From the Whitefish Review archives

Over the past 12 years, local literary journal Whitefish Review has made a national name for itself by publishing surprising interviews alongside fiction, essays, poetry, art, and photography. The journal is now available in over 200 Barnes & Noble stores nationwide, as well as local booksellers in Whitefish and Kalispell.

Here, we dip into the archives from issue #10 (2011) for an excerpt from an interview with Tom Brokaw. To order a copy of a back-issue and to read the full interview, visit www.whitefishreview.org. The next issue of Whitefish Review, #23 (Our Living Planet) will be available on April 5, 2019. Chris Dombrowski will be the featured author at the launch event at Casey’s in Whitefish.

One of America’s most famous baritone voices, Tom Brokaw was the host of “The Today Show” from 1976-1981 and was the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” from 1982-2004. Since 2005, he has served as a special correspondent for NBC News, producing long-form documentaries and providing expertise during election coverage and breaking-news events. While New York is still home base, during the long summer months his Montana ranch near Livingston provides him and his wife with lessons from nature and playtime with grandchildren — they just have to watch out for the rattlesnakes.

Brian Schott: You’ve said many times how important the outdoors and Montana are to you. Can you talk a bit more specifically about what the outdoors do for you?

Tom Brokaw: Well, it’s a constant renewal. I learn more from just watching the complexity of the wilderness and the grass and the animals that are around than I do from almost anything else. It’s always an instructive summer to come out here and see how nature moves on its own terms, how animals take care of each other, how they avoid predators and how the predators make their living. We don’t kill anything on the ranch. I saw a big rattlesnake again the other day — there’s a fair amount of them around — and we always let them go unless they come right into our yard where they would be a danger to our grandchildren or if snakes are on the path down to the pond where we swim. Other than that we let them go because we think that they are part of the whole cycle of life here. It’s always renewing for me to come West out of the urban areas where I spend so much of my time and breathe the clean air and see the grasses grow — or in the cases when we have drought, how devastating that can be and how on-guard you have to be. I just have a new respect for life every time I come here.

BS: I’m curious what scares you the most right now about how we’re treating the Earth and what gives you the most hope?

TB: What scares me in the world right now? The continued feeling among too many parties that global climate change is some kind of a fraud. That we’re not responding to it, I think, with the alacrity that it deserves. I see that wherever I go. Even well-meaning people really are not changing their habits in the way that they ought to be. And that includes us. I mean we’re doing solar here at the ranch for about half of the residences in terms of heat and water, but we could be doing more. The technology has to catch up to us a little more. But that’s where we’re at, at the moment. I do think the younger generation will help us with that. A perfect example is this debate about light bulbs that resurfaced. About whether we should go back to the old-fashioned light bulbs and people should have the choices of doing that. Well, I thought if you’re going to think that way, why not eliminate seatbelts in cars, for example. Or get rid of catalytic converters. Why should you have to do that? We do that because it advances the common interest of all of us in preserving our planet.

BS: Do you think with so much technology these days, are we losing touch with rivers and streams and wide-open spaces?

TB: Well, you don’t see it out here. You still see people pouring into the wilderness. My wife was out the other day riding and ran into a man who had moved out here from somewhere and he took — not a great — job just because he wanted to live in the wild as much as possible. He was out with his son doing a long day hike. I think people still have a lot of passion for those things. What I do think is that you should go into the wilderness on your own terms and not rely on GPSs and take your cell phone and that kind of thing. Leave those behind.