A blog dedicated to the world of broadcast and public relations
Thursday, June 12, 2014
“My Six Little Ones, I Am Your Father:” KSL’s Andy Farnsworth on Faith, Family, and Star Wars
News and traffic reporter Andy Farnsworth literally has had a different vantage point on the news than most of us, from day-to-day traffic, to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, to September 11. On that terrible Tuesday morning, Farnsworth was traveling in a Cessna 172, as he did every morning as an airborne traffic reporter. A sleepy Salt Lake City was waking up under him.
Like every single one of us, Farnsworth remembers exactly how he heard about what happened that morning. “It appears a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center,” his producer told him over the plane’s radio. Then another one crashed into the second tower. Then the Pentagon was hit. The pilot said they had to land immediately. As they were parking the plane in the hanger, Farnsworth’s producer came back on the radio to inform the crew of the towers’ falling. “I had to visualize it all in my mind before I actually saw it happen.” He says this experience speaks to the power of envisioning the stories you are hearing over the airwaves.
As a traffic reporter in Salt Lake City, Utah, Farnsworth got to experience the city from a bird’s eye view. Farnsworth has been reporting the traffic for KSL News Radio for 11 years. He has since added the responsibilities of news reporting for KSL News Radio, as well as traffic reporting for KSL TV News. Like a lot of things, flying everyday became too expensive, and he moved in-studio.
KSL News Radio is the #1 news-talk station in the Salt Lake City media market. Farnsworth says KSL is in the fortunate position of a “legacy station” that has been highly respected for a long time. “The KSL brand is unlike any other in the country. When news breaks they turn on KSL News Radio.” He says KSL actively does their best to maintain that trust with the people of Salt Lake City.
KSL is owned by the for-profit broadcasting business of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Bonneville International. Farnsworth explains that they have their own, independent editorial abilities, but that the sentiments in the station’s mission statement very much influence the newsroom culture. “It’s a very family-like dynamic,” Farnsworth says. “A lot of the hosts have been here for up to 30 years.”
When he gets home each day, Farnsworth is greeted by two small little humans crawling towards him when they hear his voice. Along with his one-year-old twins, Farnsworth has four other children, and it is absolutely clear they are the apples of their dad’s eye.
“My wife is the glue that holds everything together,” he says. In just a few minutes of talking to Andy, I felt the gravity of how much he respects and admires his wife of fourteen years, Lori. “I couldn’t have married somebody who could mesh with me better.” After being diagnosed with – and beating – Hodgkin’s lymphoma after their fourth child was born, Lori gave birth to the couple’s miracle babies just a few years later.
The twins are a boy and a girl. His son always laughs right after other people laugh. She’s ten minutes older, and more serious than her brother. The other kids are into what seems like every activity, including dance, tumbling, art, sports, and reading. Farnsworth’s almost-five-year-old son reads on 3rd and 4th grade levels, and loves to read verses during the family’s Scripture time each night.
Farnsworth says his mother’s passing from cancer when he was just a teenager made him recognize he had a decision to make about what he describes now as one of the most important elements of his life, his faith. “Through various personal experiences, I came to not just believe, but also know,” Farnsworth says of his faith. “Your kids can see if you really do believe in what you’re trying to teach them. It’s been important to me to act the way I believe.”
Farnsworth learned to speak fluent Portuguese when he lived in Brazil for two years on a mission for the Mormon Church. He graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Electronic Journalism.
When asked who he would most like to interview, fictitious or real, alive or dead, Farnsworth responded: Jesus Christ, Luke Skywalker, and Spider Man. “I’m a real big nerd,” Farnsworth says. “I was buying Star Wars toys for my kids before they even existed.” He has a big comic book collection, and has electronic versions of all of the Amazing Spiderman comics from 1962 to 2004, which he is currently making his way through reading.
After talking to Andy for a little while, you get the impression he provides a bit of comic relief to the KSL newsroom. He wears a Christmas tie on the 25th of every month, and was integral in the station’s parody of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” “I learn not to be self-conscious about a lot of stuff,” he says. “I am who I am. I’m nerdy. I’m Mormon. I’m honest. I’m terrible at poker. I hope that that’s worked to my advantage rather than it’s worked against me over the years.”
While Farnsworth sometimes misses flying in that Cessna 172, when he gets home from a day in the newsroom to his two little babies crawling towards him, his other children running around playing, and his son reading the Scripture that evening, it’s safe to say he thinks life here on the ground is pretty great.