People of Utah: Ali Monsen
The Good4Utah reporter opens up about juggling priorities, hurdling challenges and staying healthy.
It’s two minutes until the live shot, and ABC4’s Ali Monsen is standing under an umbrella in the pouring rain with her photographer, ready for the signal. All of a sudden, a gust of wind blows her umbrella completely inside out and snaps it.
Monson is a new reporter, and the station rules say reporters won’t do live shots in the rain without an umbrella—something about “looking professional” and seeming like you didn’t ignore your own weatherman. She sees an old lady walking into nearby building with an umbrella.
“Don’t you dare,” her photographer says, looking his watch.
But Ali takes off after the lady, scares her half to death and borrows her cartoon character-laden umbrella, saying “it will be on TV.” The newscast goes on as planned, with some chuckles from the studio.
Balance, flexibility and making things work are important skills in Ali’s tool belt—they keep her relationships vibrant, her life fulfilling and her job successful.
The TV Lifestyle
“I think I’m really different from a lot of TV journalists in that my career is not my life,” Ali says. “It’s a very important part of my life, but simply one part.”
Ali, Utah raised and Utah loyal, busted into the Salt Lake City TV news world right out of college, no small feat for such a competitive market. But it hasn’t made her world lop-sided.
“In the short time I’ve been a TV journalist, I’ve come to realize how easy it is for work to completely take over your life,” she says. “In some respects it has to. You know, being a journalist you’re always looking for story ideas, you’re always on call. I think in the end for me it comes down to priorities.”
Ali says she sees many important elements of her life: physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual. She says it’s important to be reassessing every single day, making a to-do list, not necessarily in the order of what has to be done, but what she values the most.
Being a wife, daughter and sister comes first for Ali. She is the oldest of six kids, and says she’s always been a kind of second mom to her five younger brothers. Dance is another priority, which she has been doing her who life. She now teaches part time at a center for troubled teens.
Without all these things, Ali says, her life wouldn’t be as fulfilling.
Ali says she has seen TV journalists who are consumed by the search for recognition and notoriety, but that isn’t why she entered the industry.
“The most successful journalists, at least in my experience, are the ones who don’t get into the TV industry to be on TV,” Ali says. “I think that the journalists who genuinely love to tell stories and genuinely love to learn and meet people and help improve the quality of people’s lives by giving them information they need to know…are the journalists who really succeed.”
Losing sight of that leads to a lack of balance, and less satisfaction with the job, she says.
Her goal, upon entering the field, was to balance the trend toward negativity in the news.
“We turn on the TV, and see the news, and so much of the time it’s so negative, and so depressing, and you know, you hear about death and disaster and all these terrible things,” she says. “I want to bring people news that puts a smile on their face, that’s interesting, or that helps improve the quality of their lives, and I want to highlight the goodness in our community and our world, because I believe there is so much of that.”
“Fitness is definitely something I value, but right now my weekly fitness plan is seriously as organized as my kitchen, which isn’t a good thing,” Ali says.
A structured fitness plan is difficult with Ali’s ABC4 work, with changing shifts and the on-call nature of things. The week of this interview, she had to be to at work at 3:30 am every morning.
“It’s hard to find a time and schedule and a fitness class or something that works well,” she says. “But I think the thing for me is that regardless of when I do it, I do it.”
Ali says she has to be flexible with her fitness and even mesh other priorities with her fitness goals. For example, she’ll take speed walks with her mom, getting family time with her exercise. She loves hot yoga for both mental wellbeing and her physical health. She’ll research stories while running on the treadmill.
“Sometimes it is about balancing and incorporating several important priorities at once into your life,” she says.
That said, Ali admits excuses are sometimes warranted, and that she’s no model of good health habits.
“There have been times that I’ve been so overwhelmed in my life with so much that getting to the gym was the last thing on my mind,” she says. “I was just lucky to get to sleep at a decent hour, and have some amount of nutrition in my body. But again I think it comes down to balance and priorities. If it’s a priority for you, than you can make it happen.”
Ali Monson’s Top Workouts
Teaching dance (anything from ballet to hip-hop)
Food and Energy
Extremely early mornings, sciatic pain from scoliosis and deadlines can be draining, but Ali says she has to keep her energy levels up, especially for live shots. She says early morning producers will laugh at her from inside the control room because she’ll be doing jumping jacks or fake kickboxing to get hyped minutes before a shot.
When it comes to food, Ali says her job can easily lead to terrible eating habits if she’s not careful.
“TV news is so hard, because we’re lucky if we have ten minutes during the day for a lunch break,” she says. “We’ll swing by a drive-through and grab something.”
But Ali says as she’s found ways to eat healthier, she’s noticed a difference.
“Just recently, I’ve realized how much healthy eating does influence the way that I do my job, the way that I write, the way that I report, the way that I present myself on TV,” she says.
In particular, she says she’s much sharper with a good breakfast, better able to recall the information she’s trying to get across to viewers.
Ali Monson on Food
”I’ve never been a huge dieter. I find that when I restrict myself from certain foods, I end up craving those foods. I drive myself nuts until I have that darn sugar cookie or whatever it is.”
Yogurt, pineapple, cheese sticks and pretzels are a few of her go-to snacks that don’t sap her energy. When she does get the chance for a full meal, she avoids eating a lot of meat. Beans are a more common source of protein for her.
“I’m always holding a Big Gulp cup. Diet Coke with vanilla. It’s my go-to vice.”
She does have the rule of not drinking before noon, however.
Since high school, Ali has dealt with pain and back problems from scoliosis. Bulging discs, slipped discs and back pain have been significant obstacles throughout her life. She says that one of her hips even sticks out farther than the other.
In high school, because of dance and strenuous exercise, the health problems resulting from scoliosis got so bad she couldn’t even sit down or dress herself for a few months. Eventually she had to stop physical activity altogether, for about a year, to recover.
Professionally, scoliosis is a burden as well. She hates making cameramen carry all of the equipment, and sometimes finds herself toting bags in high heels or wedges.
“It’s not necessarily a good combination,” she says. “Sometimes I come home and it hurts. It hurts really bad.”
Hot yoga and massages help, as does stretching and dancing, but scoliosis is a regular hurdle in Ali’s life, one that she’s learned to jump gracefully and without complaint. In fact, Ali seems to have made a habit of jumping hurdles in all aspects of her life. But at the same time, nothing important is left in the dust.
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