Trudy Haynes, Philadelphia’s first Black TV reporter, died naturally at the age of 95 this week.
Originally from New York City, Trudy Haynes graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and joined WXYZ-TV in Detroit in 1963. As the first Black person to report the weather on television in the city as well as the United States, she made history.
Her work was eventually noticed by KYW-TV in Philadelphia, and she became an Eyewitness News reporter in 1965. KYW-TV, now CBS 3, was her home for 33 years until 1998. Trudy Haynes was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame in 1999.
Throughout the decades, many journalists have been inspired by the pioneering broadcaster. Having the distinction of being the first Black TV reporter in Philadelphia, and the first in the entire nation, she faced sexism and racial discrimination head-on.
I am one of those influenced by her continued media presence. Like many others in the Philadelphia market, I was introduced to Ms. Haynes through my television screen as a youngster. In a world where African-American women rarely appeared on news programs, it was refreshing to see her on TV.
While my career path was clear from an early age, I had no idea I would connect with Haynes, since she worked in television while I dealt mostly with print and radio news. I stayed in my lane, thinking I might at best run into her here or there.
During my first media encounter with Trudy Haynes, a fellow reporter pressed a microphone over her five foot frame, then retracted it abruptly, wincing. Evidently, the astute broadcaster’s well placed elbow to her competition’s ribs had afforded her a chance to ask the first question and, most importantly, a follow-up. Though I was amused by the newshawk’s approach, the lesson stuck with me, and in the future, I always deferred to Ms. Haynes at press conferences.
With time, we developed a professional friendship and I had the privilege of observing a master at work. Trudy Haynes dissected every room she entered. She was a savvy journalist who knew who the power brokers were and most importantly, what the story was really about.
The passion she had for learning and being a news provider never diminished. Though she retired from CBS3, she maintained a private camera crew and continued to regularly appear on television in some capacity. In some cases, she simply took a small video camera and recorded interviews. She produced programming for PhillyCAM and her broadcasts were seen on many local cable channels. She also created a YouTube channel to showcase the Trudy Haynes Network.
Still, she relished the attention she received as a hometown celebrity. People would often recognize her and tell her how they had grown up watching her, how their parents watched, and how their own children watched her. With a radiant smile on her face, she’d respond that they could still watch her and promote her newest program.
Because Trudy Haynes was always on the move and always on the lookout for new stories, it was sometimes hard to believe she was well into her nonagenarian years. Curiosity was part of her character, and she was always up for a challenge.
Ah, but alas; the body always has a way of making other plans. Following a heart procedure a few years back, she invited me to join her and some friends for happy hour at Chima Steakhouse. We ordered cocktails to toast the icon, and she ordered a tall glass of water per her doctor’s advice. Within minutes, signs of her never-ending ambition were apparent.
Above the bar, a television program showed a sports reporter sitting in a sparse studio with a microphone discussing an event. After viewing the screen for a few minutes, she asked, “What is that setup?” I explained that this was a clip from a podcast being broadcast. Still evaluating what she saw, she analyzed the information that I gave her. She then said, “I can do that.”
True to her “can-do” spirit, Trudy Haynes remained steadfast in her pursuit of journalism excellence until the very end.