Troy University alumna Amanda Dukes and her colleagues at WESH 2 News in Orlando, Florida, were recently awarded a regional Emmy for their coverage of a local tragedy that made international headlines and spurred potential legislative changes in the state of Florida.
Dukes, along with Anika Hope, Greg Fox, Marlei Martinez and Kelsi Thorud, was recognized during the Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards held in Orlando on Dec. 10. The team was awarded the Emmy in the Continuing Coverage category for coverage of the death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson on an amusement park ride in March 2022.
“In the weeks and months that followed, we continued to cover the story. There were a lot of questions raised by local officials and lawmakers about how this could happen and who was responsible and if any of the laws and regulations needed to be changed in the future to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” she said. “Myself and my colleagues just stayed on the story and did dozens and dozens of reports over a period of several months.”
The Tyre Sampson Bill was introduced in June 2022 and is set to go before the state legislature in its current session. The bill aims to increase the regulation of amusement park rides, and the proposed changes include more frequent inspections, better training for ride operators and strengthening of requirements to obtain ride permits.
“This recognition felt great because we cover a lot of tragedies where there really is no resolution or follow up, and to actually get to be part of continuing coverage of a story where our coverage makes a difference and results in changes that will hopefully prevent another tragedy from happening is incredibly rewarding,” Dukes said.
This award was special to Dukes as she recently announced her retirement after 33 years in tv news. Her last day on air will be Feb. 13.
“I was at the Emmys knowing that this was going to be my last one, so it was especially meaningful,” she said. “To be able to wrap up my tv news career enjoying that kind of recognition felt really good.”
Dukes came to TROY on a full scholarship after winning New Hampshire Junior Miss. She received offers from multiple southern schools, but TROY stood out because of its broadcast journalism program.
“When I found out that TROY had such an amazing broadcast journalism program, I knew that’s where I wanted to go and I was so thrilled that I ended up there,” she said. “I felt like I got not only a great education, but I had such a great experience at TROY. In just the past couple of years I’ve started going back quite a bit for football games and sorority reunions, and it’s been so fun to return and see how much everything has changed.”
During her time at TROY, Dukes was a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, was named Miss Troy State University in 1986, was a Trojan Ambassador and a member of the university choir. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism in 1988.
After graduating, she returned to New Hampshire and worked for a year in radio news while trying to find a way to break into tv news. Eventually, she convinced the news director at the ABC affiliate in Manchester, New Hampshire, to let her freelance.
“It’s always a little bit of a challenge to get that first job,” Dukes said. “I think I worked four holidays in a row when he wanted to give his regular reporters time off, and then eventually they hired me.”
Dukes served as the morning and noon anchor at WMUR-TV in Manchester for eight years before deciding to try her hand at working in a bigger market. She worked with an agent to apply at stations across the country and was picked up by WESH 2 News soon after.
“I just celebrated 25 years here. I have loved my career, but I’m just ready to have something a little less intense,” she said.
Over her career, Dukes has received several professional awards, including the Associated Press Best Spot News award for tracking down two of New Hampshire’s top 10 deadbeat dads and her first Emmy in 2017 for her reporting on the shooting death of an Orlando police officer at a local Walmart. She was also part of the team that won a Columbia Dupont award for coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, as well as an Edward R. Murrow regional award recipient for her reporting on the Casey Anthony trial.
Dukes has served on the boards of several non-profit groups, including J4 Leaders and Summit Church as well as the Christian Service Center and Samaritan Village. She is also a proud graduate of Life Work Leadership Orlando.
She enjoys leading and facilitating bible study groups, volunteering as a mentor, reading, Christian music and trips to the beach or mountains.