“I am a TV news anchor at Fox 5 in Atlanta,” says Tom Haynes ’94. “And trust me, every bit of what I do in my job today was cultivated during my four years at UMass.”
Moving from an Intro to American Politics or Political Theory course to TV, may not seem like an obvious step for political science majors. But that’s exactly what happened for Haynes.
“Political Science laid a major foundation for me in my career,” he says. “It got me to start thinking critically about how our government works, how political campaigns strategize and operate, how geopolitical events around the world impact us here at home -- and, at the end of the day, how former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill was right, that all politics is local.”
This foundation, combined with serious investments as a staff member at both the campus television station, UVC-19, and the radio station, WMUA, solidified Haynes’ decision to pursue a broadcast career after graduation.
His first professional position resulted from an internship at CNN in Washington DC. “I made so many friends and so many contacts and eventually landed my first ‘professional’ gig there as a production assistant after the internship,” he says.
While landing a first job at CNN may sound glamorous, Haynes is quick to remind us that those early positions are usually full of grunt work. “My days were running news scripts to Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff, floor directing for Larry King -- even popping popcorn for the late, great political columnist Bob Novak," he recalls.
Nonetheless, those long, hard days are what positioned him for his current job as sole host of News Edge in Atlanta. “I don't have a co-anchor,” he says, “it's just me, three cameras, a floor director, our sports and weather guys.”
The fact that he does not “share the spotlight” means Haynes spends a lot of time preparing for and promoting the show himself. And, in today’s fast-paced news environment, that means continually utilizing social media. “I am constantly engaging my viewers throughout the day on-line,” he says. “Posting on my station Facebook page and Twitter account is something I do from the time I wake up, 'till when I go to bed. The news never sleeps (and apparently neither do I!).”
His political science background – as well as a “gift for gab” – is one reason he has been successful in the business. “My television news audience in Atlanta is very keyed in to what's happening both in state politics here in Georgia and on the national stage,” he says. “They may not have been political science majors themselves, but TV news junkies are smart about what happens in government, and so I have to be too.”
Accordingly, Haynes recommends that students interested in pursuing a similar career try a major like Political Science. “Don't feel like you need to major in broadcasting or journalism,” he says. “While a broadcasting major is perfectly legitimate, you can learn the fundamentals through an internship and extracurricular activities. Try majoring in subjects that broaden your knowledge and can be an asset to you later in your career.”
In Haynes’ case, a Political Science background has meant that he is the first one to be called for big stories in politics –like elections or high-profile interviews with the mayor or governor.
“I really love what I do,” Haynes says. “I think the more you love your job, the more successful you'll be. That's not to say success doesn't take hard work, dedication and a competitive spirit -- but loving what you do makes all those things so much easier.”
Finding something that matches your personality helps, too. As an anchor, Haynes not only reports to the community, but engages with it. “Being active in the community is critical to my work and personally fulfilling. Whether it's speaking to a high school class -- emceeing a big event -- or helping build a house for Habitat for Humanity -- it's important to be front and center not only on television, but in my community.”
Overall, Haynes thanks his UMass background for making him who he is today. “UMass was the perfect place for me to spread my wings, to sow my oats and to exploit and nurture my talents,” he says. “There was a great vibe on campus and so many opportunities for extracurricular activities like working at the TV and radio stations. The Political Science major was the icing on the cake.”
As he comes up on his 20th anniversary of graduation, Haynes looks forward to re-engaging with the UMass community. “When they're old enough, I can't wait to take my kids back to Amherst to show them where I went to college and where my life as an adult really began,” he says. And, of course, he can’t wait for them to try their first slice of Antonio’s!
“I was so at home on the UMass campus,” Haynes says. “I often tell people my four years at college were among the best in my life…. UMass is a large enough school that, as a student, you can really pursue any ambition. Pick a road you want to travel down -- and UMass will give you directions on how to get there.”
- Alumni News