One of our Platte County residents picked up a national award a few weeks back. There’s been little publicity about it, so I’m going to pat an old friend on the back. Brent Frazee, outdoor editor of The Kansas City Star, is a Parkville resident. In May, he received the Excellence In Craft Award from the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). If you’re not in the group, you don’t know the award. But it’s a lifetime career achievement honor well earned. Now, most people would not think of Brent as a resident of anyplace but on the water, in the fields, in the woods or in the marshes. For more than three decades he’s patrolled the outdoors for The Star. What’s the big deal, some say, he hunts and fishes all the time? Well it’s not that simple. What is a casual pastime away from the everyday, workday world for many is for the outdoor writer’s professional pressure. Be certain about it, Brent loves his job. But there’s a weight that goes with any newspaper writer, including the outdoor guy. The casual angler waits for a largemouth bass or channel catfish to bite. The outdoor writer is wondering why or why not they’re biting, what the science is behind trends and if guide or fishing companion is located in a good spot for photos. One person has a rod and reel in their hand. The writer is trying to take notes in a wave-rocked boat, which is only the beginning, for the story must be written and edited later. If the fish are not biting, a hobby angler simply takes their tackle home and waits for another day. The outdoor editor knows if a good story doesn’t develop, the presses are set to roll regardless. Readers have expectations. Brent doesn’t want to let them down. He faces another pressure as readers don’t want to see the same story every week. The most exciting stories are about something new and different. New is not always easy to find in sports and hobbies that the seasons and Mother Nature roll out much the same each year. But Brent over time has gotten better and better at finding interesting twists. Nature is only half the story in the outdoors, though. People are the other half, perhaps the most interesting part. How nature affects people, and how humans manage or conserve nature, is the best part of the story. Brent has interviewed children, women, men, senior citizens, newcomers, experts, novices, managers and politicians. He’s not only told readers what people are doing in the outdoors, but also why they love the traditions. Many people who read this column may not hunt or fish. But if you’ve enjoyed birds at the backyard feeder, a stroll on a trail or seeing deer feeding in a field, you’ve been affected by his work. As an outdoor editor, Brent has tackled all manner of stories about natural resource conservation. He’s also promoted the positives about green space and outdoor recreation activities. After all these years afloat and afield, he still loves “the office.” You might find him in his off-duty hours sitting in a boat on Riss Lake, fishing for fun. And he does have fun. Fish big or small he finds interesting; laughs while catching fish are part of the outing. What is not is well known about Brent is that he often takes people on guided fishing trips as a donation to charities. He’s been known to paddle a boat for friends just needing a mental lift. As a leader of a Kansas outdoor writers group, he works tirelessly to raise money to send underprivileged youths to an outdoor skills summer camp. But his OWAA Excellence In Craft Award is for outstanding skills as a writer, editor, story finder and story teller. OWAA is nearing nine decades serving America’s finest outdoor communicators. Brent has spent more than three decades at The Star being among the best. His trails take him way beyond Platte County, but he’s among the most notable journalists to live among us.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.