I remember getting the call from the “NBC affiliate in Waterloo, Iowa.” I was sitting at lunch with a friend in a Chili’s in Greenville, North Carolina. I was unhappy where I was at the time in my career…I wanted to find a station where I felt supported…I wanted to find a place where my family and I could sink our roots in and make a home…a place where the people were genuine, caring and honest.
On the other end of that call was Dan, the news director at KWWL. He said, “Ron Steele has been the anchor for almost 40 years. He is a staple in eastern Iowa.” My first thought was, “oh boy.” You see…I had a co-anchor recently who had been at the same station for more than 30 years…and it was a difficult time for me. I was reminded of things like this: “I’m the real face of the station…you’re just here to sit next to me.” “I need to read double the amount of stories than you do in every newscast…remember, I am the face of this station.” So as soon as I heard that “Ron Steele has been the anchor for almost 40 years,” my stomach dropped. You see, when you work in news, you’re often with your TV family more than your real family. So I knew I didn’t want to be in an uncomfortable or unbearable situation again.
Dan finished the phone call with, “Amanda, I am going to have Ron call you in the next couple of days so he can answer any questions you may have.”
Within minutes of hanging up, my phone rang again. It was Ron Steele. He asked me about my family, about my passion for news, about my quest to end bullying. He talked about KWWL…about eastern Iowa and what a great place it is to raise a family…he talked about his phenomenal team of Tara, Mark and Rick. We had talked for 30 minutes when it hit me: he never said anything about himself. The only time he ever used an “I” was when he said over and over: “I am very lucky to work with such a talented group of people and live in such an amazing community.” I knew then…this man is about TEAM. He’s about COMMUNITY.
Most of you know the story by now…the first time I flew to Waterloo for an interview, I got stranded at O’Hare for 3 days because of heavy rains. Never made it to Iowa. I thought…”this is a sign from God that I should not be going to Iowa.” Just when I thought God had given me a sure-fire sign that Iowa was not for me…he sent another sign. My phone rang…it was Ron. “Amanda, I just wanted to check on you. I am so sorry you were stuck in that airport! I hope you give us another shot and come back out here.” Blown away. After finally meeting Ron, I knew I HAD to work with him.
Fast forward to present day…and without hesitation I can tell you that I am the luckiest anchor in the country. Because I sit next to Ron Steele. He has more journalistic integrity in his pinky finger, than most people put together. He is a natural leader who doesn’t lead by words…but by action. He is the one person who has earned the right to have the biggest ego, yet, he has none. He is the most humble, sincere and genuine person I have ever met. His face lights up when he talks about his wife, his children and especially, his grandchildren. He talks to me about God and his faith without hesitation. He’s taught me so much about being a better journalist…a better leader in the community and a better person overall. Ron celebrates my triumphs…and reassures me after I fail.
KWWL, without a doubt, is the house that Steele built. And the foundation is of loyalty, integrity, trust, honesty, compassion, empathy, humility, kindness, sincerity, strength and love.
Ron, the best decision I ever made was to come to KWWL and make eastern Iowa our home. I don’t know how I got so lucky to sit next to you every day…but I am so thankful God listened to my prayers.