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Extreme Team

One of the challenges when doing a story that involves children is that they usually give you extremely short answers.  Most of the time the response is yes, no or I don't know, even when I don't ask a yes or no question.  I interviewed seven 4th graders at Woods Cross Elementary and was worried that the responses would be very short.  It was the exact opposite.  They were much better than a lot of adults I interview.

The reason I interviewed these students is because they've formed a group called the "Extreme Team."  They've decided they want to put an end to bullies in school and so they are going around helping kids during recess or in the halls.  These students are doing all this on their own, there's no school project to do this they just want to help students so that school is fun and safe. 

It was so interesting interviewing each student.  They have hand written and laminated their own business cards to show students.  When they see students fighting they go up to them, flash their card showing they're a member of the extreme team and ask them if they can help.  The founder of the group said that some students don't want help so they leave them alone, but they have helped some kids by breaking up fights or by just being nice by including them and sitting next to them in class.  These students even get together on Saturdays to make a list of students who need help and what they can do to help them at school. 

They're not doing it for class credit or to be recognized.  They just want everyone to enjoy school.  Kind of nice to interview people who are so sincere.

Posted by Lance Bandley on September 27, 2005 at 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can You Sing?

Since I had a little extra time between stories I had a chance to run across the street to the Delta Center where they were holding tryouts for people who want to sing the national anthem at Jazz games.  They have the lower bowl seats pulled back and just the wood floor down.  Those who were trying out would walk down from the main doors and stand in front of about 6 or 7 people who would evaluate them.  Most people started out really well but then they would speed up at the end and combine words.  Some people had to start over a few times because they forgot the words.  Of course there's no way I would do it in front of the 7 people there let alone 19,911 Jazz fans.  About 90 people had tested their vocal abilities before I arrived to watch.  There were people of all age ranges and they had to sing acappella.  It was interesting to hear the different versions of The Star-Spangled Banner, I didn't know there were so many.  I had only heard one before.

Posted by Lance Bandley on September 23, 2005 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Amanda on Selection of Stories

I enjoyed Lance Bandley's discussion of how he comes up with so many stories each week.  It prompted me to think about the opposing challenges we sometimes face at KSL.  There is the challenge Lance describes of coming up with enough ideas to, as we sometimes say, "feed the beast."  And then there is the challenge of deciding which of a number of stories to do. 

How do we decide which stories to cover?  PR executives would like to control the decision, but don't.  They write press releases they hope we will take and read verbatim, but that rarely (but more often than it should) happens.  Various officials would like to control the stories too, either to shine the light most favorable to them on the story or to influence whether or not a story is done. Sometimes people affected by a story will call and ask us not to do a story.  That's a tough call to take, but a plea like that cannot influence the decision.

The decision is made after much discussion and debate in the news room.  Our morning editor, Suzanne, weighs in.  Grant and I both express our opinions.  Sometimes our news and program director, Russ Hill, will make the call, but often it's the reporters, Suzanne and Grant and I who come to a meeting of the minds on a story.  We try to ask the question, "Will our listeners by interested in this?"  We truly do try, to the extent we can, to put ourselves in your shoes and ask whether or not you will care, and if you will, how much you will care.  We often argue with passion about what we believe will interest you.  I'm proud to have won some of those arguments, and proud to have lost some too when opposed by a more persuasive and reasoned opinion.

It's an enormous responsibility and honor to select what is "news" for the day each morning.  We know this and we treat the decisions we make with the reverence they deserve.  And, as with everything we do, we do appreciate hearing from you.  Whenever we hear comments from KSL's family of listeners, it informs our decisions not only about the story at hand, but about future coverage.  So - don't be shy - let us know what you want to hear.

Posted by amandadickson on September 20, 2005 at 07:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Where Do All the Stories Come From?

I get asked that question a lot.  Where do you come up with your stories?  Do you get assigned all your stories or have to come up with them on your own?  It's kind of a combination with a lot of other factors.  We have multiple story meetings throughout the day starting at 5:30 a.m. to discuss story ideas and whether something is worthy to cover or not.  Our assignment is to come up with three stories a day as reporters.  That means 15 stories a week which is quite a few so we do need a few ideas outside of our own.  However I prefer to cover a story idea that I come up with rather than a random assignment.

I get a lot of my story ideas from other stories I'm covering.  While I'm at an event or interview I'll generally ask what else is going on or if something else is happening down the road.  I have other contacts that I try to check with on a regular basis.  We get enough press releases here each day at KSL that if the faxes ever stopped we'd probably save an acre of forrest land each day.  I would say 90-95% of those releases are ignored.  I also check a number of websites and other news sources around the country for stories they've done but I don't really care for those because someone else has already done the story.  The station also gets tips from listeners who email or call in which are always appreciated.  After all there's only so many of us and a lot more of you out there.  But the number one way I get story ideas is just from being out in the community and seeing and hearing from folks about what is going on each day.  Often when I'm not looking for a story is when I find one.

A lot of times what seems just like a common thing in life is actually pretty interesting to others.  When I used to do beat checks for other jobs I would call the police department and ask if anything is going on.  They would almost always say no.  I would ask again.  Then the dispatcher would say, "well there was a fire and a drug bust."  It's so common in their line of work it seems like no big deal.  Same way with a lot of the things we all do in life.  Luckily we find out about some of those things going on and get to report on them.

For instance the other day I was at the state fair working on a story and decided to stop for lunch.  You can't go to the fair and not pick up some food.  I decided to go for a corn dog and while I was putting on some ketchup I started talking to the vendor.  I just asked about the schedule and how much she had to travel all over the country.  She said it wasn't bad and that selling corn dogs wasn't her main job, but that she actually teaches at the University of Utah.  WHAT?  That caught my attention.  I thought I misunderstood what she said, but she just said that going to fairs was a family tradition and during the summer it helped pay the bills.  That's a story.  It's not breaking news or hard news but it's one of those "unique" stories here in Utah that's just interesting to hear about.

Like they say. everyone has a story, but it's just trying to find those stories each day.

Posted by Lance Bandley on September 15, 2005 at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Doctor tells Grant he can't talk!

It was such a stupid little thing....I was eating dinner and bit my tongue....no big deal. Then it wouldn't stop bleeding....so off to the emergency room. It took them awhile to get it under control, then the capper. Tell Grant he can't talk for 24 hours. When my wife Kay told the doctor what I did for a living, he was pretty amused. So was the nurse. So was my wife. Grant not talking for 24 hours. Then my children were able to rejoice....no Dad for 24 hours!!! The neighbors held a block party....my mother in law thought it was the rapture....but, hah, I'm back today. And am I making up for it. The best part was my wife calling my boss telling him I had to take the day off because I couldn't talk. I think he's still laughing.

Posted by grantnielsen on September 13, 2005 at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

KSL-FM has solved my exercise in futility

I've been a huge fan of KSL for years and now that I work here, I'm even more impressed with this company.  You've probably noticed by now you can hear us everywhere.  We're still on 1160 AM and now you can find us on 102.7 FM in Salt Lake City.  When breaking news happened in the past - before I worked at KSL - I would try to get the KSL signal inside my office and would get nothing but static because of the electronic equipment inside my office.  I remember thinking to myself that somehow the signal would magically reach my radio receiver whenever I wanted to listen to the news - it never worked of course.  I'm amazed how many times I tried this exercise in futility.  Now the problem has been solved.  We are the FIRST news station in Utah to be on the AM and FM bands.  If you are a news junky like I am, you can get your news fix anytime, anyplace.

Do you listen to KSL more at work and at home because we now offer our signal on 102.7 FM?  Let me know.

Have a great week everybody.

Patrick Wiscombe 

Posted by Patrick Wiscombe on September 12, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Katrina and the pets

Yeah, sorta sounds like an Elton John song huh?

I volunteer time with No More Homeless Pets In Utah.  The organizations goals of course include things like keeping pets spayed and neutered, and also trying to stop euthanasia.  Looking for foster families, and helping shelters as best they can.  It is a tough and very big job, but if you love animals you know it is a worthwhile effort.

Recently (like last week) the call went out for volunteers to go down to the Gulf Coast, also help with vans, and donations.  The plan was to help rescue animals and bring them back and help get them adopted at our upcoming Super Adoption

The folks that went down have been writing an interesting blog about their experiences.  There aren't too many entries, as I imagine they haven't really had any time to log on, but what has been written has been a good look at what it has taken over the last few days.

Tonight at 7-ish, some of the volunteers will return, bringing with them, 28 dogs, and 17 cats.  Two of the people instead of coming back, have trucked on to Picayune, Mississippi, and will be bringing back another fifty or so cats and kittens.  Quite an undertaking! 

I can't even tell you how great an organization NMHPU really is.  Some of the nicest people with the biggest hearts I have ever met.  Don't forget about the super adoption this weekend, there will be PLENTY of animals for you to choose from including some of these animals that speak Cajun!!

Posted by Jon Dunn on September 12, 2005 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Hurricane Journal, Part 2

It's 1:17 AM Wednesday.  I'm in the parking lot of a Wal Mart in Hattiesburg Mississippi.  I've just finished filing stories for the morning.  Now it's to sleep, then to Birmingham for a flight home. 

Today it was a trip, a long trip, into New Orleans.  The route in was jammed by thousands trying to get into Jefferson Parish to see how their homes fared during the storm.  From Highway 61, you have to catch Causeway Street, then the Jefferson Highway, then some other River Street to get into the city.  Don't use this as an almanac, I can't remember the sequence. 

The first time I saw the water I got a cold chill up my spine.  Here was the murky death that entrapped and entombed so many people.  Around the water, on high ground, there was garbage everywhere.  It looked like the aftermath of some wild concert party I used to pick up after to get a free ski pass at Park West.  But we all know it was certianly no party.

I was amazed that anybody would want to stay there, the smell was so bad I wanted to put hand sanitizer in my nostrils, just in case.  But people wanted to protect thier property, thier soggy, soiled property.  I don't know what I'd do in that case, honeslty.

It was spooky.   Here is a huge city, with freeways and bridges everywhere, yet on the way out of town I had part of the freeway to myself.  I had just driven past a hospital that had since been abandoned.  Off the freeway I could see big "superstores", but there were no cars, no lights, no activity.

Something else I noticed today, what was *not* happening on the freeways.  There were plenty of sites where orange barrels were set out for constrution, but obviously none was happening.  Cranes stood silent, few people worked.  I was actually happy to see some refineries working in part because something was working.

I'm not ready to go build a bomb shelter, but this experience has me re-thinking preparedness.  It doesn't come and go like the top story on the network news seems to do for a few days before sinking into oblivion.  Once the initial shock, the dealing with tragedy and loss is over, comes the living, buying gas, groceries, getting your children to school, getting yourself to work.  If the infrastructure is gone, it's gone.

Well, my truck is nearly empty, ready for the return to the rental agency.  I had ten gallons of gas in the back and decided to give some of it away (the airlines frown on gasoline as carry on baggage.)  Turns out the first person I approached was on his way down form Ohio.  Someone donated a boat.  He and two others got together through a local TV station and decided to drive down. They've been picking up donations along the way.

Llife here is still far from normal, yet there are signs of life. lMore and more power comes on every day.  More activity starts popping up around businesses - at least those not damaged by the storm.   I, like so many others,  don't want to wait.  I want it all better now.  Don't think that will happen.

Posted by Marc Giauque on September 6, 2005 at 11:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hurricane Journal

Finally, some time to blog some first-hand experiences on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. 

We decided to come here Tuesday night, after it became obvious how devastating the hurricane actually was.  By midnight, I was on a plane for Atlanta.  By 9am, we were in Birmingham Alabama, still more than 250 miles away from the storm zone.

In Birmingham, they had little damage, same story for Montgomery.  In fact, the first sign that anything was different, aside from a few broken trees down I-65, appeared about 80 miles north of Mobile, Alabama.  I stopped to get gas for the car, and learned the stations were out.  Had to double back about 10 miles to find some.
100_6338 45 minutes later, the  Jeep Cherokee was fueled and ready to go. (The Cherokee, by the way, has a feature that will tell you how many miles you can drive before you run out.  I found that to be both a blessing and a curse.) 

In Mobile, the power was out.  In the city's colleseum, hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of power trucks were staged.  People were told many more convoys were on the way.

Then it was south to Biloxi.  Interstate 10 had just been opened.  We had to drive past rolled over cars and trucks, debris, and even a boat that had been washed through a bayou by the water surge. Trees to the side of the interstate were toppled, and many structures visible from the freeway were heavilly damaged by wind.

Then there was Biloxi, where the wind damage was substantial, but the water was deadly. Away from the coast, power lines were down and lying across the road, trees blocked some passageways, store canopies, rooftops and walls were gone.   People were lined up at a grocery store by the interstate.  They'd heard that someone was coming with a delivery of ice and water.  Police were there as well, making sure things stayed in order.  A woman, who was living in her apartment with her three children told me they'd been getting by with not much, but she was worried about her children's health, the poor sanitation, no power, hot temperatures (It was hot, humidity was around 90 percent according to the weather people).  She says she stayed because her building had survived Camille, she says she'll never stay again.  Without a car or gas, she's staying in her home for now.   She told me about an uncle who was rescued from his attic by relatives who stacked up furniture to reach him. She said another uncle survived by holding on to a piece of debris.  A friend, she said, survived by holding on to the eaves of her neighbor's house.  She told the neighbor although he lost his house, it did save a life.

Biloxi has a set of railroad tracks and a bay that divide the town.  There are houses, a downtown and what used to be the casino district.  Anywhere near inlets and bays, you could see evidence of a massive surge.  Debris was stuck in trees and fences well above the current water line.  A strong smell of rotting food and fish filled the air near what was some kind of cold storage plant.   Near the beach, what used to be huge barges half the size of city blocks sat up on the street as if they'd been picked up like some kind of child's toy, shaken, and set back down entirely out of place. Houses, if they were intact were pushed off their foundations, downtown buildings and streets were not only littered by, but cluttered with debris, cars, trucks.  It looked exactly like some of the images I saw in the aftermath of the Tsunami.

I met a man driving an electrically powered wheelchair down the street. 


I wondered how much more power he'd have before the battery would run out. He pointed out to me his former home, a multi-story building that used to be a veteran's home.  He didn't leave Biloxi, but stayed on higher ground.  Now he, like so many others, isn't sure where he'll go.

North of the casinos, the neighborhoods whre so many people died.  A man who was cleaning out his gutted house and looking for any salvagable items told me his story.  Standing in the middle of furniture, scattered household items, what used to be a doll collection, what used to be a baseball collection and mud, he told me he'd evacuated.  His sister and her daughter next door did not.  Yet, miraculously, they survived in the attic.  Her house somehow avoided collapse in the water and wind.  Having been in a similar situation in Camille, he told me about watching the water level.  He said you watch the walls.  When it dips a little bit, you get hope that the worst is over. Then, he said, you pray and hope you're right. 

He had just heard about his neighbor, a man known as Mr. Henry.  Rumor was his body had just been found underneath the roof of his demolished house. He told me he thought somehow Mr. Henry would have been smart enough to leave before the storm.  Mr. Henry was an old fisherman, a cantanous man who was about 80 or 90, no one really knew. He didn't have many friends and no family, and stayed in a small house around the corner.

I walked around the corner and down the street.  A boy played with his dog as his mother worked to salvage items in their house.  Next door, a lot with a yellow ribbon tied to a tree. Another neighbor pointed out another yellow ribbon in the debris, marking the location of a body.  I asked if it was Mr. Henry. He wasn't sure but said he'd look.

We walked over the debris of a bigger house, then to the small house.  The neighbor told me some children were playing here when they saw it, two bare legs sticking out from underneath a roof truss.  The flesh was discolored.  You couldn't tell if the man was white or black, nor could you tell how old he was.  Because he was under the roof, you couldn't see his face.  Just then, an Urban Search and Rescue team arrived.  They lifted the roof and recovered a body.  The county coroner asked a neighbor to identify him. To everyone's surprise, she said it was not Mr. Henry. No one knew who it was nor has anyone found Mr. Henry to my knowlege yet.


The bodies are being taken to one of several refrigerated tractor trailers, one sits next to the town mortuary in the Biloxi.  While I was there, the family of one man arrived to try to make arrangements.  The mortiician talked with them quietly and took some information as another mortician told me they simply don't have facilities or a cemetery right now.  He was a mortician when Camille hit in 1969.   He didn't think he'd have this kind of experience again.

The life threats weren't over for those who survived the storm.  A local doctor told me three elderly people died in a rest home, mostly because of the extreme heat and the lack of water and cooling.  At the hospital they'd set up a triage tent to deal with medical emergencies, including the need for medicine. The hospital's power was restored the day I was there.   A team from FEMA had set up to help with triage and treatment of the walking wounded.


The devastation was the same in other areas, Slidell Louisiana, Pass Christian Mississippi.  One area South of Slidell, they had built a row of fancy homes up on stilts.  They weren't talll enough.  Most of the homes were standing, but debris had ruined the homes.  A bit to the west of that, some beautiful estates had been desroyed, as had a row of run down trailers across the street.


  I also met a man there who ran the fire department on an island basically destroyed by the Hurricane.  It's between Slidelll and New Orleans. He lost his home, but saved the firetruck.  Now he's using it to take water, ice and food to people South of Slidell.

Even where the hurricane wasn't devastating to a lot of structures, it did tear up the infrastructure.  Power was out as far inland as 200 miles in some places.  That left a lot of stores closed, power lines down, and helped create the fury over gas.  In Hattiesburg, they had a six-o-clock cerfew.  Businesses had to close, even if they had gas.  I got stranded there overnight Friday because I didn't make it through the line in time.  Speaking of lines, the lines to get into Wal Mart and Sams Club were huge.  They were the only open stores in town for a while, the only ones with power.  I'll never look at  fuel truck or a Wal Mart the same again.

Right now, Sunday afternoon, taking a breather in a hotel in Birmingham.  First time in a bed in days. All the power is on, no lines at gas stations, lots of restaurants and a chance at a Diet Coke on every corner.  I've taken a lot for granted in the past.  Next to my computer is what I've been eating for the past few days, except for a trip to an Arbys East of  Mobile one night - went there for gas for the truck, couldn't resist a hot meal.  Other than that it's been peanut butter, bread, oranges, pop tarts, breath mints.  I also bought some turkey at Wal Mart Friday night.  It's much more than many have had. 


While waiting in line for 16 hours for gas, I met a man and his son. Both lost thier houses in Pass Christian.  His son-in-law's father lost his life.  They had  tried to ride out the storm.  He and four of his family members tried to swim for safety.  He was caught by some debris and drowned.

Here at the hotel, I've learned that many here are evacuees from Katrina.  These are the people who could afford to leave.  They don't know when they're going back.  People at the LDS church here in Birmingham have been asked if they'd be willing to house some fellow church mebers from the area.  Another group from the church is now in Hattiesburg doing some chainsaw work.  As I drove past a parking lot, I saw man loading a trailer with supplies from of all things a Tai-kwan Do club.

The massive response is evident.  On the drive north, I must have seen a dozen military convoys.  There were convoys of other equipment as well, busses, fire trucks, red cross vans, etc.  I also saw a convoy for the University of Alabama's football team.  It had nothing to do with the Hurricane, but it was impressive, about 6 highway patrol cars, four busses, and a cazillion cars with thier lights on, all sporting 'bama flags and banners.  Don't know if they won or lost their game.

Posted by Marc Giauque on September 4, 2005 at 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Hurricane Hits Close to Home…

I live in Utah now, but like many I am from somewhere else.  My home is Georgia.  My family is also scattered across the country, I have relatives in Georgia, Washington State, Idaho, Virginia, and a Step-brother, who until this week lived in New Orleans.  I suppose he still does in a way, but won’t be back home for a while.

I first talked with Matt on Monday.  He and his wife Ann had fled the City late last week to a town called Opelousa, Louisiana.  I spoke with him about 7 o’clock local time Monday morning, just as Katrina was making landfall.  At that point his cell service was very good, his major complaint was that they couldn’t get a lot of information through the TV about what was happening with New Orleans.  He even was good enough to do an interview with us on Utah’s Morning News.

After that I tried to call Matt again, to thank him and to wish him well with whatever would happen.  I couldn'y get through, and I haven't been able to all week so clearly cell communications are off line there.  We thought New Orleans was basically spared from the direct hit, so essentially safe.  Of course, we were wrong. 

Right now Matt and Ann are staying at our parent's house in Georgia.  Oh yeah, did I mention they have a new baby as well.  They literally have no idea how their house, which is in the city, has fared.  But thank god they are safe.  I will be heading back to Georgia at Thanksgiving, I just hope they can get back and rebuild before I come home.  But who knows.  Really, our own Tsunami.

Posted by Jon Dunn on September 1, 2005 at 06:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)