‘THE PANDEMIC PUT SOME THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE FOR ME.’
Iconic figure wants to spend more time with family, precious grandchildren
Courier Staff Report
When someone says in conversation that “it has been an amazing ride,” it usually signals that something is ending.
But when that someone making the statement is a legendary figure in Pittsburgh’s Black community, it becomes front-page news, and everyone in the community pays attention.
Lynne Hayes-Freeland, a daily fixture on KDKA-TV for decades before switching to KDKA Radio (100.1 FM, 1020 AM) full-time to host a weekday show, announced during her show on Friday, Sept. 3, that she would be ending her daily radio show in November. She called it a “semi-retirement,” as she’ll still be involved with KDKA radio and TV on a de facto part-time basis.
“For 45 years, I have been connected to a microphone on some level or another, and I am grateful for that,” Hayes-Freeland voiced around 12:50 p.m. on her KDKA radio show. “But I’ve also decided to step back from being behind a microphone every day of the week.”
When Hayes-Freeland was hired as full-time host on KDKA Radio in December 2018, it marked the first time in the legendary station’s history that an African American would host a full-time, weekday show on its airwaves.
The New Pittsburgh Courier was the first to report Hayes-Freeland’s hiring on KDKA Radio.
Leaders in Pittsburgh’s Black community had pushed station management to add an African American to its weekday lineup. Tim Stevens, CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, wrote an open letter to then-KDKA Radio Program Director Jim Graci, in November 2018: “I have been a citizen of Pittsburgh for my entire life, except for nine months in 1967. To my knowledge there has never been an African American regular weekday radio talk show host on your station. As a civil rights activist of five decades, I find this reality an embarrassment to our city for its most historic radio station to have such a history reflecting such a near total absence of diversity. The good news is you can do something about this absence of diversity going forward.”
And KDKA Radio did, with the hiring of Hayes-Freeland.
Hayes-Freeland’s daily show began on Jan. 3, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but was later moved to noon to 3 p.m.
“For nearly three years you and I have spent Monday through Friday…right here on News Radio 1020 KDKA,” Hayes-Freeland said on-air, Sept. 3. “It has been an amazing ride, we’ve had some great times, we’ve had some candid conversations, we’ve had some difficult conversations. But I’d like to think that we all grew in the course of that three years.”
Hayes-Freeland’s undeniable credibility in Pittsburgh’s Black community afforded her the ability to bring African American guests onto KDKA’s radio airwaves at a moment’s notice. And when sensitive issues were occurring in Pittsburgh, such as the “not guilty” verdict rendered for former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld (who shot and killed 17-year-old Black teen Antwon Rose II in 2018), or Pittsburgh’s George Floyd protests in 2020, Hayes-Freeland was able to bring the perspective of a Black woman regularly to the airwaves.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it forced Hayes-Freeland, among other KDKA Radio hosts, to broadcast their shows from home. But it also put some things in perspective for Hayes-Freeland, “and that was, most importantly, I wanted to be either closer to my family or more available to my family,” she said on-air. “I missed birthdays, I missed holidays…I was not happy with any of that, so all of that pushed me to re-evaluate my life, pushed me how to re-evaluate how I’ve been spending my time.”
Hayes-Freeland’s father is in the Pittsburgh area, but her son, daughter and grandchildren all live outside of Pennsylvania. “My grandson turned 5 last week, my granddaughter will be 2 in two weeks,” Hayes-Freeland said on-air, “and we’ll be having a big birthday party for the two of them coming up. They just make me smile. If you’re a grandparent, you understand it. They just make me smile.”
In an article posted to KDKA Radio’s website, Michael Spacciapolli, senior vice president/market manager of Audacy Pittsburgh (which owns KDKA Radio) called Hayes-Freeland “an icon in the city and a pillar of the community.” The station’s website also mentioned Hayes-Freeland would end her daily show on Nov. 12, then remain part of the station with a weekly one-hour on-air session with 9 a.m. to noon host Marty Griffin, a weekly column on kdkaradio.com, various social media posts and endorsements. Hayes-Freeland will also continue to host “Minority Health Matters,” a show in cooperation with Gateway Medical Society that discusses pertinent health issues in the Black community. The show airs the first Saturday of each month at noon.
Stevens, the CEO of B-PEP, told the Courier in an exclusive interview, Sept. 7, that Hayes-Freeland “has been a wonderful breath of fresh air to the KDKA airwaves since she’s been there, obviously very dedicated to the community and we’ll miss her presence.”
When Stevens learned from the Courier that KDKA Radio would be launching a “national search” for its next full-time host, Stevens said the choice is already in-house.
“I would hope that they just pick up the phone and call somebody down the street in Chris Moore,” Stevens told the Courier. “I don’t think a national search is necessary.”
Moore, like Hayes-Freeland, is a pillar in Pittsburgh’s Black community. He’s hosted a weekend show on KDKA Radio for more than 25 years, but is more notable to Black Pittsburghers as the longtime host of the former “Black Horizons” show on WQED-TV. He also is lauded for his work on WQED’s first nightly show, “On Q,” and current hosting on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel.
“I think this would be the moment; I think it’s extremely important that Chris Moore would be more than a logical choice,” Stevens told the Courier. “I think it would almost be an insult to Chris to not ask him to do the show with his history and background in Pittsburgh and on KDKA Radio.”
Stevens, who’s been a guest on The Chris Moore Show numerous times over the years, called Moore’s show “informative, provocative,” and that Moore has a “tempered level with his audience and is able to engage debate in a reasonable fashion. I think he would be a very appropriate host.”
CHRIS MOORE hosts weekend shows on KDKA Radio, with a loyal following. Tim Stevens, CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, wants Moore to be offered Hayes-Freeland’s noon to 3 p.m.
Stevens said he felt it was important that KDKA Radio keeps a daily African American presence on its airwaves, as there are no other full-time Black voices on the station besides Hayes-Freeland, and Pittsburgh could be poised to have its first Black mayor in Ed Gainey.
“With all the issues that have been affecting African Americans over the decades and particularly the past few years,” Stevens told the Courier, “it’s great to have someone on the air who has some sort of sensitivity to those issues and has the respect of the Black community and many in the White community as well.”