star Hope Solo

File photo. U.S. soccer star Solo is scheduled to stand trial for misdemeanor domestic violence on January 20.
Nicole Miller Wikimedia

Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 9:16 am

A municipal court judge in Kirkland, Washington, is mulling whether to dismiss domestic violence charges against U.S. soccer star Hope Solo.

Read more
providing more state incentives
3:23 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

Oregon, Washington Seek To Juice Electric Car Sales With More Incentives

File photo of a Nissan Leaf recharging in Tumwater, Washington.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Sat December 20, 2014 6:03 pm

A coalition in Oregon and the Democratic governor of Washington want to juice sales of electric cars by providing more state incentives.

Read more
Two million taxpayer dollars could go to waste
4:40 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

$2 Million In Taxpayer Dollars At Risk In Snake River Dredging Showdown

Some river cruise ships can no longer call at this cruise ship dock in Clarkston because of accumulated silt.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 5:22 pm

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making a high-stakes bet that it will prevail in a pending lawsuit over Snake River dredging.

Read more
4:18 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

What Would You Do With A Few Seconds Warning Of An Earthquake?

A user of a ShakeAlert warning receives a message like this on the screen of his computer.

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 5:07 pm

The new federal budget sent to the president's desk over the weekend includes $5 million for earthquake early warning along the West Coast. With this funding, an alert system should begin to roll out regionally next year.

Read more
The Yakama Nation and neighboring tribes
3:27 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Tribes Object To Forced Opening Of 'Sacred Mountain' To Public

Rattlesnake Mountain as seen from the Horn Rapids area near Richland, Washington.
Umptanum Wikimedia

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 5:17 pm

The Yakama Nation and neighboring tribes are strongly objecting to a Congressional move to offer public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain, a place tribal members consider sacred.

Read more