Following a dream, making $11 an hour, and immersing yourself in another culture. Also, 7 other things worth your time.
By the time you’ll read this, a young man named Deion Broxton, born and raised in Baltimore, will probably be finishing a 1,200-mile drive from Montana to Iowa.
The reason: a career opportunity. For the past two years, Broxton, 27, has been a reporter for the local NBC affiliate in Bozeman, MT (the #185 market in America). Now, he’s been promoted to a sister station owned by the same company in Cedar Rapids (the #90 market).
Fish out of water
The Montana gig was a classic “first job” in TV news. Pay started at just $11 an hour, it brought Broxton 15 minutes of fame (more on that below), and it gave him a chance to live and work somewhere very different from home.
As Broxton told me when we hopped on a Zoom call over the weekend, there was a huge “fish out of water” element—an urban black man reporting TV news in a place where only .4 percent of the population is black—that accounted for how he quickly became well-known in Montana over the past 24 months.
“I grew up in the hood,” Broxton said, taking a break from packing. “I didn’t know anything about Montana. I knew it was white, and they probably had like, cowboys and horses and tumbleweeds.”
In fact, he said he never actually applied to work at the Montana station. Instead, he was recruited by a producer who apparently saw his sample reel after Broxton applied elsewhere.
Broxton, a 2015 graduate of Towson University in Maryland who had worked “behind the scenes” at a station in Baltimore, signed a two-year contract. Here’s how it worked out:
Pro: The chance to follow a dream he’s had for years (being on camera).
Con: It’s rural, and far away from home, and it was challenging to live on so little money. Even though Montana is a low cost state, Broxton said, people call Bozeman “Boz Angeles,” because of the number of celebrities who visit and the fact that some prices can rival big coastal cities.
Pro: The people he met. “People here are really, really nice,” he told me. “I have nothing but good things to say about the people.”
Con: How spread out everything is. As an example, Broxton said he loved going to Yellowstone National Park as a visitor, but he didn’t like having to cover stories there, because it meant a three-hour round trip drive, alone—plus the time to shoot and edit his work.
Pro: The beauty and scenery. “It’s gorgeous. Mountains, streams, rivers. I think to myself: What did I do to deserve this? … I’ll never forget these some of these views as long as I live.”
‘People are going to stare’
We also talked a bit about race. Broxton was very clear that he didn’t feel like he’d experienced racism. But he also said he felt like he was an oddity and a curiosity almost everywhere he went, because of the color of his skin.
“I remember the first day I walked to work,” he told me. “People just kept staring — one because I had a suit on, and two because I was black — and it made me uncomfortable.”
Of course, there were tradeoffs. Back home in Baltimore, he said there’s a different kind of discomfort: “Being in the city, you have to walk around looking angry—like if you mess with me, you’re going to have some problems. But when I came to Montana, I just realized I can let my guard down.”
It did take a few months, he said. But when he started being more social—“going out to the bars, and hiking, and doing what Montanans do”—his experience became more enjoyable.
“I just accepted the fact that people are going to stare at me because I’m black,” he said. “Not because they’re racist, but it’s just curiosity.”
The bison incident
About those 15 minutes of fame. A few hundred thousand people might recognize Broxton from an outtake video he posted on Twitter earlier this year, that sparked a ton of coverage.
He was at Yellowstone, alone as usual (he was almost always his own camera operator), reporting on the early reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then, a herd of bison started heading his way. If you haven’t enabled images, you can see it all here.
Our story today doesn’t have a Hollywood ending—in other words, we don’t wind up with Broxton professing that he’s now more at home in the country than the city—or turning his car around halfway to Iowa and deciding he wants to stay in Montana.
Instead, I understood in talking with him that Montana was a good stop, no regrets—but not a place or a culture he’d want to live in forever, regardless of career aspirations.
Honestly, that’s what I like about the whole story. We’re a big country, with a lot of people. We have to get along because the alternative isn’t pretty. And we’re not doing a great job of that right now.
So, we need to work harder to understand each other. We don’t have to agree with each other necessarily, and we don’t have to convince each other of very much. We don’t even really have to like each other. But we should try to understand.
I think Broxton developed a strong understanding of what Montana is like — and perhaps some Montanans who’ve never been to Baltimore benefited from getting to know him a bit, too.
“I had my ups and downs,” he told me. “I learned so much about myself. I don’t know if I’d say it was all fun, but it was worth immersing myself in a different culture and a different way of life. It made me want to keep exploring the country.”
7 other things worth your time
How ‘The Wretched,’ a very low-budget horror movie, has been the top-grossing movie in America for three weeks. (Less competition, and it plays well in drive-in theaters.) (EW)
Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force, says she’s “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together over the weekend: Florida, Maryland, and as we saw yesterday, Lake of the Ozarks. (MarketWatch)
About a quarter of Americans live alone, and many of them ‘haven't seen or touched another person in 3 months because of COVID-19.’ (USA Today)
Protestors sparked outrage in Kentucky after hanging the governor in effigy over the state’s lockdown orders. Everyone from Democrats in the state legislature to Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican, condemned them. (ABC News)
Here’s what happened when the prime minister of New Zealand was giving an interview in the middle of an earthquake. (Not much really, she laughed and continued the interview.) (The Age)
How to not have your glasses fog up while wearing a mask. Short version: basically create a nose guard by folding a napkin several times and placing it at the top of the mask. (Wall Street Journal, $)
Here’s a pretty interesting profile of the two NASA astronauts planning to head to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule Wednesday. They’ve been astronauts for 20 years, trained together for five, and have a series of similarities between them, including both being married to other astronauts. (Washington Post, $)
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