Reporting for KSL Newsradio

11800581_1479109362402990_5220997303241626044_nThe first voice I ever heard on KSL Newsradio was Scott Seeger’s. He was reporting from the execution of Ted Bundy in Florida in 1989.

“They have reporters who go all the way to Florida to cover stories?” I remember thinking. I was preparing for my first interview for a weekend position at the station, and I wanted to get to know the people and the format. Mostly what I got was nervous.

After my interview with then program director Rod Arquette, we came out of his office into what was called the “bullpen.” There was a man with soft brown unkept hair and a beard to match with his feet up on the desk. Rod paused, “Amanda, this is one of our great reporters, Scott Seeger.”

The feet came down, and the reporter stood up. He had such a warm smile and an easy way. It was no wonder I fell in love with Scott. It is no wonder he has been one of KSL’s beloved voices for 34 years.

It is at the end of Scott’s time at KSL that I feel compelled to write about my former husband, colleague, friend, and mentor. No one covered a live event like Scott. He covered the San Francisco earthquake, not by assignment, but as a result of attending the game and transforming from fan to reporter in a single tremble. Scott covered the legislature for radio and television for years. I remember putting together a roast video for his 40th birthday that included good ribbing from the leaders of both parties at all levels of government. Everyone knew – knows – and respects Scott.

I had the pleasure and honor of being Scott’s wife for the better part of a decade. The phone often rang in the middle of the night calling him out to a story. He went without hesitation. When a mentally ill woman came into our building and started shooting, and the program director told Scott to go upstairs and keep us on the air, he went without hesitation. When the tornado blew across the street while Scott was on the air, he stayed and reported without hesitation.

Election night coverage, crime, fire, courts, whether tragedy or celebration, there was just no live reporting like Scott’s. His sense of scene, story and context were so powerful. These qualities are part of what made him such a wonderful host when he took on that role later in his career. I had the chance to co-host with Scott for a brief time before Grant and I started the morning show. It was lovely. Later, when Scott started hosting with Maria, I would hear his soft laugh, relating to the audience, or his live newsmaker interviews, every afternoon driving home.

People have asked me over the years how I get along so well with my ex-husband. I can take no credit here. The joy of our long friendship is attributable to Scott. He is such a quality, strong, good man he has made room for us to be friends with each other and all of our coworkers. How rare.

How rare you are, Scott.

We have sat two cubicles away from each other for many years. I have asked about your mother’s health as you have asked about my father’s. I miss your mother.

Not nearly as much as I . . . and KSL . . . will miss you.

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We need a new American dream

I was driving home from work today listening to JayMac on KSL Newsradio talk about a picture of a 3-year-old girl. He talked about how looking at the picture broke his heart. He asked us to do something, all of us listening at that moment. He asked us to go to the app, look at the picture, and then ask ourselves what needs to change? What do our hearts tell us needs to be changed looking at that picture? Is there anyway to give this precious girl her innocence back?

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You might think, looking at the picture, that she is playing hide and seek, or being silly in some other childlike way. She is practicing a lockdown drill at her preschool in case there is an attack and she is stuck hiding in a bathroom.

. . . . . . .

I’ve been looking at the picture ever since I got home, and asking myself the question Jay posed. What needs to change? Can anything give this precious girl her innocence back? I don’t know if I can answer the second question, but something came to my mind regarding the first.

We need a new American dream. The American dream, as I have understood it, is that every American, if he or she works hard enough, can “make it,” can succeed, can own a home and provide for a family. I am not criticizing that dream. It has served us well. It’s built a prosperous nation, but it may be killing us now.

We need a new American dream. This one says that every American, if he or she loves enough, can help his or her community be better. The question on our lips will no longer be, “What’s in it for me?” but “How can I help?” We will, as St. Francis prayed, seek not to be understood, but to understand.

We need a new American dream. I want my children to dream not of mansion homes and five car garages, but of enough time to serve others. I want them to define success as a life of service to others. Imagine if Americans were known around the world for their kindness and generosity, for offering their seats to the elderly, for sharing their time and money with enthusiasm, for not thinking of themselves first. Imagine if we were not known for bragging, but for excellence in service.

We need a new American dream, one in which our children’s games were based on how to help others, points for helping, thinking of how to help, lifting up, bringing back to life that which had been broken. I know how Pollyanna this sounds. It’s a name I’ve been called before, but I embrace it. This is the American dream I have, that I want for my children, not based on climbing any latter, making it to the top of any thing, or accumulating any amount of money or objects.

This is the American dream that looks at the Constitution and says – I am free. I do not need you to be less for me to be free. How can I serve you? Compromise is easy when the first question you ask is – how can I help?

I am an American with a dream of loving my neighbor, bringing the girl in this picture, and the girl living next door, and the one whose father is in jail, into our collective arms, and asking every person we meet – how can I serve you? There is no machismo in this dream. It will not do well at the box office. They will not write songs about it.

But it may save lives. In the long run.

That is my answer, Jay. Thank you for asking the question.

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“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

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The last time before this weekend that I went to Ground Zero was the last week of September, 2001. My husband and I had planned a long weekend in New York to see plays and go to museums, as we did from time to time before the little boys were born. We wondered seriously after 9-11 whether we should cancel our trip, but then heard Mayor Giuliani ask Americans to come, to not abandon his great city. So we went.

We  couldn’t see anything at the site of the attack that September not quite 15 years ago, except for the black tarps covering the buildings that still stood facing where the twin towers had once loomed. There were barriers up all around the pit that was left behind, the pit where the men and women worked to delicately remove remains of those who had passed and what was left of the World Trade Center. NYPD stood guard at every entrance. Tourists asked to have their pictures taken with them.

There were memorials of flowers and candles near many of the entrances back then. And there were the “Missing” pictures and posters everywhere, some (pictured above) are included in the museum today. 15 years ago those “Have you seen my loved one” signs were everywhere, in the train station and airport, along every avenue, and especially at Ground Zero.

I went to Ground Zero to see the memorial and the museum this weekend, thinking I would pay my respect for an hour or so. When I emerged from the new One World Trade Center five hours later, I was shocked at the time and the exhaustion I felt.

I am not be able to describe to you in any way that does justice to what you will experience when you go there. What I mean to do here is to implore you to go. I know we all lived that day, but I have never felt it. Not like the people it actually affected. And while that is never truly possible, this experience there now is both respectful and important, for all of us.

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The museum takes you down, down into what used to be called the bathtub. It is the area where you can see the slurry wall, the great wall built by the masons 40 years ago to hold back the river so that the building of the twin towers would not destabilize the underground and let the river flood lower Manhattan. Miraculously, the wall held during 9-11. If it hadn’t, the subway system would have flooded and who knows how much of the island itself.

This picture is of the “last column,” the final column removed from the site which the fire and police companies wrote their names and call numbers on. There are pictures of police and fire men and women on the column. There are loving farewells. It is a reverent artifact to stand next to, and then you turn the corner and see the actual fire truck that was demolished. You can touch the portion of the antennae that stood atop the North Tower, a thing as wide as a jet engine. They recovered a window from one of the planes.

But it isn’t the artifacts that will stay with you. It is the voices. The first thing you experience when you walk into the museum are voices of people recounting what they saw and thought, recordings from people calling into New York City radio stations describing the paper flying everywhere along Wall Street. Later, you hear the recording of a man in the South Tower, leaving time stamped messages for his wife, telling her something terrible has happened in the North Tower. Message after message. Asking her to pick up.

Later you hear the descriptions of the employees at the Pentagon tell of following the voices of someone shouting where to turn because the smoke was so thick they couldn’t see anything. They followed the voices until suddenly there was light. Doctors, even a general, came to pour liquid on them to make them stop smoldering.

Then Flight 93, and you hear the remarkably calm voice message of a woman to her husband, telling him there is a “little problem,” but she is fine, and she loves him. “Tell the children I love them.”

It’s the voices you will not forget. The images caught and described by the people who lived it, images not shared on the news, some not appropriate for children. A woman in an apartment building across from the towers saw a woman jump to her death. She felt to look away would have been inhumane. The woman pulled down her skirt before she stepped from the window. One last act of modesty.

I felt so much love and helplessness as I walked through the museum. And I felt hate when I heard the terrorists say “Allah is great” before they turned Flight 93 toward the ground. I prayed to let go of the hate. It was Easter Sunday. Hate will only lead to more 9-11’s.

When we emerged from the museum, I needed to sit, but my husband wisely urged me toward the new building just a few yards away, built by people who would not let the terrorists defeat their dreams. One World Trade Center. The tallest building in North America. A spectacular shining inspiration with a 360 degree view of all five bridges and two states.

I saw the Statue of Liberty from the observation deck and cried for the last time that day.

Thank you for reading this. Let us love each other better and more fully. Let us forgive but never forget what happened that day. As the beautiful quote reads inside the museum, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” Let us be filled with gratitude for the heroism of every possible variety that was demonstrated by the people of 9-11. I am inspired to live with purpose for as many days as I have left on this earth.

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“A government of laws, and not of men”

I cannot help but write on the occasion of the armed men taking over BLM property in Oregon in protest of the sentence handed down to their fellow ranchers, Dwight and Steve Hammond. Today the Hammonds report back to federal prison to serve a sentence which these armed men in Oregon, and many others no doubt, believe is unfair. The sentence is five years for the lighting of fires on federal lands. I will not take your time here to explain the details that prompted the charge and the sentence. They are complicated and they are in dispute, but the key issue, which is not in dispute, is that these men were sentenced under the rule of law to serve these sentences.

I have, in my brief time as a lawyer and longer time as a student of the law, seen many sentences which seemed to not fit the crime. Decades for seemingly small thefts under the three-strikes-you’re-out law. Similar terms, sometimes life terms, for what seemed on their face to be small drug offenses if the “wrong” drug was involved. I remember a case here in Utah where a defendant was sentenced to multiple years for sticking a dollar bill in a vending machine with a string tied to it, then pulling it back out attempting to get both the dollar back and change as well. He did this multiple times, trying to trick the machine to give him change for the dollar and the dollar back. I don’t think he stole more than a few dollars, but it was his third offense.

The laws , as you know, are written by legislative bodies, elected by us, to protect our interests. If we disagree with the sentences imposed, we have means of redress. If we are the party involved, we may appeal the sentence. If we believe the sentences are wrong for not only that defendant but all like him, we can petition the Congress or state legislature to re-write the criminal code. These are the lawful and constitutional ways we seek redress in this country.

Because as John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.” We do not take guns into buildings, whether they are occupied or not, remote or not, the government’s or not, and announce our intention to stay for years if necessary until we get our way. That is not the way we petition for redress of grievances. We appeal to the courts. We appeal to the Congress. We appeal to the government. We behave in the lawful and respectful manner that separates us from the governments we criticize in other parts of the world.

If you disagree with the way the federal government is managing land in Oregon or Utah or any other state, then you bring your case to the Congress and the president. If you are unsuccessful, you do not get to occupy federal property with guns until you get your way. That is the 4th grader mentality of stomping your feet and demanding you are right even after you’ve lost the day. “Not fair! Not fair! Not fair!”

We are a society of the people, by the people and for the people – all of the people – not just those who agree with you. That is why we agree to be governed by laws – for the people’s sake. The government is not above the people – it IS the people – made up of the people who are enforcing laws enacted by the people. We must stop seeing each other as the enemy. We must tap into our higher natures. We must remember that when we lose an argument, the judge or the jury or the government who decided against us is not necessarily evil or unconstitutional or even wrong just because they disagree with us.

When schools must be closed nearby to protect the children in case violence breaks out, that is a pretty good clue that the path you are pursuing is not what our founding fathers had in mind. Use your stronger weapon – which is not your gun – but your mind. Make a better argument. Win the day with your words in the right place and time. If you are using guns and not words, that feels like terrorism at its worst and bullying in its least offensive light.

I say to the Bundy brothers – go home to Cedar City and Arizona. To those who support them, allow your frustration to serve your political activism, but in a respectful way. This is the American way. Because we are a government of laws, and not of men.

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What the news won’t tell you

  There has been much discussion today, after the mass shooting at Umpqua College in Oregon, about whether we in the news should report the name of the shooter. The sheriff in Roseburg would not state the shooter’s name and asked the media to do likewise, although, of course, we could not heed his call. We are in the fact business, however much many of us may have agreed with the spirit of his request.

There is a larger question here about what we choose to include in the news because it is, very much, a choice. I have never subscribed to the theory that news exists “out there” and we are compelled to go cover it and bring it to you on the radio, television, newspaper or web. There is no event, with perhaps limited exception, that MUST be included in the news. The news is, if you will forgive the tone of this statement, what we say it is. Or perhaps more accurately, what we think you want it to be. We do endless research about what you want to hear about, and then we give it back to you. There is a good deal of tail wagging the news dog, but that does not remove our responsibility, our moral responsibility, to own the decision. We decide what goes on the air, and we must, therefore, take some ownership for the effect it has on society.

The point I mean to make is this – we watch a half hour of news, scroll down 20 stories, listen to 20 minutes of news on the way into work, and on an average day what are we fed? Road rage, corrupt politicians, murder, hit and runs, children abused, computers hacked, armed robberies, people killed in all manner of ways. Oh, and the feel good story thrown in for good measure at the end. No wonder a considerable percentage of our society tunes out to the news in total, trying to protect themselves and their children from the filth and negativity.

When you ask news directors why we report so much crime and negativity in the news, most will tell you that the “news” is by definition that which is different, that which is unlike the norm, unlike the day to day, and these mass shootings and crimes are what is newsworthy, unusual, remarkable in that they are worthy of being remarked upon. That may be true, but the impression that these choices in coverage is leaving on our culture is that we live in a dark and violent place, that our children are not safe in school, that people are manipulative and not to be trusted. No wonder everyone wants to own a gun. We watch and listen and read and believe that THAT is the way it is because we forget what we are hearing does not represent the vast majority of daily life in America. The vast majority of daily life in America is not, according to the newsroom’s way of thinking, newsworthy.

Marriages work, but you don’t hear about those. Children go to school and learn and feel good about themselves, every day, and come home safely, but you don’t and you won’t hear about that. People get jobs and keep them and feed their families, but you won’t hear about that. Fathers and mothers find a way to take care of their children, and elected officials do the best they can to represent their communities. The people who run companies are usually hard working souls who care about their employees and are not embezzling money. Police officers are brave and kind and generous to a fault. And the same goes for teachers and the people who work the bank and car dealers and just about everybody else I know. I desperately want to end every newscast I read with something that sounds like this, “I’ve just informed you about the unusual events of the day, but please remember, they represent less than 1% of what life is really like. Don’t lose sight of what real life looks like. For most of us it is filled with abundance of some kind, material or otherwise. It is a good and peaceful world in so many ways.”

That is not Pollyanna. That is fact. It’s just not one the news will ever tell you.

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