By Janelle Burrell

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Today we kickoff off our Black History Month series, and we begin with a face that may be familiar to many of you. CBS3’s Janelle Burrell sat down for a socially distant conversation with the legendary, former Eyewitness News reporter Trudy Haynes, who transformed the face of the news industry.

She’s now 94 years old and tells Eyewitness News getting into the business was an accident that started with her introducing herself to a news manager, scouting for talent.

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“He asked me, ‘oh do you have someone in mind?’ And I said, ‘yes I do.’ And he said ‘who?’ and I said ‘me!'” Haynes said. “And that’s how it happened.”

It was 1963 when Trudy Haynes got her first TV gig as the first Black weather reporter at a station in Detroit.

“At that time, they only hired blonde, blue-eyed, good looking gals to do the weather,” Haynes said. “He had something in mind. I can use this lady, and I can be first.”

But Haynes seized the opportunity to do even more, using it as a stepping stone to becoming a reporter.

“They didn’t send women out on these tough roles. I volunteered for some of them, and I got some of them,” Haynes said.

And that got the attention of KYW-TV in Philadelphia.

“He heard about me out there and called me and said, ‘we’ve been watching you. How would you like to come to Philadelphia?'” Haynes said.

Haynes joined Eyewitness News in 1965, becoming the first Black TV reporter in Philadelphia. At times, facing sexism and discrimination, but always rising above.

“When they say you’re the first, that puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders automatically. I gotta be good. Unless you just don’t give a damn,” Haynes said.

And she gained their respect.

“Somehow. I don’t know,” Haynes said. “I was accepted in a lot of places that you don’t get to go unless you’re in the business.”

She found herself rubbing shoulders with famous and also, infamous characters.

“I met a lot of the mob there and they would say, ‘hey, Trudy wanna sit here,’ maybe they were looking for a little publicity, I don’t know,” Haynes said.

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Haynes would stay at Eyewitness News for more than 30 years, not only reporting news but telling the stories of international stars and celebrities.

Janelle Burrell: When did you realize that you were an example for so many women behind you?

“When I found out they wanted my job,” Haynes said. “And a lot of women wanted my job.”

Janelle Burrell: You’ve certainly paved the way for so many of us.

“I appreciate that. That wasn’t intentional. But I knew I wanted to do my best,” Haynes said.

Now at 94 years old, Haynes still has a nose for news.

Because of the pandemic, she’s currently on a break from her community access TV show, but as always, she’s still sharing her wisdom.

Janelle Burrell: What advice would you give to young people coming up today?

“You can, and maybe you don’t do the best, maybe you’re not first, but you can do it. That’s the thing you have to have in your heart,” Haynes said.

Trudy Haynes is a true pioneer, hard to believe that she is 94 years old, she is still as vibrant as ever.

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Janelle Burrell