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Dickson delighted to forsake lawyer life for radio mike

No one expected Amanda Dickson to be back on KSL Radio's morning drive time show so soon.

Dickson, the blond, super-charged personality who enjoyed consistently high ratings as a morning co-host with Grant Nielson, left the station almost two years ago to be a lawyer with the firm of Clyde, Snow and Swenson.It was the fulfillment of a dream, but there was just one problem - she hated it.

Even though she loved law school at the University of Utah, Dickson could tell in the first few weeks that the actual practice of law was not for her.

She enjoyed the research, looking for a needle in a haystack, reading, figuring things out. She didn't like the fighting, the sadness, the stressful lives she was seeing day in and day out.

She didn't even mind the long hours, from 7 to 7 - including weekends - but she missed her husband, KSL Radio newsman Scott Seeger, and she missed the joy she knew in radio.

"My mom calls me a `joy junkie,' " she says without apology. "Now I know I didn't realize how unique it is to be doing something for a living that lightens your heart, that's fun."

Fighting with opposing counsel was contrary to her nature, she says. "If you listen to the station, you know I have a silly streak, a sort of childlike curiosity - and that's not a good instinct in the law."

Several months ago, when she hinted to KSL that she might like to come back, Dickson says, she got no encouragement. Finally, in July, she told the partners in the law firm that she simply lacked "the gene."

Making "a leap of faith," she gave notice at the firm, though she had no job waiting. Then she informed KSL that she was available.

Even though Dickson's lively successor, Chere Wood, was doing well in the ratings, management had been considering making a change. Only three weeks passed from Dickson's resignation from the law firm to the day KSL offered her old job back - and she joyfully accepted.

"I felt very, very lucky, because KSL is just the best place to be," Dickson said.

Although rumors indicated that KSL fired Wood to make room for her return, Dickson maintains that even her husband was "out of the loop" on the station's plans.

It gives Dickson no joy that her good fortune coincides with Wood's unemployment, because she considers Wood "a very bright, talented woman, with a beautiful voice - and she is so marketable."

Now that Dickson is back on the air in the mornings, her "silly streak" is back. She enjoys spontaneous interaction with Nielson.

In preparation for sharing information with listeners, she reads voraciously in books, magazines and both local newspapers. But she doesn't formally prepare any comments for the show.

Instead, she enjoys ad-libbing. She likes to wait for Nielson to say something he has prepared. "I think he enjoys not knowing what's going to happen next."

Dickson enjoys a unique relationship with Nielson. Frequently, they even hug each other in the middle of a shift, in reaction to "a wonderful moment on the air."

Dickson, who moved to Utah from Pennsylvania in 1981, says she loves the blue skies and clear air here.

As a young high school graduate she spent a year at BYU, then finished her degree in English at the University of Utah. Her dream at first was to teach high school English and coach her own swim team. But she worried that with her youthful lack of patience, she might get into trouble with principals.

"So I thought, `What do you do if you're an English major and you want to avoid life?' " For Dickson, the answer fell somewhere between radio and law school.

In 1987, she landed her first job in radio at Salt Lake's KTKK (K-Talk), where she did a weekend talk show and anchored morning news with Joe Redburn. Then, at 99.5 FM, she did a midday disc jockey shift and co-anchored the morning news with Gaylon Palmer.

In 1990, she got her foot in the door at KSL, where she did a weekend talk show for almost three years, then spent two years on the morning show with Nielson.

As she watched some of her friends get fired, she realized "how fickle the radio business is" and thought the study of law would provide her with a strong backup.

The day could still arrive when that law degree will come in handy, but right now she's excited to be back behind KSL's microphone.

Although she wakes each weekday at 4:45 a.m., "it feels like Christmas morning. I have that sense of elation, because I go talk, and they pay me!"