Lee Hale | KUER 90.1

Lee Hale


Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear. 

Ways to Connect

Year-end picture
Renee Bright / KUER

It was a year of big — big fires, big ballot initiatives and big political upsets — that collectively defined Utah in 2018 as the state continued its growth spurt. The Beehive State added another 50,000 people this year, owing both to the state’s healthy economy and low unemployment. But Utah also weathered more troublesome headlines, whether through the rushed creation of a controversial Inland Port in northwest Salt Lake City or the publication of sexual abuse allegations implicating leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church.

KUER reporters picked out some of the top stories of this year and explain why they mattered.

Photo of BYU Campus.
BYU Photo / Abby Smith

The suicide of a 19-year-old Brigham Young University student last month sent shockwaves through the student body, causing many to ask whether the school was offering enough mental health support.

Photo of Shane Lingo.
Lee Hale / KUER

On a typical Wednesday night at South Mountain Community Church in Draper, about 60 teenagers are gathered for youth group. There’s loud music playing over the speakers, lots of chatter and a very competitive foosball game in the corner of the room.

Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like many Christian churches, does not ordain women. Women can hold leadership positions, but the top roles are reserved for men.

Cedar High School

When the drill team at Cedar High School in southwest Utah performed a dance with a Native American theme two years ago, a lot of people took notice — and not in a supportive way.

Jon McNaughton

Utah artist Jon McNaughton has become known for his depictions of President Donald Trump. As an ardent supporter of the president, McNaughton often portrays Trump in a heroic light.

Photo of boxes.
Lee Hale / KUER

Salt Lake City is ranked No. 2 among U.S. metro areas most susceptible to package theft, according to a survey by Utah-based review site SafeWise released ahead of Black Friday shopping.

Photo of Sam Young.
Lee Hale / KUER

Sam Young, the former Mormon bishop who challenged his recent excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has had his appeal denied, he confirmed Tuesday.

Illustration of office.
Renee Bright / KUER

Braxton Dutson distinctly remembers the first time he heard the word “masturbation.”

Photo of Salt Lake temple.
Lee Hale / KUER

An obscure section of Utah law recently piqued Ryan McKnight’s interest after he heard stories about the mishandling of sexual abuse in Mormon communities.

Photo of Prop 2 supporter.
Renee Bright / KUER

Updated 4:45 p.m. MST 11/9/18 Utah voters have approved a ballot initiative on medical marijuana, following a trend nationwide to relax laws targeting the drug, which is still illegal under federal statute.

Photo of Harkness.
Lee Hale / KUER

Sister Lisa Harkness, First Counselor in the General Primary Presidency that oversees Mormon children, is worried that Utah voters might be confused about what is on their ballot next week.

Photo of pageant participants.
Curtis Whitear for KUER

Mormon pageants — big theatrical dramatizations of church history and scripture stories — have been part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nearly 100 years. But a recent announcement from Church leaders said their days are numbered.

Photo of kids in costume.
Courtesy: Terrill Musser

Outside Water Canyon Elementary School in Hildale, Utah, children are dressed up in costumes and scurrying from car to car in the parking lot asking politely for candy.

Photo of candles being lit
Lee Hale / KUER

Gov. Gary Herbert joined religious leaders in Salt Lake City last night at a vigil to honor the 11 victims killed Saturday during a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

iStock.com / Ridofranz

Last month, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert made a plea to former public school teachers to return to the profession but a new survey shows it will take more than a call to service to entice them back.

Photo of Zhan.
Broadcom MASTERS

It all started with an allergy to “brilliant blue.”

Photo of U of U campus.
iStock.com / desertsolitaire

Utah’s Board of Regents is being asked by state auditors to be more rigorous in the way its members approve tuition increases at colleges statewide.

Photo of Drage in kitchen.
Kelsie Moore / KUER


Michele Jones likes to believe she's pretty good at spotting students who are struggling.

The 41-year-old math teacher at Cyprus High School in Magna is quick to notice when homework gets sloppy or a student misses class. But with Dustin Drage, a quiet freshman with a penchant for art, drawing and doodling, there weren't the typical red flags.

Photo of Colorado City sign.
iStock.com / TSnowImages

For most of his life Don Holm was a faithful member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — a polygamist group often referred to as FLDS. Then, in 2004, Warren Jeffs — the group’s prophet — deemed Holm unworthy of his family and the home that he had built. He kicked Holm out.

Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Much of this weekend’s bi-annual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was business as usual. There were earnest sermons from top church leaders, interludes from the (newly renamed) Tabernacle Choir, polite jokes without outsized laughter, etc. But, the twists and turns included the confirmation of a rumor that has persisted in Mormon circles for years.

Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

For the past few years, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have speculated, “Is this the General Conference when they’ll finally announce 2-hour church?” If you’re not Mormon, that most likely doesn’t mean anything. If you are Mormon, it’s a very big deal. And now, it’s becoming a reality.

Image of Jeff Flake in Judiciary Committee.
Reuters Live Feed

Sharlee Mullins Glenn, a founder of the group Mormon Women for Ethical Government, believes it is both a matter of faith and principle that the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are taken seriously.

Photo of missionaries on bikes.
iStock.com / MattGush

Cole Ellsworth had been serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Uganda Kampala Mission for 11 months when he felt it was time to go home.

Photo of University of Utah entrance sign.
Lee Hale / KUER

Jeanette Hernandez Heltman may be two years out of college, but she often gets confused for a student at Granger High School in West Valley where she works. But that's kind of the point.

Photo of Eric Huntsman speaking.
Madeline Mortensen / BYU

For many practicing Mormons, the topic of LGBT inclusion can be a tricky one that's often tiptoed around. But in a speech to students last month, Brigham Young University religion professor Eric Huntsman dove headfirst into the issue.

Photo of Astrid Tuminez.
Lee Hale / KUER

The newest president of Utah Valley University, the state's largest university, began her tenure this week. Before this, Astrid C. Tuminez was a regional director for Microsoft in Southeast Asia, supervising 15 markets in 10 countries.

Courtney Kendrick stands with Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby who was suspended by the paper after an internal investigation
Courtney Kendrick / Facebook

Readers of The Salt Lake Tribune may have noticed something missing over the weekend - an article from popular columnist Robert Kirby, who was suspended from the paper because of inappropriate behavior.


Lee Hale / KUER

The head of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City has released a public report that details sexual abuse allegations involving Utah priests and nearly three dozen victims since 1990.

Like many Catholic Church leaders, Bishop Oscar Solis has publicly voiced his disgust following last month’s grand jury report in Pennsylvania that documented abuse at the hands of 300 priests. But in the release of his report this week, Solis took it a step further by detailing sexual abuse within Utah’s Catholic Church over the past 28 years.

Lee Hale / KUER

Sam Young, a former bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on Sunday told a crowd of supporters in downtown Salt Lake City that he has been excommunicated after his sustained campaign of protesting church policy on how Mormon leaders conduct private interviews with youth.