Young journalist tackles news for 'Time for Kids'
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"Time for Kids" reporter Brennan LaBrie, 10, of Port Townsend addresses the crowd at the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Summit last week. -- Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

BLYN -- When asked to list things he cannot live without, Brennan LaBrie includes "my mom's cooking" and "friends," plus newspapers.

What makes that last item a little surprising: LaBrie, a Port Townsend journalist, actor and gardener, just turned 10.

He's one of a dozen reporters nationwide for "Time for Kids," and is poised to cover little things like the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"That is going to be one of the high points of my life. That is going to be so exciting," LaBrie recently told one of his fans, Scott Simon of National Public Radio.


Publisher of own paper

In addition to his work as a "Time for Kids" correspondent, LaBrie publishes the Spruce Street Weekly, a newspaper distributed in his Port Townsend neighborhood and in cafes and shops around town.

So the kid is busy; he's preparing to play Tiny Tim in the Key City Public Theater's musical "Scrooge," from Nov. 27 through Dec. 20.

Last Wednesday, he made a quick stop at the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Summit, where two more of his favorite things were in the spotlight: local food and social media.

LaBrie is an accomplished user of Twitter -- @kidreporter for the tweeters out there -- and a seasoned fan of North Peninsula cuisine.

"I love to eat; I'm a vegetarian who eats fish," he said over a plate of salad, salmon and whole-wheat bread from Pane D'Amore.

LaBrie had worked up his appetite by giving a speech to the summit crowd about tourism, the news media and his recent whirlwind of personal good news.

"September was the biggest month of my life," he began.

He was chosen to be a "Time for Kids" reporter, he established a Twitter account, he was interviewed on NPR, he met a group of Tibetan monks who visited Fort Worden State Park and hung out with Cloris Leachman at the Port Townsend Film Festival.

"That was a blast," La-Brie said, beaming.

On tourism: "I'm really proud to be from the Olympic Peninsula. It's got such a variety. How could you ever get tired of it?

"I always struggle with putting down on paper how cool Port Townsend really is. But I won't give up."

LaBrie then took questions from the charmed audience. Whom would he most like to interview? President Barack Obama, definitely -- and if he were still alive, Walter Cronkite.

"He was one of my big mentors," LaBrie said.

And how did he get the "Time for Kids" gig?

"I wrote an article about a local hero. I chose Andy Mackie," Jefferson County's beloved harmonica player and music teacher.

Has he read "Twilight," the Stephenie Meyer vampire novel that made Forks famous?

"It didn't really interest me," LaBrie admitted, adding that he much prefers the Hardy Boys series.

These days, the young reporter travels with his mother, Colleen, and with Jack Olmsted, a Seattle-based journalist who writes about digital media.

At the tourism summit, Olmsted whisked LaBrie away to a separate room while Colleen made contact with a potential source for a story: Patty McManus-Huber, a summit attendee who spoke about Olympic Peninsula farms and their struggles to survive.

"Brennan wants to explore that," Colleen told McManus-Huber, a member of the Clallam County farmland advocacy group Friends of the Fields.

Somehow, all of this attention and excitement has failed to give LaBrie an "it's all about me" attitude. Instead, he's curious about everybody.

"I really like interviewing people," he said. "That's my favorite."

With his wide-eyed gaze and impeccable manners, LaBrie is a small package of innocence and precocity.

He also brims with curiosity about the wider world and seems to feel a deep connection to his community.

In a recent Port Townsend Food Co-op newsletter, LaBrie showed that last trait in a short piece about the New Song Church community garden.

Over the summer, he grew tomatoes, cucumbers and more -- "but vegetables weren't the only thing growing," he wrote. "Relationships also sprouted. People came to water their gardens and would talk about gardening, share tips and local news and even tell stories."


A way to end a day

On some summer evenings, he had the place to himself, and "the quiet neighborhood was bathed in sunlight as I watered and weeded . . . later, I'd ride my bike home with dirt on my hands and a basket full of beets and romaine, thinking: What a great way to end the day."

On Wednesday, LaBrie ended his summit speech by reminding the crowd of some local entertainment.

Key City Public Theatre's "Scrooge" opens the day after Thanksgiving, "and I play Tiny Tim," he said. "God bless us, everyone."

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 18. 2009 10:57PM
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