Big in Auburn

Local celebrity status aided by ink-worthy stories
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Famous? Probably not, in the standard sense of the word. But over the course of several decades, Auburn's Brown family has had a knack of popping up on the pages of the Auburn Journal. David and Shawn Brown, their daughter, Jessica, and son, Dane, have been featured over the past four decades for accomplishments as varied as winning rifle-shooting trophies and rodeo queen pageants, restoring vintage autos and showing champion livestock. The Journal has captured the active Auburn family in stories that were buried on inside pages and even one that spanned the globe. Soon after coming to town, David Brown joined the Funkbox Derby committee and found his name in the Journal on a regular basis because of that involvement. Every year through the 1980s and early 1990s, wildly decorated soapbox racers would speed downhill along a closed-off Lincoln Way in Downtown Auburn. In 2002, Brown thought he had a story to tell but it turned out that another story was the one reported in the Journal “ and catapulted him into international noteworthiness. Brown had purchased Auburn 76 from long-time owner Ray Leonard and Leonard contacted the paper to see if there was a chance for a story on the new owner. During the ensuing interview, the reporter learned that Brown was able to free up resources to buy the station because of an unexpected windfall. The story unfolded that Brown had become the favorite mechanic of an elderly woman, who owned a 1962 Cadillac. After going into hospice care, she asked Shawn “ who breeds miniature Doberman pinschers and has been featured in the Journal for that “ to look after the dogs. The woman died soon afterward and David Brown got a phone call asking him to be at the reading of the will. He'd expected a bequest to help for the care of the dogs but instead learned that he had been willed the Cadillac “ and half of a 14-acre rural Auburn estate, including a new 5,000-square-foot home. The ensuing story turned into national and international news fodder. The woman was without children or other heirs. A friend phoned from a pub in England to tell me he was watching me on TV, David said. I had my 15 minutes of fame. Keith Turner, an Auburn public relations specialist, said that Brown's experience is proof of the advice he gives clients in their own quest to get their name out there in the media. My basic advice for any company or person is that they need a story to tell, Turner said. Turner, an editor for dailies in California and Alaska before going into public relations for businesses like Sacramento's KCRA 3 and Newcastle's Gutterglove, had his own early experience with local fame. As a 5-year-old in Yellow Springs, Ohio, he punctured his liver in an accident and the Yellow Springs News not only reported on the mishap but ran an ad after his recovery with a photo and endorsement for Jersey Dairy Milk. Turner said he still has the clipping. If your story may not be newspaper material, a letter to the editor or posting a comment on a story could get you some local celebrity sheen, Turner added. But a good story is a starting point papers will latch onto, Turner said. You're just a face in the crowd until you have a story, he said. Shawn Brown said that, technically speaking, her first appearance in a newspaper actually preceded her birth. Her mother was pregnant with her when her photo appeared in the local paper for winning a sewing machine. Growing up in Auburn, Shawn would see her name or photo in the Journal as a Future Farmers of America member, livestock breeder, rodeo queen and member of the Placer High School cadet corps. In the early 1970s, she appeared with a couple of rifle-toting teammates for a picture taken at Placer High “ back in a time when guns on campus were administration-approved. And a gun range was located under the gym. Brown said she feels a twinge of embarrassment seeing herself in print. It's like hearing your voice in a recording, she said. You don't always sound like you think you sound. Both of the Brown offspring are keeping up the family knack for ink in the Journal. Jessica, 24, started young, wearing her Easter best and clutching a basket of eggs for a front page picture in 1986 after taking part in the 20-30 Club egg hunt. Later on, Jessica submitted a buyer's letter and photo of her prize-winning pig in advance of the Junior Livestock Auction and it ended up as a half-page item under the headline Who will buy this pig? Eleven years ago, the Journal Lifestyle pages featured Jessica and her supreme champion duroc after a win at the Grand National Rodeo Horse and Stock Show in San Francisco. The headline was Hog Heaven. And more recently, Jessica's face was splashed over the paper when she won the Miss Auburn Wild West Stampede title. Not to be outdone, 18-year-old Dane Brown is breaking into print too. His work to restore a 1966 Mustang for Hot August Nights in Reno was featured in a photo-story. There's no formula to being big in Auburn “ or at least sharing space with all the other local residents who find their way into the Journal, David Brown said. It's just living in Auburn, Brown said. Auburn's small enough and we take part in community activities. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at, or post a comment at Getting published in the Auburn Journal is easier than you think By Michelle Miller Journal news editor There are several tips to finagle your way onto the pages of the Auburn Journal. One surefire way to make it in the Journal is to be on the Placer County Sheriff's Most Wanted list, but if you aren't the criminal type, here are a few other ideas. Get married ” The Journal prints Milestones announcements weekly in the Lifestyle section, which includes births, weddings, engagements and anniversaries. If you have a milestone, go to and click on the Submit an Announcement link to send us your information and a photo. Word on the street ” If a reporter with a notebook and a camera walks up to you at 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday in front of Save Mart, stop and talk to him or her. It may be for a Word on the Street, where we ask locals their opinion on news issues. Write a letter ” Let your voice be heard on the Auburn Journal's Opinion page, which runs daily on page A4. This space is reserved for you, our readers, to react to what we've published or express your opinion ” and you get to see your name in print. Shorter letters (under 250 words) and local subjects tend to be preferred by our editors. Look in FYI ” Occasionally, Journal reporters will put a call to readers in our FYI section, which runs daily on page A2. Reporters could be looking for people with vanity license plates or exotic pets for an upcoming story. If you are what we're looking for, give us a call. Pitch your story ” If you have an interesting story about yourself, let us know about it. You can contact me at and we may consider your personal tale for an article. Once you've made it in the paper, you can go online to and share your story with friends and family by clicking on the Share This icon at the bottom of the story. To get your story in print, come to our offices at 1030 High St. to pick up a back copy. Just have the date of the paper in which you appeared and some coinage to pay for the issue. The Journal keeps copies of several weeks of past papers, but once we run out, they're all gone, so come early.