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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Caught in middle of bomb-threat story, KUTV handles it well

Members of the KUTV news team found themselves doing something on Thursday night that they normally eschew - covering a bomb threat.

They could hardly avoid it. It was right outside their windows. The man making the threat called them. And they were forced to do an extremely odd 10 p.m. newscast, with anchorman Mark Koelbel heard but not seen from the office kitchen because police ordered staffers away from their Main Street windows.

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They were just feet away from the man, identified as Anthony K. Mayhew, who threatened to detonate a bomb at the Gallivan Center TRAX station. He was eventually shot and killed when he advanced on police officers, according to officials.

"I think the crew handled it with the utmost professionalism and tried to relay pertinent information to viewers," said Jennifer Dahl, KUTV's director of news and operations. "We certainly feel for the family and for the police officers involved in last night's incident, but we also have a job to do and that's to inform the public about what's going on in our community."

This particular bomb threat had stopped TRAX trains from running through downtown, so it was indeed news.

And KUTV showed proper restraint. The station could have shown video of police shooting the suspect; it chose not to.

Good call. Right call.

Certainly, no one at KUTV planned to be in the middle of a news story. But, in this case, it was out of their control.

"This morning we had a discussion that you have to cover it and not become it," Dahl said Friday morning. "That's a very fine line. It's something that we're having constant conversations about today."

It's a conversation worth having for any and all legitimate news organizations. But, again, these were unusual circumstances. The staff at KUTV kept their wits about them, which isn't an easy thing to do.

Critics of the media forget this, but journalists are real people trying to do the best job they can.

"The staff is clearly affected by it," Dahl said. "We were covering the story and processing it at the same time."

And being in the middle of something like that "brings some perspective to the world around us."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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