New reporters help blanket Malheur County

The rush of news until now has kept me from an important duty – introducing you to some new faces around the Malheur Enterprise.

Many of you have encountered these reporters in recent weeks. They have thrown themselves into their duty with relish. Let me tell you something about them.

Kristine de Leon is our newest staff reporter. She didn’t start out ambitious to be a journalist.

In fact, she was going to be a scientist. She studied at Ohio State University to go into environmental microbiology. She was examining microbial communities in frozen Arctic soils when she decided to make a change.

“When I realized I’d rather admire science from afar, I traded in my pipettes for a pen, notepad, and the willingness to frequently go outside my comfort zone,” de Leon wrote to me earlier this year.

As she switched to journalism, she found a pretty intriguing internship – with a small English newspaper in Mongolia. 

De Leon is no stranger to travel. She’s ridden a bike across the southern U.S. and hiked the Appalachian Trail – solo.

She signed on with us after earning her master’s in journalism this spring from the University of Southern California.

And purely by accident, another new face around our newsroom has Arctic experience.

In 2015, Max Egener was part of an Arctic lake research expedition in Greenland while on the way to earning his bachelor’s degree in environmental science. He also taught aquatic science to elementary and high school kids.

He, too, came to a realization.

“I realized I liked writing stories about science and environmental issues for a general audience more than I liked doing scientific research.”

Like de Leon, he switched to journalism and this spring earned his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. He comes to the Enterprise after being selected to participate in the university’s prestigious Snowden internship program.

And he’s not the only talent coming out of Eugene for us.

Carolyn Agrimis holds our Edward Engelberg Internship for Investigative Reporting, founded by the editor-in-chief of ProPublica in honor of his father. 

Agrimis graduated this spring with her bachelor’s degree in journalism from UO.

And like the other two, she has foreign travel in her background. She studied in Jordan and is proficient in reading and speaking Arabic.

“I view this internship as a chance to seriously refine my journalistic skills,” Agrimis wrote me last spring. “I view this opportunity as an immersive experience.”

The three join reporter Pat Caldwell, a veteran local newsman, and reporter Jayme Fraser, on assignment in a collaboration with ProPublica. Combined, this is a high-powered team.

You’ve been getting the benefit, and Agrimis and the others certainly haven’t been staring out the window, wondering what to write about.

De Leon, Egener, and Agrimis all swung into action a couple of weeks ago when a wildfire erupted near Malheur Butte. This came just a day after they sat down with local crews of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to establish how wildfires should be covered.

The entire squad jumped as a team on last week’s news that Kraft Heinz’s Ontario operation was undergoing major changes.

And then, over the weekend, our team responded to the alarm for the Dentinger fire. Agrimis could see the smoke plume when she stepped outside her home, and made a beeline for the scene. She quickly provided readers dramatic photos of Saturday’s disaster. Caldwell broke off from helping his son with sheep in Payette County and rushed to Vale. And de Leon drove back from planned time off in Boise to help. 

Egener and Fraser were both out of the area at the time but you can bet that otherwise they would have been shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues.

Late Saturday, a colleague noted the “raw enthusiasm” of our staff for getting after any story.

That’s a fine description.

Collectively, the news team at the Enterprise does bring you that enthusiasm. 

They also share my deep concern to get it fair and to get it accurately.

They are earnest about producing a quality news product, and I am fortunate to have them on the team. 

I am immensely proud of the talents that all five bring to the office each day with one purpose in mind – to serve you.