Meet Your IPC: James Dawson

James Dawson is a political reporter for Boise State Public Radio and former news director there, and is a member of the Idaho Press Club board. A University of Idaho graduate, he joined BSPR in 2018. He previously worked for Delaware Public Media and for Inland Northwest Broadcasting in Moscow.

Interviewed by Audrey Dutton

How do you wind down from covering the legislative session? (Tell us about your awesome hobbies!)

I try to avoid being on my phone as much as possible on the weekends. Instead, I feel better doing anything with my hands, whether it’s yard work, making wallets, sunglasses cases or other things out of leather, or sewing a new shirt. 

What career would you pursue if journalism suddenly ceased to exist? Why?

It’s hard to say, but I’ve always loved photography. I actually wanted to be a photojournalist before I ever thought about the possibility of radio and audio. There’s just something thrilling about getting the perfect composition, showing action or emotion that’s hard to convey through writing.

When and where did you get your first taste of journalism? Do you remember a moment or moments when you felt like, oh, this is the career I want?

At the time, Lewiston High School had two separate English class tracks — traditional English and Journalistic English, which allowed students to write for our student newspaper, The Bengal’s Purr. I originally took it to be like my older brother who was the technology manager at the Purr, but I worked more on the reporting side, eventually becoming co-managing editor. The moment that hooked me was when I reported on graduating seniors within student government who had stuffed ballot boxes to ensure their preferred candidate won. Sources told me the faculty advisor and principal knew, but they refused to do anything about it until we reported it. The outcome didn’t change, but at least the school held a second election.

Is there a piece of journalism that is kind of the ideal to which you aspire? (For me, for example, it’s “Swamp Nurse” by Katherine Boo.) What makes it inspiring to you?

I don’t have a single piece that comes to mind, but two very different projects come to mind. First, a long-running column by retired Lewiston Tribune reporter David Johnson that profiled everyday people each week. “Everyone Has a Story” highlighted the first person to pick up the phone, with the number being picked at random from the regional phone book. Second, NPR’s podcast “Throughline,” which breathes fresh air [pun intended] into the history we thought we knew.

What advice have your mentors shared with you over the years, that you keep in the back of your mind even now?

“Trust, but verify.” “Why should anyone care?”

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think I’ve rambled on long enough. Thank you, though!