The white-bright lights are up in the shiny-surfaced TV studio on Queen Street in York, barely a half hour before the 4 p.m. show goes live.
A row of strategically placed, automated, high-def cameras divide the studio. On one side, a half-circle couch and glass coffee table share a wall with the weather team’s green screen. On the other, two chairs push up against the large clear-surfaced anchor desk.
With the exception of a quick-striding producer darting through, the deceivingly compact space is quiet and empty for the moment.
Just a wall away, the newsroom hums with a flurry of focused activity. In a triptych-like office-desk configuration, a triumvirate of the evening and nighttime crew for WPMT FOX43 – Executive Producer Allison Oskin in the center, station veteran Evan Forrester on the left and relative newcomer Amy Lutz to the right – collectively stares into their computer screens and taps away at their keyboards. As each minute ticks closer to show time, the urgency of their work intensifies. The mood is serious and thick with determination as they go over their scripts one more time. Like a relief valve, Forrester cracks an inside joke. Oskin giggles until she is interrupted by a phone call. Lutz, however, laughs loudly, flashing that easy smile the camera loves. It’s right there, in this brief moment of shared humor, where the comfortable on-air chemistry of Forrester and Lutz derives.
And then, without warning, Forrester and Lutz disappear to attend to their final primps and polishes before reappearing in the studio behind the anchor desk. Microphones are positioned and adjusted, and an in-studio head-set-wearing producer double-checks the show’s blocking. Forrester and Lutz fiddle with the laptops and iPads in front of them while responding to questions from the director in the control room. All of the station’s toil since the morning show ended has come to a head – in mere minutes, FOX43 will cut away from syndicated programming and go live with the latest Central Pa. news.
The in-studio producer counts them down with a hand gesture, and they’re off like the pros they both are.
The pressure is high to remain cool and collected when the cameras flip on, and the news ceases for no one. Monday through Friday, at 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., Lutz – alongside Forrester – delivers the latest feel-good pieces as well as the breaking tragedies every weekday. And, like they have been an on-air team for years, they make it look easy.
Forrester has been working at FOX43 for close to two decades, but Lutz is the new kid on the block at the station in comparison, which coincidentally she admits to being a fan of the late-80s boy band of the same namesake. Yet, it works for them, and they are widely known as one of the most popular evening news duos in Central Pa.
While Lutz might be just now entering her sophomore year at FOX43, her career behind the local-news anchor desk spans nine years and five states. Originally from Pittsburgh – the same city where she got her start in news – Lutz bounced from anchor chairs in Ohio and West Virginia to North Carolina and South Carolina before arriving back in Pennsylvania. York is not Pittsburgh, but it is still good old Pa. just the same, and Lutz has made herself right at home here.
Not so long ago, this polished on-air television professional never thought for one second that she’d be in front of a camera delivering the news of the day to thousands upon thousands of viewers.
“I started college studying business somehow,” explains Lutz. “I was lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do.”
Lutz first attended Ohio State University, transferred to the University of Florida and then came home to Pittsburgh. “When I came home, I went to Point Park [University],” she says. “My dad said, ‘What about news? You love writing. It’s the only thing you’re good at.’”
She soon graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism. Knowing how competitive the broadcast industry is, she planned on going back to school to become a teacher, but a professor of hers alerted her of a little start-up cable station an hour away from Pittsburgh that was looking to hire for a taped broadcast show.
“I wrote up a fake newscast, recorded it on a little recorder, put it on a CD and sent it in,” she remembers. “They called me in for an interview, and the rest is history.”
Lutz remained at the little station for more than a year before moving on to Bridgeport, West Virginia where she produced overnights, edited, photographed and anchored. “I even ran the prompter with my foot,” she jokes. “You learn so much at these small stations. It was a great experience.”