When WSFL’s morning show ‘SouthFlorida.com/LIVE’ finally launched in March of this year, one thing we all noticed is that most had no idea who the anchors were. Some may have recognized Dave Azer if they had watched Nickelodeon, but WSFL’s edge was having young, fresh, and unknown anchors.
Recently, I heard that Amber Lyon had left WSFL and the morning show, and decided to drop her a note and see if she’d tell us where she is headed to next. Thankfully for us, seeing the words SFLTV in her email didn’t scare her off. In talking with her, she shared a bit about one of her biggest passions, and what made her come to South Florida.
Most may know her as Amber Lyon, the ‘blond’ chick of the two female anchors on WSFL’s morning show ‘SouthFloria.com/Live’. She has interned at FoxNews and already has an Edward R. Murrow Award to her name for “Hard News Feature”. That, plus four Regional NATAS awards, 2 Associated Press awards, a Missouri Broadcasters Certificate of Merit, and an SJP Heart of America award. Did we mention she’s only been on TV since 2002?!
I don’t know about you, but when I watch WSFL’s morning show it doesn’t exactly make me think of hardcore, get down and dirty journalism. So it was a bit of a surprise to find out what Amber Lyon had been up to prior to her move to Miami.
Turns out that not only can she talk about the latest hip happenings in South Florida, but is also one of those crazy journalists that get extremely dedicated in their stories. Even if it means going to places that most people would only pass from a few thousand feet in the sky by airplane.
So what’s Amber Lyon’s story?
Amber says she grew up in the Midwest, living a self-described sheltered life and not having exposure to many “outside” cultures. Curious about the world, she decided to pursue a journalism degree, leave the comfort zone of Missouri, and see the world.
In 2004 she graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia School of Journalism with a degree in Broadcast News and minor in Psychology. While at school, Amber cut her anchoring skills at KOMU-TV as a weekend anchor and investigative reporter. KOMU is a commercial NBC affiliate station owned by the University of Missouri, but it’s news department is run by the university’s School of Journalism. All management are faculty members.
At 22 and fresh out of college, Amber left KOMU and headed to Arizona for a reporting job at NBC affiliate KVOA in Tucson. It was there that she would get her passion about finding out an answer to a burning question that would take her places most people wouldn’t visit.
“For one of my first reports, I covered a tractor trailer packed to the brim with of illegal immigrants that overturned on a Tucson highway after being pursued by Border Patrol. I was the first on scene as rescuers were pulling the bloodied men and women from the trailer. I looked into their eyes and saw absolute despair, not because they were injured, but because their journey had come to an end and they were going to be sent home.” Amber says.
After witnessing the despair, Amber says she decided to learn Spanish, often visiting churches and shelters to speak with immigrants. She tells us she was surprised at how normal these so called “illegal aliens” were. She met a successful chemist from Mexico who had to flee his country after being recruited by the drug cartels. A 16-year old boy who had to work and send money home instead of going to school.
But it was the immigrants crying while showing her pictures of family and kids they hadn’t seen in decades that made Amber Lyon curious; Curious as to why “home” was so bad for these immigrants that they had to leave.
“I just had to know. Some things in life you just have to know! That was mine.”
Instead of chasing stories in Tucson, Amber decided to visit Guatemala, Mexico and find an answer to her burning question. She tells us that everyone thought she was nuts for wanting to go down there because of the danger. Perhaps even more nuts for doing it by herself.
“When I was living in Guatemala, I tried desperately to find someone to go with me, but all of the men chickened out.”
So one day she decided to head South and get on a bus by herself. She tells us that out of nowhere, an older Italian man named Sergio, going to a luxury resort, sat next to her. Half an hour later, Amber had found her traveling companion. Sergio had decided to change his travel plans and go with her. Both visited immigrant safe houses and various hospitals. Amber tells us that Sergio still thanks her for asking him on the trip.
The Guatemala/Mexico border is one of the most dangerous areas in North America. It’s part of the path immigrants who are headed to the U.S. take. Pirates often prey upon them looking for valuables, such as money or even worse, their next drug mule. Unfortunately many don’t make it:
“I saw men who were hacked by machetes, met women who were raped by the pirates- it was so sad.”
In her travels Amber said she lived alongside immigrants in safe houses and hospitals. Slept on floors with them, ate with them, and jokingly adds, enjoyed cockroach-filled rooms together. A far cry from air-conditioned ENG vans and studios, but it was getting to know these people and listening to their stories that she found fulfilling
and ultimately giving her an answer to her burning question – Why are they leaving home?
Amber tells us she is working on a book about her journey, and that she plans on heading to Cuba and Haiti to cover more immigration stories in the near future. She was attracted to Miami because it is ground zero for many of the immigration issues facing the United States.
“I love all of the culture here!”
And it looks like she did find her exposure to many cultures.
“I am no longer working for WSFL and at this time, have no further comment on that topic.”
We are respecting her wishes and won’t be intruding any further. We look forward to watching her next move in this ever changing industry.