Chief Meteorologist and CCI Alum Heather Haley is a Volunteer 40 Under 40
Heather Haley (‘05) credits her journalism degree from the College of Communication and Information with making her a well-rounded meteorologist who understands the story behind the weather.
“It’s the one story that affects everybody. Sunny, rainy storms, is there a threat to life and property? I want to be a good communicator to help people understand how it’s going to affect them,” she said.
Though Haley has continually moved up in her career and is currently chief news meteorologist—and the first-ever female chief meteorologist in Knoxville—for WVLT-TV, she was still shocked when she learned about her placement on the 2023 Volunteer 40 Under 40.
“Only 40 people are selected each year, and I thought, “Wow!” I didn’t know what else to say. When anybody works as hard as anyone on this list does, and as many other alumni do, I knew that, alright I’m doing something right,” she said.
After graduating with her undergraduate degree, Haley initially went into the news side of broadcasting and became a reporter and news anchor, just as she’d planned. But her interest in science and math just made meteorology a great segue for her career. She returned to school and earned a second bachelor’s degree in meteorology by taking courses online while working and being trained by a meteorologist at WVLT.
She recently worked with the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, as well as with the Department of Geography, to provide input to help both create a joint undergraduate minor in meteorology to pair with a journalism major. It takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to produce the weather report, and combining all the skills of journalism with the science is key, she said.
“We have to do the hard forecasting and science behind the scenes, and then summarize it in one minute or three minutes,” she said.
Haley spoke of many “nudges” she was given throughout her education and career, including one from retired JEM Professor Sam Swan, who nudged her into journalism, and from the news director who did the same with meteorology. So she wants to ensure the students who come behind her have the same support, if not more, that she had.
“I hope I can pass that along and connect with the right student at the right time to help them. I visit schools all over East Tennessee regularly because I want to show them that they can find the right path for themselves,” she said.
Haley is excited to continue staying in touch with CCI and JEM, and is encouraged by all the work being done to grow and evolve the journalism programs.
“I think that the program was really well-rounded when I was there, voice, ethics, on-air delivery, news writing – I felt so prepared and proud of my degree. I just think honestly they have a great program and somehow it gets better every year. I’m so encouraged to see all the growth they have accumulated,” she said.