LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND (PHOTO BY NATE SMALLWOOD)
END OF AN ERA
This Thanksgiving, don’t expect to see or hear Lynne Hayes-Freeland anywhere near a microphone.
She’ll be in Atlanta, spending precious time with her grandchildren, no longer wanting to miss any more time with them or her son, Michael, and daughter, Kristen.
Friday, Nov. 12, was Hayes-Freeland’s final weekday show on KDKA Radio (100.1 FM, 1020 AM), bringing to a close a 45-year career of the iconic broadcaster’s daily work in television and radio in Pittsburgh. She announced in September that she would be heading into semi-retirement after her Nov. 12 radio show, and now that we’re nearly two weeks past that date, the semi-retirement has begun.
“We wanted to call and say congratulations and happy retirement,” voiced Hayes-Freeland’s daughter, Kristen, during the Nov. 12 radio show, with Kristen’s husband also on the line. “We know it’s the end of an era, but selfishly we are so excited and ready for you to get to Atlanta.”
Hayes-Freeland’s son, Michael, called into the show, saying that his son “can’t wait to see you for Thanksgiving,” and that Michael is excited to see what his mother looks like “as a full-time grandma.”
Hayes-Freeland said on the show that she would also be taking her father on the trip to Atlanta, joking that there’s no rush for them to return to Pittsburgh. After so many years bringing stories of others into viewers’ homes and through the radio airwaves, now’s the time for Hayes-Freeland to concentrate even more on her own family.
“This is a day of tribute to you,” said local pastor, Rev. Niecy Dennis White, on the KDKA Radio show. “I speak on behalf of countless people in this region to say thank you for your pioneering leadership to the Pittsburgh media on countless platforms. You are a motivational speaker, you emcee programs for us…the list goes on and on.”
Pastor White added: “You created the bar for many people, especially in the diversity community. Your voice not only mattered, you had a caring voice. You are a barrier-breaking voice. Your voice has been a voice that bridged gaps in this region. You enlightened your colleagues around you and you heightened awareness on the importance of diversity in this region. Thank you for who you are. You are a woman of destiny and purpose.”
Hayes-Freeland, a Pittsburgh native, graduated from what’s now known as Oakland Catholic High School, and later graduated from Duquesne University. She began her career as a producer at KDKA Radio, then joined KDKA-TV (2) in 1976. According to a bio on KDKA’s website, Hayes-Freeland created the show “Weekend Magazine,” produced what was then known as the “Vibrations” program, and produced KDKA’s annual Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund telethon. She then spent roughly 30 years as a reporter on KDKA-TV and host of “The Lynne Hayes Freeland Show.” In December 2018, she was named weekday host on KDKA Radio, becoming the first African American to host a weekday show on the station in a full-time capacity. She continued to host her weekly television program.
Hayes-Freeland’s final weekday radio show couldn’t have ended without a number of former KDKA-TV colleagues checking in. Harold Hayes, now in year five of his retirement after 40 years in broadcasting, 37 of those with KDKA, reminisced on the days in the KDKA newsroom with Hayes-Freeland and others. “It was quite a time because we always said when the managers of the newsroom came down our aisle, it was like going down the aisle of Jurassic Park; you didn’t know if your head was going to get bitten off, or if we would just growl, or if we would just go do the story as assigned.”
Hayes told Hayes-Freeland that as retirement goes on, “you listen less and less” to the current news happening of the day. “You realize the torch has been passed to another generation, and it’s time for them to do that stuff.”
Mary Robb Jackson, a fellow KDKA-TV reporter, said on the show that Hayes-Freeland is in “for the sweetest time in your life.”
Paul Martino, who retired earlier this year, praised Hayes-Freeland for serving on the SAG-AFTRA (workers’ union) negotiating committee and fighting for diversity.
Timira Rush, a KDKA Radio longtime producer and producer of Hayes-Freeland’s radio show, said: “To work in the business who looks like you is very important for me. I was able to come out of my shell. I was able to do things I’ve never done in the 26 years I’ve been there, Lynne. You brought out a lot in me and I am going to be forever grateful.”
Michael Spacciapolli, senior vice president and market manager for Audacy Pittsburgh, which owns KDKA Radio, called Hayes-Freeland “an icon, and there’s not a lot of icons in this city, and you’re one of them…I want to thank you for the voice you’ve brought to this radio station, the different opinions you’ve brought to the radio station, the various guests you brought to the radio station to really balance out a conversation that we’re having every day. You’ve been a huge part of changing that dialogue as we go into the future. We’ll be forever grateful for what you’ve done here.”
Spacciapolli also told listeners that Hayes-Freeland will continue to have a voice on KDKA Radio. Beginning in January 2022, Hayes-Freeland will join midday host Marty Griffin for a weekly one-hour conversation; will continue to host the monthly program “Minority Health Matters,” and will contribute on social media.
Before she signed off, Hayes-Freeland, fitting for the holiday season, “thanked” those who took “this leap with me (into radio). It was a leap of faith on my part and I’m glad that you guys went with me.”
Patrice King Brown, a noted KDKA-TV anchor who retired more than a decade ago, told Hayes-Freeland: “You and I have known each other since we were 14 years old. It’s a wonderful gift being a grandparent, and I don’t think you can appreciate it until you are one. Nobody can prepare you for the love that you feel for grandchildren.”
King Brown added: “May you be proud of the work you have done, my sister, the woman you have become, because we grew there (at KDKA), and the difference you have made. I love you.”
LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND, left, is presented with an award from Onyx Woman Online Magazine by Ola Jackson and Brenda Tate for all of her achievements during a 45-year media career in Pittsburgh. (Photos by Nate Smallwood)
Chris Moore speaks at a Retirement and Proclamation Celebration in honor of Lynne Hayes-Freeland at the Energy Innovation Center on Oct. 12, 2021.
Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle speaks at a Retirement and Proclamation Celebration in honor of Lynne Hayes-Freeland at the Energy Innovation Center on Oct. 12, 2021.
Elaine Effort speaks at a Retirement and Proclamation Celebration in honor of Lynne Hayes-Freeland at the Energy Innovation Center on Oct. 12, 2021.
Guests at Retirement and Proclamation Celebration in honor of Lynne Hayes-Freeland at the Energy Innovation Center on Oct. 12, 2021.
LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND poses for selfies during a Retirement and Proclamation Celebration in her honor at the Energy Innovation Center on Oct. 12, 2021.
Jazz saxophonist Tony Campbell plays during a Retirement and Proclamation Celebration in honor of Lynne Hayes-Freeland at the Energy Innovation Center on Oct. 12, 2021.