MONDAY, APRIL 8
“ … with mostly sunny skies and an expected high of about 87 today. More news from KWLF News Radio right after this.”
It’s still dark outside KWLF-FM, a small radio station in Chandler, Arizona, and I’m the only one at work at the ridiculous hour of 4:45 a.m. Most 20-somethings I know would’ve been out partying last night and would be sleeping in or at least going to work at the normal time of 8 or 9. I’m sitting here in this tiny anchor booth, all by myself, these headsets smashing my long hair, talking into a mic, probably to no one. I mean, who is up listening to the radio except for insomniacs and maybe the few surviving farmers in this mostly urban area?
Time for a commercial. I touch a button and music starts, followed by a male announcer’s voice hawking cars for a used auto lot.
I gingerly push an antiquated square audio cart into the machine. One of these days we’ll get real digital equipment. Of course, I think that every time I handle a piece of this older KWLF equipment, afraid it will crumble in my hand and we’ll go off the air and…
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Grant Pope, our news director, enter from the back of the station. He takes off his hat and sticks it on a coatrack near the door. I wave, he waves back, but he looks tired as he heads to his desk. He’s a short, thin man, with graying hair and a lot of lines on his face. These days his step isn’t as springy as it used to be, and is he actually having trouble sitting down onto his chair?
He’s been an institution here for more than 20 years, and one who has a “nose for news.” I hear he came up through the ranks in the early days of radio as a reporter, anchor and then news director. He still writes frequent news stories, but several of my co-workers and I wonder when he’s going to retire. He looks up, but I pretend I wasn’t staring at him.
Another 30 seconds. I thumb through the news stories, change the order. The music and announcer’s voice ends, and I turn my attention back to the microphone.
“This is KWLF news. I’m Lisa Powers, filling in for Pat Henderson. In this exclusive KWLF story, an East Valley woman says her father is missing, and she suspects foul play,” I read from my script. “Joan Rogers-Hartley says her dad, 67-year-old Mark Rogers, took off early Sunday morning to drive to Northern Arizona for a bird watching trip—but never arrived. According to her, she thinks something is very wrong.”
I tap a red button on the cart machine marked ROGERS-HARTLEY SOT, which starts Joan’s voice.
“He was supposed to meet some friends of his in Clarkdale, where they were going to look for northern cardinals and red-winged hawks for a couple of days,” Hartley says, sniffling. “But they said he never made it.”
I continue. “Rogers-Hartley says Chandler police are quote ‘dragging their feet,’ unquote. KWLF Radio will follow this story and bring updates throughout the day. Anyone with any knowledge of the whereabouts of Mark Rogers is asked to call police.
“In other local news, the Chandler City Council meets in study session tonight to discuss rezoning of a large parcel of land initially slated for commercial development to be changed to residential. Grant Pope has details.”
I hit a button and Grant’s voice is heard. I lean back and listen.
Grant opens the door to the booth and pokes his head in.
“Was that missing man story on the wire?”
Uh-oh, I knew he’d ask that.
“Nope, the daughter called last night while I was here working on another story.” I could tell by Grant’s frown he wasn’t pleased. “I know, I know, we don’t usually do missing person stories until the police are called in, but that woman was really spooked. She seriously thinks he’s in trouble. And we did get the exclusive…”
“All right, stay on it.”
Yes! “Of course, I’ll follow up as soon as Pat gets here. He is going to be in today, right?”
“As far as I—”
I hold up a finger to indicate silence, as the tagline “Grant Pope for KWLF Radio” is heard. As Grant slips out the door, I turn back to the mic and continue to read more news.