The ROX Living Interview: Sandy Moss

Interview by Ray Newton

For almost 25 years, Sandy Moss has been a media influence in the greater Prescott area. Her career as a writer-reporter-editor, as a radio news broadcaster and talk show host, and ultimately, her role as a television talk show host and producer has given her a visibility not many in the Quad City area and beyond can claim.

All that local success is quite a distance from her hometown of St. George, Utah, where she and her younger sister and two younger brothers grew up. Her Mormon parents — mother, a homemaker; and father, a business owner of a building materials company — gave her a stable childhood and educational opportunities that formed a solid base for her future success.

She participated in elementary, high school and university activities such as performing and dramatic arts, newspapers and yearbook, Pep Club, and Homecoming Royalty, and did more of the same when she earned an associate degree at Dixie Junior College in St. George; and then a bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University.

Soon after graduating from BYU in 1976, she returned to St. George where she first worked in the makeup and composing room for The Daily Spectrum. Soon she was promoted to the editorial side of the newspaper as a reporter. Her husband was a pilot for Sky West Airlines headquartered in St. George. They moved to Las Vegas, but Sandy decided she preferred a smaller, less frenetic environment. They discovered Prescott, and in 1993, moved to “Everyone’s Hometown.”

Sandy went to work in the composing and backstop department of The Daily Courier. Then-editor, the late Jim Garner, discovered she had writing and photographic talent and experience. He moved her into the newsroom. After her divorce, Sandy expanded her news writing into feature, education and business reporting before becoming the Arts and Entertainment reporter and editor, which included reviewing theatre and movies. She received awards from the Associated Press and Arizona Press Association.

Her movie reviews caught the attention of local radio stations KQNA/KPPV owners Sanford and Terry Cohen. Moss generated story ideas, voiced broadcast news and had a live, one-hour daily talk show, “Q&A with Sandy Moss.” Her radio shows earned her several state awards, including those from the Associated Press and Arizona Broadcasters Association.

For the past five years, Moss has been the host and producer for a 30-minute television program “Sandy and Friends” (now called Arizona Daily Mix) for AZTV-7, the Prescott-based broadcasting company that also has another studio in Phoenix. Her show is telecast throughout the state of Arizona.

The author of a non-fiction book, The Terrible Loyalty, in 2012, Moss also freelances for several local and regional publications. She volunteers at the Yavapai Humane Society, the Prescott Fine Arts Association and the Friends of Yavapai College Art.

INTERVIEW

PRESCOTT LIVING: Sandy Moss. Tell us about your childhood journey.

Sandy Moss: I think it was idyllic. I really do. As I think about my life, it was sunshine and so much freedom. I had my buddies, and the town was very small. I spent my time riding empty saddles in a bunk house at the corral behind us, or wandering through the grape arbors with my pals, Kelly and Warren. I’m the eldest of four. It was just wonderful to come home and there’s mom’s car and she’s there, which doesn’t happen for kids now so much. My father was a career National Guardsman. He was a Korean War veteran and a business owner.

PRESCOTT LIVING: Where did you go to school?

Sandy Moss: The West Elementary and then Woodward Junior High and then Dixie High School. I did a lot of theater. When I went to Dixie College, I had Goldie Hawn’s part in “Butterflies are Free.” But it was so risqué that my bishop came up and said, “Oh, is that you? Are you like that?” I said, “No, it’s a character.” (Laughter). I was on the yearbook staff, the Flyers Flash. I always liked writing and being involved in the media.

PRESCOTT LIVING: How did you get in to journalism?

Sandy Moss: Well, I’d like to say it was providence, because I always loved English and writing and stories. I’m a voracious reader. I hadn’t actually considered it for a career. Then I started working for a newspaper in St. George, for The Daily Spectrum. I was upstairs doing cut and paste. This crusty old AP editor, Carrick Leavitt, came upstairs and was OK’ing the pages. I just said … “I have a bachelor’s degree [and] I think reporting would be so much fun,” but this was just a little segue. He said, “Well, come on down and try it.” I think it was always in my heart, writing.

PRESCOTT LIVING: What did you do at The Daily Courier?

Sandy Moss: Because there were no reporter jobs when I first got here, I started in composing again, which was like an art project back then. Composing used to be a lot of fun. It was not digitized at that point. One day I was working down there thinking how I was ready to move onto something a little more intellectually stimulating. Jim Garner, the editor, was down there and said to me out of the blue, “Well, I see you have reporting on your resume. I want you upstairs.” So, bam, up I went to become a reporter again. It was just in the cards. I think journalism and writing, and radio and TV were just destined for me.

PRESCOTT LIVING: What kind of reporting?

Sandy Moss: I started out as a feature writer upstairs with the Courier, but I was also a Saturday reporter. So, some big stories. One of my favorites, heading out in my little Nissan Pulsar. The managing editor, says, “Get a pic …” We took our own pictures at that time with a little point-and-shoot. He said, “Get a picture of the car on the spikes.” Three departments of law enforcement were chasing some Bonnie and Clyde type people going the wrong way on I-40. They were throwing suitcases and things out the window and wrecking other cars. And they came down Highway 89. I’m heading up 89 as they’re coming down 89, waiting for Bonnie and Clyde and the shootout. And it was a shootout eventually. (Laughter). Then I went to education reporting. I did business for a while and then settled into arts and entertainment for six years. That was the thing I really loved.

PRESCOTT LIVING: You have had experience in print, in radio and television. What differences, what similarities?

Sandy Moss: Well, I think writing takes more of a writer’s soul and mind, because you interview someone, and you learn about them. Then you have to come back, sit down and recreate that in writing for people who are reading it. And they get to relate to and know this person. Because features, arts and entertainment were my primary focus in writing, that was what my motive was. It took more of me. When I went into radio, I thought, but it’s not entirely true, “Well, this is a lot easier than what I’ve been doing.” It’s just different because … it’s more of an immediate media. You are with that person who is telling the story. You are just facilitating telling their story on air to the public.

PRESCOTT LIVING: What happened? Print, radio and then television?

Sandy Moss: In TV, it was wonderful because it had that visual element. You have the cameras there, but they’re timing you. Heavens, I used to produce my own radio show and so, you know, I had to do my own timing and everything. But, TV, they do all that for you. But it was wonderful, because I then could have bands and artists, or cooking in the kitchen. So, television can expand that story into the visual element, which was wonderful, but different from newspaper and radio.

PRESCOTT LIVING: In print journalism, people like you, people like me, were trained to never inject yourself into the story, right? How’s that different from television? You’re part of the story when you’re on TV.

Sandy Moss: With “Sandy and Friends,” it is personality driven. It is a different kind of relating with your guests on television. So, it’s fun. You get to combine your stories, your experiences.

PRESCOTT LIVING: For years you were known for movie reviews. How did that start?

Sandy Moss: It started in arts and entertainment. I said, “I think we have room for movie reviews.” I wanted to do book reviews too, and we did those for a while, but the movie reviews were the ones that really stuck. So, I started doing a movie review a week for arts and entertainment in The Daily Courier. And then when I moved into radio, they said, “We need two a week, because people are hearing these over and over 24 hours a day.” I did those for 15 years.

PRESCOTT LIVING: Do you have any favorite genre of film? Drama, adventure, science fiction?

Sandy Moss: I do think I like dramas the best. The ones that are relationship/people-oriented. I enjoy those the most. Comedy dramas are fun too. You know, romance comedies are really fun. What I don’t like — I don’t like horror thrillers. They scare me, I have to be careful if I go to a horror thriller.

PRESCOTT LIVING: Shifting gears. You wrote a book in 2012. Tell us about the book.

Sandy Moss: I started dating a man I met in Prescott who had a most amazing story about a trip. I met him after he divorced and returned to Prescott, his hometown. He and his best friend sailed a 20-foot sailboat from California to Hilo, Hawaii. On their 40th birthdays, while sailing across the Pacific, they hit gale force storms. People died in that storm.

When I heard that story, I was a journalist. And I said, “Oh, my goodness.” Every journalist wants to write a book. “Here’s my book. Right there dropped in my lap.” And we called it, “A Terrible Loyalty,” because a quote by G.K. Chesterton that says, “We’re all in a small boat tossed on stormy seas and owe each other a terrible loyalty.” It was just a takeoff for that, because these two men faced death on the seas together.

They sail out in May, thinking that it’s going to be a wonderful 30-, 40-day sail, whatever, to Hawaii. From J Street there in Chula Vista, California. They’re heading for Hilo, Hawaii. One of the men is not a sailor, doesn’t even like to get his feet wet. He’s not a swimmer. He doesn’t like the water, but he’s a dear friend with the sailor, a true sailor. So, his friend, the sailor, he trusts. They navigate by the stars. They don’t have a radio, and they navigate that way thinking there will be no storms. And they had eight days of life-threatening storms in a 20-foot sailboat. I won’t tell you the ending because it was quite a drama. It’s a very dramatic story but it’s also very much about a friendship between two men. They’re married, they have their families, but they have such a great relationship. They call it their sabbatical, their Radical Sabbatical, and it’s just a time to be out to test their life.

PRESCOTT LIVING: How long did it take you to write?

Sandy Moss: It took me about 10 years. It’s not a big book, but it was one of the start-and-stop things. If I ever do another book, it’s going to be fiction, because that was the difficulty. These were two men who had lived real lives, and I wanted [to express] their personalities.

PRESCOTT LIVING: Any more books in Sandy?

Sandy Moss: (Laughter) Yes. Yes. I do have a dream. I want to take a trip up the coast and to stay in little cottages by the sea and write novels.

PRESCOTT LIVING: What kind of novels?

Sandy Moss: I like relationships. You know, I like women’s literature, stories about life changes and decisions and the things that happen to people and how their lives wrap around that with the people that they love.

PRESCOTT LIVING: Do you read a lot?

Sandy Moss: Everything. I read Stephen Hawking’s, “A Brief History of Time.” I’m into that for the second time. I just started into murder mysteries, which surprised me, because I don’t particularly think I would like that genre. But I have a lot of fun with J.A. Jance, Martin Walker, and just some I’ve come across. Alice Hoffman has always been a favorite. Elizabeth Berg. And so those are relationship-oriented. But some have a magical realism. Isabelle Allende — gosh, I’ve read all of her books. I usually have two or three books going at the same time. When I get tired of something too heavy, I go to something lighter. When I want something more truthful or something fictional, I trade out.

PRESCOTT LIVING: Conversation shift. You recently finished a lengthy adventure in Italy. Tell us about that.

Sandy Moss: It was wonderful. Three other Prescott women — all friends — and I toured almost the entire country of Italy for three weeks. We were in Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany. We used all kinds of transportation — trains, busses, cars. We never tired of looking at the centuries-old architecture, culture — the hundreds of years of history. I didn’t want to come home.

PRESCOTT LIVING: Any future travel plans?

Sandy Moss: Nothing really firm, but we are really looking at a cruise to Alaska. We want to explore that wild and primitive state. And I do go back to St. George to visit my mother and other family often. Also, my husband Mick Shepard and I take care of a lot of our rental properties.

PRESCOTT LIVING: We’ve heard about some of your rental properties — quite unique. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Sandy Moss: (Laughter) Yes, over the years, we’ve picked up some properties that some folks thought should be burned down or demolished. But for us, it has been a challenge. We both like to work with our hands, and it is physical therapy for us. Four years ago, we found this dilapidated building with a detached carriage house up in the Thumb Butte area. The house, which began as a cabin more than 100 years ago, had been added onto piecemeal. Floors are uneven and creak. No walls are plumb. We scrounged around and found old beams and timber, battered doors and windows in all kinds of strange places. Dumpsters, junkyards, antique stores, thrift shops —anyplace we could find something cheap, old, but functional.

We admit — interior and exterior design — purely random. But now it is charming, as though time had stopped somewhere in the Victorian era. We rent it as a bed and breakfast, and people from all over the country have told us they are delighted. We have some other places for rent, too, and they are furnished in much the same way. It’s stuff we have rescued and revived. It’s a passion of ours to not let older stuff just fade away.

PRESCOTT LIVING: I hear your personal home was a rescue operation. True?

Sandy Moss: Oh yes. In fact, the fire department was going to burn this abandoned early 20th century house as an exercise, but we found out about it and we bought it in 2003 — for $1.

We hired a big truck and hoisted the home onto I-beams. That March, at 2 in the morning, when there was no traffic, it was hauled down the middle of Gurley Street to Thumb Butte Road, where we had a foundation constructed.

Honestly, the neighbors up there had a fit when they saw what we had hauled in. A few years and thousands of dollars later, we have people telling us [that] we had done a great job in restoring that charming bungalow. We’ve been living in it since, and just love it.

PRESCOTT LIVING: You’ve had some job opportunities in bigger markets. Anything planned for the future?

Sandy Moss: Not really. I enjoy what I do, and I really do want to start writing some fiction. I’ve so many things I yet want to do — art and pickleball, and maybe travel to exotic places. But I relish living in Prescott, with all its culture and the delightful people and wonderful small-town atmosphere. Maybe when we get older, we’ll get lucky and find someone who will help rehab us and give us a second go-round — right here in Prescott.