neff-and-centerville-boyI spent the evening in a room full of heroes this week. It was the Department of Public Safety Awards banquet. I was surrounded by men and women who serve all of us, every day, in extraordinary ways. I listened and watched as the awards were given for saving lives. One driver drove into oncoming traffic in an apparent suicide attempt with her 8 year old and 18 month infant in the car. A trooper got there, applied a tourniquet to the 8 year old who was losing significant blood, got the child airlifted to Primary Children’s, and saved the child’s life. Another officer in the St. George police 14572829_1153450934702470_1671469341188840649_n

One after another they came onto the stage to receive their award. They stood next to Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, Commissioner Keith Squires, Deputy Commissioner Nannette Rolfe and Colonel Michel Rapich. They looked humble, slightly awkward even, as if they didn’t want to be there. This is the “Trooper of the Year” Stephen Matthews pictured here, a leader in many ways in the Utah Highway Patrol. He was like so many of the wonderful men and women I admired that night. There was no strutting onto the stage. There was only humility. They looked happy to shake the hands of their superiors, proud of their work, but uncomfortable being singled out when they would be the first to tell you that they were just doing their job.

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_mg_0106I was there as part of the Beyond the Badge program at KSL Newsradio, to accept an award on its behalf, to thank the Larry H. and Gail Miller Foundation who makes the program possible, and to see our officers honored. I am so proud of the officers who we have the opportunity to feature each week on KSL, officers from every jurisdiction in the state. It was a real pleasure to watch them walk, one by one, onto the stage and be recognized in front of their peers. Their acts of service, large and small, have such a profound effect on the communities they serve.

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I had not anticipated the surge of emotion I would feel when Colonel Rapich described the “Table for One.” Are you familiar with this ritual? Law enforcement families likely are, but I was not. I had seen the ceremony once before, but it was not at the front of my mind until I felt the powerful emotion in the Colonel’s description of the Table and noticed it set off to the side of the dining hall. table-for-one

The Colonel spoke, “We set the Table to honor and to remember them for they are not with us.

The white tablecloth, which stands for purity and their willingness to answer the call to duty, so that all communities will remain safe.

The single rose reminds us of loved ones and families of our comrades, who are keeping the faith. The yellow ribbon on the vase, just like the ones worn by thousands who admire them and who demand justice and safety for all.

The slice of lemon is on the plate to remind us of their bitter fate.

The salt on the table which symbolizes the families tears.

The Bible represents strength achieved from faith, helping to sustain those while in the line of duty, founded as one nation under God.

The faded picture on the table serves as a reminder to their families that they are loved and missed very much.

The candle will be lit to symbolize the upward reach of their unequaled spirit. With complete disregard for their own safety, and despite the extreme hazards associated with their duties, they entered into danger to protect and rescue with exemplary courage. We honor them, to bring great credit upon themselves, their families and friends. Also, we as a community, honor and respects our heroes.

Please join us now as we bow our heads in a moment of silence.”

I was close enough to the stage to see the tears in the Colonel’s eyes. I know he has lost men he served with and loved. I felt the tears on my own cheeks as I sat silently, thinking of their sacrifice and of their families.

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The evening ended when the family of Officer Doug Barney, shot down in the line of duty, came onto the stage. We stood up immediately and clapped with love and support in our hearts for widow Erika Barney, son Jack Barney and daughter Meredith Barney. Jack reached up and gave the Colonel a full body hug that lasted for so long I knew they had hugged before. The boy then turned, saw nearly a thousand people clapping for him, his sister and mother, and smiled.

colin-powellI have been struggling with the question today of whether or not I was unethical for having shared the contents of former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s email with you on the air this morning. His email server was hacked, and the contents of those email were posted on a website, which lead to their being picked up by every media outlet in the country, including KSL.

I do not let myself off the hook by saying, “Well, everyone else shared them, so I get to.” Of course that’s not a good enough answer.

As I heard my colleague Jay McFarland asking the question today, “How could it be ethical for someone to share something that is stolen, to aid and abet the hackers, the thieves?” I had to ask myself, am I ethical? I shared stolen information.

Would I have shared a stolen photograph of Secretary Powell that showed him in the shower? No. I would not have. That would not have been newsworthy in my judgement. Would I have shared an email between him and his wife. Again, no, same reason.

But I shared his opinion of Donald Trump, which was not complimentary. And I read and want to share with you his opinion about the Benghazi investigation because I think it is important and credible. Credible because it was shared in an unguarded manner with Condoleezza Rice.  So, we have two high level knowledgeable officials sharing an opinion on Benghazi, a topic about which there have been repeated hearings and even more heartache and millions of dollars spent, but the information is stolen.

It’s private – but it’s important.

It’s stolen – but it’s important.

Do you want to know what it is? It may change the way you think about Benghazi. Do you have a right to know? Maybe. Maybe not. The Benghazi Committee could subpoena Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, but they have not. If they did, we could learn these opinions in a lawful way. Since they are unlikely to, we may never have learned them were it not for these stolen emails.

Am I unethical for reading them, for sharing them? It is a question I struggle with tonight. I heard Jay talk today about our decision in the media to not share some information – the name of a rape victim (although there are states that actually outlaw such conduct, removing any choice from the media) or the name of a suicide or child victim. These are sometimes questions of not what we “can” do but what we “should” do. We withhold this information for two reasons: 1) because we are protecting a victim and 2) for the larger societal good.

Are those reasons present in withholding Colin Powell’s opinions on Donald Trump or Benghazi? Is there a victim to protect? Some might say Colin Powell is a victim for having his privacy invaded. Having been in such a situation myself once where very private communications were shared, I know that can be a truly victimizing feeling. But what about number two. Is the larger societal good served by withholding the information? Is deterring the hackers worth withholding the information that could affect our understanding of history or opinions in a matter of national concern? And again, you would feel completely differently if this were an email to his wife, if it contained a compromising picture or even details about his personal life. The emails I have read were all about matters of significant national interest, and while that does not qualify as whistle blowing, it may reach a point where we have to ask ourselves – which is the larger societal good? Preserving privacy, including ultimately our own, or sharing important information?

I hear the “ends justify the means” in my argument, and I don’t like it, and so I ask myself again, was I unethical to share that information with you this morning? Do you want to know that information? Your desire won’t dictate my behavior, although I am interested. Tonight I struggle with my own conscience. It’s not everyday I am called unethical. Not everyday my conduct may qualify under that heading.

I will not share the Benghazi quote with you after all. If you want to read it, you can find it. I do not regret reading it myself. There is something in me that feels once a person is a Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, National Security Advisor, not to mention Four Star General, their candid opinions on matters of public interest become too important not to know.

Just because I don’t regret reading it does not mean I don’t regret sharing it with you on the air. I certainly regret doing anything that would cause me to lose your respect. I have been striving for 25 years to earn it. It is not something I would throw away on one hacker story.

No matter how important the subject matter is.

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I write on the morning of September 11, 2016, 15 years after the horrible attack that ripped us apart . . . before it pulled us together as a nation. I, like all of you, will always feel a solemn and deep sense of patriotism when I think of the first responders running toward the World Trade Center. I will never forget the way neighbors stood together after that horrible day, lighting candles, talking with each other, feeling more like brothers, like Americans, than we had in a generation.

It was the terrible beauty that came from the rubble of that day.

I have heard the question posed since 9-11 regarding Islamic extremists, “Why do they hate us?” Why would people from across the globe plot and send their sons to slaughter our innocents, and the innocents of others around the world? Where does their hate come from? I have heard a number of answers: they hate us for our freedom, for our western ways, for our occupation of Muslim countries, for our economic advantage, for our arrogance. It is hard to know the truth of the genesis of hate in any man’s heart.

Today I ask a different but related question – why do we hate each other? Why do we look for what is different, find it, and scream about it? Why do we belittle, criticize, and demean each other at every turn? Why is that our go-to thought? When we see something that isn’t quite right in our estimation, why do we immediately tweet, “That person is terrible!” or “That network is terrible!” or “That candidate is terrible!” And when we see those tweets or Facebook posts, why do we like or retweet, passing on the hate? What is it in us that wants to embrace the battle, that feels good being on one side and against our bother, that likes hurting someone else?

If you knew your tweet or comment made a young girl cry, would you still tweet it? Does it matter to you if she is a Republican’s daughter or a Democrat’s? Does it matter if she is a BYU or Utah fan? Does it matter if she “had it coming”? Is that even possible? What was the payoff for you in posting? Truth? Justification? “See everybody? I told you how terrible they were, and they are!”

What is truth? A man tweeted this morning that Fox News was the only network talking about Hillary Clinton’s near fainting spell at the 9-11 Memorial. “There was a complete media blackout everywhere else,” the tweet read. I saw that tweet while watching 20 minutes of coverage on that very issue on CNN. I tweeted to tell him CNN was covering it. He told me “You might want to do your homework.  At the time that tweet was written they were not. Stop misrepresenting what I wrote.” His followers loved that smackdown. “Stop providing her cover Amanda.”

I truly have no agenda in commenting on Hillary’s health, on whether the heat got to her today, on what caused her weakness. I am one of those journalists who likes facts. I just wanted that man to know that there was no “media blackout.” Can we not even talk about whether or not a story is being covered without demeaning each other?

The answer right now is . . . no. No, we cannot. When I shared a video made by an African American woman supporting Donald Trump, people were outraged that I would be part of his propaganda machine. When I share comments made by veterans against him, I am accused of trying to get Hillary elected. Why can’t we just be interested in facts? The first woman supports Donald Trump. The second group criticizes. We listen to both, and decide how we feel.

Can we not hear information without shouting the other person down? Do I have to belittle another person, network, football team or their fans in order to feel good about my own? Where is the bond that held us together shortly after the terrible, terrible tragedy of 15 years ago this day?

Does it require pain to pull us together? Can we not find the love and respect for each other that are deserved for no other reason than that we are human? When someone is cruel to me, I know there is pain underneath the anger. My prayer is that I respond to the pain and not the cruelty.

My prayer for all of us this Sunday September 11th morning is that we look for ways to change the conversation. If we all see a hundred posts or tweets a day on average, how many of them are cruel? How many of them are kind? How many of them are just factual? I love critical thinking – it’s critical people I struggle with – and what has been interesting to me in 30 years of broadcasting is I begin to notice that the two don’t seem to exist at the same time. When I am being critical and heated, I am not usually thinking critically, and vice versa.

Today I offer respect to all of my brothers and sisters who feel love in their hearts for this country, and even to those who do not. We are all Americans. We stand or sit or kneel together, and I have love in my heart for all of us. I offer this prayer to lower the anger in our voices, to listen more and shout less, to see the genuine effort being made all around us to do the best we can every day. It is extraordinary. It is beautiful.

As beautiful as the crisp blue sky of a September day.

 

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.

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.