Lynne Hayes-Freeland is one of Pittsburgh’s most beloved media personalities, and now I know why.
In my recent interview with her, I learned Lynne not only has her own story to tell, but she loves telling stories that make a difference. And she does it with such charm and humor.
So how did she get in the business? Funny enough, because of a boy she met in college. After being introduced to Duquesne University’s student-run radio station, she fell in love with broadcasting and hosted a jazz show every Sunday.
You might remember another Duquesne radio alum we recently interviewed for The Pittsburgh 100 — Kevin Gavin. Lynne mentioned that she graduated the same year as Kevin and the two worked together for years.
Read on for our full interview. And if you can’t get enough, check out this 2020 WQED video featuring Lynne. It even gives you an inside look at the newsroom.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Schenley Heights.
Editorial note: Lynne talks about her childhood in an interview with Pittsburgh Magazine. Check out the article here.
Where did you go to school?
I attended St. Paul’s Cathedral, now part of Oakland Catholic, for high school and I went to college at Duquesne University.
What made you decide to become a reporter?
I was actually a business and accounting major in college, but I didn’t do so well in business. During my sophomore year, I started dating a guy studying journalism/broadcasting and that’s how I was introduced to the radio station. I knew that was my calling.
I got a job in the business — he didn’t.
Where was your first job?
I’ve been on-air for 35 years. Broadcast was always a focus – news reporting was not. It was just something that I landed in. Everyone always told me I should be on the radio because I’ve always had a deep voice. To be honest, I wanted to be a jazz DJ with a radio station. In fact, while at Duquesne, I was the jazz show host for the student radio station.
After college, I spent my first 15 years in broadcasting as a producer. I joined KDKA-TV in 1976 to produce the “Roy Fox Show” and later took on the “Evening Magazine” program. It wasn’t until 1981 that I moved to the station’s programming department to produce “Vibrations,” which was our weekend magazine programming at the time. When the host left to take a job at CBS Chicago, I was asked to host the show, which eventually became the Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show on KDKA-TV.
When Marty Griffin went on medical leave, Marty called me and asked if I could fill in for him on the radio. I was excited for the opportunity, because as a reporter, I was tired of being outside in the cold, on the side of the road at midnight. This gave me the opportunity to do what I love to do.
As the producer and host of “The Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show” on KDKA, tell us more about your show.
It’s a weekly half-hour show that concentrates on local African American issues.
I’m still, by nature, a news person, so I cover breaking news stories, developing stories, but what I love most is telling stories that make a difference, news that can have an impact on people’s lives.
Just the other week, I talked about my breast cancer experience because I saw a report that women were not getting their annual mammograms because of the pandemic. If you have a cancer, you absolutely cannot put off a whole year of getting that mammogram. You’re risking your life.
After the story, so many women reached out to me. For me, it wasn’t about news reporting. It was prompting women to get the health care they need.
Editorial note: You can read more about Lynne’s breast cancer story here.
What is one of your most memorable stories?
Interviewing Nelson Mandela one year after his release from prison, not only because of who he was, but also because he ended up being such a different person from what I expected. He was quiet, soft-spoken, and before he sat down, he offered me a cup of coffee.
I recently started going through my records, and after seeing the list of names I’ve interviewed – Rosa Parks, James Baldwin, the list goes on — I immediately felt truly blessed. It still amazes me that I’ve had the honor to be in their presence.
Editorial note: Last year, Lynne relived her interview with Nelson Mandela. Check it out in the following links:
What do you like to do in your spare time? Are you looking forward to anything now that pandemic restrictions are lifting?
I’m a proud grandmother of a 4-year-old and 18-month-old.
As for things I’m looking forward to, I can’t wait for live performances. Anything from live music, theater, you name it. I’ll be there when it comes back. I’m also looking forward to traveling — that’s another love of mine. Facebook Memories reminded me of my trip to Vietnam and Thailand with my daughter a few years ago. I can’t wait to travel again.
Other than breast cancer, what other issues are you passionate about?
Children waiting to be adopted. For nearly 20 years, KDKA has a reoccurring segment called “Waiting Child,” which features diverse children waiting to be adopted, such as older kids or those living with special or physical needs. It’s been a big success — 67% of children featured on our show have been adopted. I love it when someone I’ve featured runs up to me and says, “Do you remember me? I was adopted and these are my parents.”
What did we miss? Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
People always ask me, “What’s been the most important aspect of your career?” For me, it’s not talking about the big stories I’ve covered or the big names of people I’ve interviewed. It’s the stories that have changed people’s lives. It’s the woman who comes up to me and say, “Thank you. I got my mammogram because of what you said yesterday.” It’s the child that says, “Mrs. Freeland, I want you to meet my new mom.” I know we’ve made a difference when we’ve changed lives. I’m making that an obligation to live up to.
Listen to The Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show daily from noon to 3 p.m. on KDKA Newsradio broadcasting on 100.1 FM and 1020 AM. You can also find links to Lynne’s social media pages and check out some fun facts about her on KDKA’s website here.
– Robin Rectenwald, WordWrite