Deborah Ferguson is one of the most familiar faces at KXAS/Channel 5, having been with the station since 1991 and having anchored NBC 5 Today for about 101/2years. She's been the most constant presence on NBC 5's morning newscast, which has undergone a lot of turnover lately -- popular "Gridlock Buster" Tammy Dombeck left in July, shortly after the departure of meteorologist Jennifer Lopez, who had replaced Rebecca Miller when Miller left the station in 2008.
Mark Hayes, an energetic ex-football player who had done mornings for 10 years at a Fox station in Atlanta, made his on-air debut in May (previous co-anchor Scott Friedman now heads NBC 5's investigative team).
On whether they're morning people
Ferguson: I think I am. Mark might say that I am with some caffeine stimulant. I get up about 1:45, and if that's the hardest part of my day, life is easy. And I just kind of wake up, game face on and ready to go. Throw some war paint on in the process.
Hayes: I'm not a morning guy. I don't like oh-dark-thirty. I like the other end of the day. It takes me awhile to get going in the morning, but I get going because I love where I'm going. But if I hit the lotto, I wouldn't get up before noon. Weekends, I probably sleep till 7:30, 8 o'clock. And that's late for us.
Hayes: I get up at 1:30, get goin', shower, shave, watch the news from the night before, check e-mails -- and all very quickly. Time is so precious in the morning. And I've got a [50-minute] commute. Thank goodness there's no traffic. And once we get here, we're going a hundred miles an hour as soon as we walk in the door at 3 a.m. I have my 7-Eleven stop every morning, I get my eggs, my watermelon, my yogurt, a big bottle of warm water, and I'm ready to go.
Ferguson: I live 10 minutes from here, so I get to sleep in a little bit. Up at 1:45, hit the shower. If I have any delay in the morning, it's because I have rethought what I want to wear. I also watch the 10 p.m. news on the DVR, check the Internet and iPhone apps, make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, have a glass of milk and hit the road.
Hayes: I do 5-Hour Energy shots. I will take those every now and then, but my doctor has been making me stay away from those because of my blood pressure. When I first got to Atlanta, I was crazy for the Mountain Dew, and we had a Red Bull refrigerator, and they kept it stocked. The next thing I knew, I was hooked on Red Bull, but the crash was horrible. Once I got away from it, I felt a whole lot better.
Ferguson: I have learned to drink coffee. I wasn't a coffee drinker before I got on the morning shift. After I've checked in with the producers, I'll go make a pot of coffee. But I bring my own coffee. I have a drawer stocked with toasted almond and hazelnut and French vanilla. I [even had] Reese's Peanut Butter cup flavor and Almond Joy flavor. I usually have about 21/2 cups during the show -- and then I stop.
On their chemistry
Hayes: I think a lot of [my energy] comes from playing off Deborah. Seeing her passion, seeing her energy. A lot of mornings, you have to amp up your energy to keep up with her, and you want to be right there with her. But the energy is something you have to control, because you don't want to get too excited to where you're making mistakes and doing the viewer a disservice. But it's really who I am. If we sat down for dinner and had a conversation, you would see the guy you see in the morning on TV.
Ferguson: The day Mark came in, I'd gone out to shoot a story, and I was getting texts asking if I was coming back [to the station] because I had yet to meet this candidate. So I come in, and I walk through the door, and I asked [my producer] if that was him. And he turned around -- and I didn't expect a 6-foot-4 dude. I said, "Hi, I'm Deborah Ferguson" -- and that smile right there, that is what greeted me. We went out to the anchor desk, we hit that open, and within 30 seconds, I knew this would work.
Why morning TV is becoming more important
Ferguson: I think it's because people's morning routines have changed. We're working so much longer, we're involved in so many different things, and morning news is where people get a lot of their content. But I think the most important parts of the day are the 10 p.m. -- "Let me know what I missed through the day" -- and then the mornings -- "Let me know how my day is starting."
Hayes: You've got a lot of moms out there [thinking] "What do I need to wear? What do I need to avoid? Is there construction at the airport that's going to back me up?" People need to know what kind of information they need for the day. When you get those loyal viewers and they trust you, you become part of their routine. Mornings are so important to that. I also think a lot of it has to do with post-9-11. People want to wake up and know that their world is OK.
What happens when the show's over
Hayes: We power down for a minute. And then get ready to do it again. But at the same time, you spend time enterprising news stories, and we spend our day looking for news.
Ferguson: We get paid to watch TV. We watch the Today show, see what's going on there. We'll watch [Fox 4's Good Day], because they're continuing on with their local news, and you've got to know your competition. We have an editorial meeting in the mornings, and Mark and I are both in here. We don't just do the news up till 7 o'clock. What we do is a lifestyle, and your reporter hat it always on.