We lost a member of the ideastream family, this week. Mhari Saito, an award-winning reporter, died on Monday due to complications from cancer. David C. Barnett has this remembrance.
The name and voice of Mhari Saito are very familiar to radio listeners in Northeast Ohio and around the country. She was one of ideastream's most frequent contributors to national programs. That network exposure began long before her arrival here in 2005. Her first radio work was for NPR in the late 1990s
Mhari was born to a Scottish mother and a Japanese father, and was raised in the Washington DC area. For a time she was a professional modern dancer. This little wisp of a person was as dogged as any reporter in pursuit of a good story --- driven, focused, eager to wade through reams of data and make sense of it; a stickler for facts.
Mhari Saito won nearly two dozen awards at ideastream. In 2012, the Associated Press named her Best Radio Reporter in Ohio. Among her national accolades was a prestigious Headliner Award --- first place for a series called "Toxic Loans". She spent a lot of time in recent years reporting on the region's foreclosure crisis and its impact on individuals and neighborhoods.
Everybody needs to come up for air sometimes from the heaviness of the news. Mhari found an outlet once in a story about kids learning jitterbug dancing. Then , there was the time that she took listeners along with an exterminator looking to eliminate a bed bug infestation.
Mhari also had an eye --- and an ear --- for "who knew" stories - like her reporting that Northeast Ohio is the king of cotton ball manufacturers.
But, it wasn't just the reporting that made Mhari so appreciated here at ideastream. She never complained or criticized; she helped her colleagues --- always; and showed appreciation --- mostly in little ways, like the time she gave an intern a big bag of donut holes as a "thank you" for some research.
And she set an example of a balanced life. Most of her time at ideastream, Mhari was a part-timer. That's the arrangement she wanted, so that she'd be free to spend time with her husband and two girls. She spent her last year with them...and battling cancer. She was 41.