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UPCOMING EVENTS

Jayme West Grew From Small-Town Arizona Reporter to KTAR Anchor

It’s natural for a young reporter to dream of being part of that huge story. You hope to cover the monumental event that puts your mark on journalism. Jayme West is a news anchor and co-host with Jim Sharpe on Arizona’s Morning News on 92.3FM KTAR. West learned there are stories embedded in your mind, details that will never diminish. The most memorable story for West was the aftermath of 9/11.

West traveled with Phoenix firefighters to New York. The first flight out of Phoenix after the terrorist attack was ten days out. As they drove down Lexington Avenue near the armory, every available light post was covered with posters of the faces of missing people. It was horrible, but I am honored to be part of that historic event.

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“We went to ground zero and it was an incredible experience,” West said. “In the taxi from the airport to Manhattan, every available space was covered with an American flag. I’d just been to the top of the Trade Center three years before. To see it all reduced to a ten-story rubble, so compacted, it was disturbing.”

West remembers grabbing a cup of soup from one of the many food trucks that were feeding those on the ‘pile.’

“I was about to sit down on the threshold of a door, and I wiped the cement.  Then it hit me. The ashes from the seat could have been ashes of a human life.”

Delivering her 9/11 stories to Phoenix was difficult at times, but she had a job to do. West was there to relate to listeners what the Red Cross from Phoenix was doing. She talked with firefighters on the ‘pile.’ West described what was taking place at the Javits Center. To help listeners visualize what was going on.

West’s family moved to a small town, Pinetop-Lakeside. In high school, she always listened to the radio. In her bedroom was a record player with a microphone. West pretended she was running a radio station, spinning records, introducing songs.

When West finished high school, there were very few jobs for women in radio in town. “I played 45s,” she said. “I was not allowed to play two female artists in a row at the station. I learned everything there. We didn’t get free concert tickets. It was such a small town we didn’t get concerts.”

Spinning records was fine, but once she started doing news she loved it for several reasons.

“My parents were always behind me,” West said. “I think my radio job was paying $4 bucks an hour. You did not make a lot of money in a small town. I was always broke. Only one time did my father ask me if radio was the right career. But he never discouraged me from being in radio.”

While searching for news each morning, West said Twitter can be a solid source.

“I trust Twitter for news that is happening right at that moment,” West said. “With all the technology the news is right there. We won’t report on all of it, only what we can confirm. I started with a teletype. Ripped stuff off the AP wire. It’s amazing how much easier it has made my job.”

West said she does miss being out on the streets working on stories. Working leads with other reporters.

“I’m not out in the field anymore,” she said. “I monitor government agencies and law enforcement agencies.”

After thousands of stories, West has a few she can easily recall.

“British Airways was announcing their new Boeing 777,” she said. “We flew to London on a 747 and came back on the new 777. When we got to the airport they had the fire engines spraying water arches when we came through.”

West talked her way into the trip by telling her bosses she was doing a story on Yuma lettuce. Describing to listeners how the leafy vegetable made the trip from Arizona to the shelf in London the following day.

“While I was there we visited Piccadilly Square. We’d ask Londoners what they thought Arizona was like. One woman told us it’s where people cook beans, like in western movies. ‘It’s so hot there,’ they’d tell me. ‘If you don’t have an air conditioner you’ll die.’”

West didn’t attend college, but she could have. What she wouldn’t get in the classroom she made up for on the job.

“My experience came from life. From moments in history. I’ve met historical figures. I don’t regret missing college at all.”

West covered serial killers roaming the valley in 2008, the Serial Shooters. Two men were killing people at random. West spent time embedded with the Phoenix Police Department homicide division. She was with a detective from the initial call of a murdered woman. 

“I went to the crime scene,” West said. “The woman was a waitress at Denny’s. She won $1,200 at the casino and drove home where she was robbed and killed. I went to her autopsy, and we searched for bullet fragments in her car. We notified the family. It took a couple of years to catch the murderer.”

She was asked to witness an execution at a prison. She declined the invitation.

“That’s one of those unforgettable moments in life,” West said. “I realize they do need media witnesses, but I did not want that memory in my brain. I had the chance to fly with the Blue Angels but didn’t do it. No way I was going to barf on a fighter jet.”

For 20 years West has hosted Silent Witness on KTAR. This is a show that covers unsolved crimes and asks the public for help.

“I’ve been told it has been successful, but they can’t tell us specifics,” West said.

West and her husband purchased a cabin two hours north of Phoenix in Strawberry, Arizona. “When we want an escape, that’s where we go.”

Jim Cryns
Jim Crynshttps://barrettmedia.com
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me - Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at [email protected].

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