Teamwork and co-workers are what Stephanie Todd Haley (’95) appreciates most about her job overseeing programming and managing story/event planning for HLN—the cable network once known as CNN Headline News. The communication arts major landed at CNN fresh out of college, eager to tackle the world of journalism. Her first job was production assistant on a daily talk show called “Talkback Live.”
“The amount of professional and life experience I received during my six years on that show is immeasurable,” says Haley, who worked behind the scenes covering major news stories including the O.J. Simpson verdict, the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton and the 1996 summer Olympics held in Atlanta. “I worked with and learned from some of the best producers in the business,” she recalls. “I still call them my mentors and friends.”
When Haley arrived at Georgia Southern from her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, her goal was to become a sports reporter, but changed her mind after completing a summer internship at CNN headquarters in Atlanta her senior year. “Even though I started off wanting to be in front of the camera, I quickly realized there are so many more things to do when you work behind the camera. I believe I was led to this path,” she notes.
Over the course of her journalism career, Haley has worked her way through the ranks at CNN and HLN to her current position as HLN’s senior director of programming and planning. “I have been an executive producer of several shows, overseen coverage of two presidential elections, helped create and develop multiple shows, and led live court coverage and programming for some of the decade’s biggest criminal trials—Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias and George Zimmerman.”
Aside from the challenge of learning new techniques and topics, Haley says there is nothing quite like the charge she gets from being in the television control room. “That’s where the action is, where split-second decisions are made. There is so much going on… it is the true example of teamwork,” she explains. “It is still so amazing to me that our team can come up with an idea at nine o’clock in the morning and have it ready for broadcast on national television and online distribution almost instantaneously, day in and day out.”
Her life has changed dramatically in the 18 years since she joined the Time Warner Company. She married Reed Haley (’95) whom she met at Georgia Southern when he was the Eagle football team’s place-kicker. Today, the couple is raising three children: 13-year-old Jackson, six-year-old Todd, and two-year-old Reese.
When she reflects on her college experience, Haley admits she loved every minute of it. “I had so much fun. I wanted to stay at Georgia Southern forever. I am still grateful to my professors for cultivating my passion for television. I love it when people are surprised that I am actually working ‘in’ my degree.”
Haley, who minored in journalism, now supports the Georgia Southern Communication Arts Department as a member of the Advisory Board and says that role provides her with the opportunity to give back to the university she loves and to mentor future journalists. The alumna reminds student journalists they “must have a genuine curiosity about the world” around them and be an engaged consumer of all kinds of media.
“It’s a rapidly changing industry so you have to be able to evolve and grow as your career grows,” Haley says. “Don’t get into this business in hopes of becoming famous. Get in it because you love being able to create the product and always have your eyes open to all the possibilities and opportunities that come your way. You may think you want one job at first, but then realize you are much better at, or have more passion for, doing something else.” – Sandra Bennett
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