There is a tiny bit of anxiety about asking a dumb question when interviewing Heather Brown, WCCO-TV’s “Good Question” correspondent.
So as she cradled baby Maura, I did not ask Brown if she was excited about returning to work after maternity leave for the birth of her second daughter. She loves her job, but come on, what’s more soothing than cuddling a baby? A baby who slept through most of our Q&A. Brown also has a 2-year-old daughter, Riley, and 6-year-old stepson, Liam, who keep her hopping and may be a reason she’ll return to work this week with what looks like no baby weight.
“Please,” said Brown. “It’s still here. I have three kids and they keep me going all the time.”
Between the kids, a husband and a demanding job, Brown must be an excellent time manager. She is avid about the dying art of writing thank-you notes, writing them to everyone she interviews or interviews her.
When it come to “Good Question,” Brown’s favorites are the ones where she learns something. Thawing a turkey is one of those subjects about which a “Good Question” or a call to Butterball hot line would have been helpful on a particular Thanksgiving morning. That’s a pretty funny passage here. In a more serious vein, I wanted Brown’s thoughts on the death of Prince, which occurred while she was on leave from the newsroom.
Q: What information is your incisive mind interested in having confirmed about Prince’s death?
A: The big thing I want to know is if it really was the painkillers, where did he get all these painkillers? Was it one doctor, a bunch of different doctors? And if it was one doctor, or even a bunch of doctors, did he have kind of a VIP treatment where people were in awe of him, where they would just give him whatever he asked for, whether it was dangerous or not? I hope that those questions get answered, and I bet that they will, because I would imagine people will be investigated for whatever kinds of medications he did have. Another thing that I have wondered, and I wondered this from the very first day this was reported: Prince said something in his last public appearance: Don’t waste your prayers on me. Did he know something that we didn’t know or something that we don’t know? That haunts me. That kind of has stuck with me in watching all of this. I wonder if he knew just how sick he was.
Q: When that doctor from Robbinsdale vamoosed …
A: Suddenly. The hospital wouldn’t say where he was. Even so, they’ll still find him.
Q: I’m sure the doctor just went away to avoid us.
Q: How do you know when you have a really good question?
A: Usually I know because people respond well to it. I get good feedback either via Twitter or Facebook or e-mails. The way I do the best questions is that I really learn something new. Something that shocks me that I had no idea that that could be the answer. Sometimes the best questions don’t even have an answer.
Q: Ben Tracy did “Good Question” and then Jason DeRusha, and now you, the first woman. All three of you are incredibly intelligent. Who’s the smartest of you three?
A: [Laughs uproariously.] We’re all equal. Equally smart, equally brilliant? I don’t know. They are both very good guys. We’re all on an even playing field.
Q: Have you seen any differences as a woman doing “Good Question?”
A: I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman [or] if “Good Question?” has changed a little bit over time. It’s still asking good questions and talking to people on the street and talking to the expert. I think different experiences help. For example, since I’ve been doing “Good Question,” I’ve had two babies. For pretty much half the time, I’ve been pregnant while I’ve been doing “Good Question,” and it just gives me a really different perspective than Jason or, say, Ben [in] what kind of questions we ask and how we answer them. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have the same question answered differently by these different people, because they all offer really good insight.
Q: What are some of the oddest questions you have been asked?
A: I’ve been asked a lot of really odd questions. I have a folder where I keep some of the oddest. I wish I had access to that folder. My brain is a little spacey. Sometimes people will call in to chitchat. What’s the weather going to be like? Probably one of the weirdest: How many different types of uses are there for urine? I thought, “I don’t know if any good comes out of that question. I don’t know why you’d answer it.”
Q: Did this person call you?
A: No, they e-mailed and I just put it in my little folder called Question Mark. Sometimes I like to go back and look at them.
Q: When you need a laugh you can open it up?
A: Oh yeah.
Q: The last time I heard that discussed in public: Madonna on David Letterman. Remember that “Late Show” incident?
A: I don’t. I don’t know that I want to, yeah.
Q: How often do viewers treat you like their personal question answerer?
A: A lot. And sometimes I am. For example, I love hard-boiled eggs, and someone e-mailed the question: How do I get hard-boiled eggs so I am able to peel the shell off well? I knew we weren’t going to answer that question on TV, but I wrote back a long answer because I love hard-boiled eggs. Sometimes there are things I’m really interested in and I’ll write back a couple paragraphs. [The question-askers will respond,] “I didn’t really expect to you to answer that question.”
Q: You’re probably too nice to think this, but there are stupid questions?
A: You know, I don’t like to say that, because when I go in and ask these experts — brain surgeons and all these college professors — I feel like an idiot sometimes because I am asking them a question they know in and out, so I always say I apologize for my naiveté. Yeah, there are some stupid questions, but. …
Q: Three kids under 6?
A: Under 7. We have a 6-year-old, a just-turned 2-year-old, and then this one is almost 2 months. I haven’t been running as much as I like to or used to, but I’m still trying to get back into it.
Q: Three kids 7 and under means that for more than 10 years you are going to have someone in college and some of those years two kids at time.
A: That would be true. So we’ve already started their college funds. It’s hard for me to think that far ahead because they are so. … We are just going hour by hour, day by day. For me to even think about them being in college seems so far off.
Q: I’m told it goes fast.
A: Everyone tells me it goes fast. With my 2-year-old I realized how fast it went. So with this one I’m trying to soak it in a little bit more. I don’t worry as much about the dishes and laundry. We’ll sit and we’ll just snuggle because I know I won’t have this forever, and I love it.
Q: What did you eat that Thanksgiving you had your entire family in town and you didn’t take the turkey out of the freezer until Thanksgiving morning?
A: Oh, my gosh, I’m not a cook. That was when my mom and dad were coming into town. My mom just looked at me with this look of horror: What are you thinking? [Did] we have to go get an emergency turkey that wasn’t frozen or … my mom probably came in and saved the day. I’m pretty sure we had turkey.
Q: When did you realize the Butterball hot line could not help you?
A: [Laughs.] My mom’s look of horror gave me the answer I needed.
Q: You’ve had more Thanksgivings since then. What’s the best side dish you make?
A: You know, I love sweet potatoes and marshmallows. I could eat that over and over. I don’t make bad mashed potatoes. But I make turkey now, too.
Q: You’re a good writer. Give me one tip that would instantly make anyone a better writer.
A: I try and write as if I’m talking to someone I know. I am trying to make it easy to understand. A lot of times we take these really difficult topics and people have to [understand them] in one minute and 30 seconds. And most don’t rewind, so you can’t have them going back and saying, “What did she say?” “That didn’t make sense.” So I try to to make it simple. For me, simple works better than flowery.
Q: What movie have you watched with your kids that left you in tears?
A: “Inside Out.” From the second it started. Oh yeah, the little girl with the feelings when she moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. I was also really pregnant then. Everything makes me cry now.
Q: Don’t you hate that? The older I get the more emotional I am. I’ll cry over a TV commercial. I hate that.
A: I didn’t used to cry like that. My husband will walk into the room, and I’ll just be sitting there in tears. I’m OK, it was just a commercial. Or things on the internet. Oh, hi. [Baby wakes up.]
Q: What is your favorite TV show to binge-watch if ever you get an opportunity to do that again?
A: HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” Chip and Jojo. I love her.
Interviews are edited. To reach C.J. try firstname.lastname@example.org and to see her watch Fox 9’s “Jason Show.”