Celebrity News

Sam’s new chapter: ‘I’m stronger than I realised’

As Newshub comes to an end, the newly single star opens up about her personal and professional reinvention
Samantha Hayes in a yellow dress holding a sunhat on a beachPictures: Guy Coombes

When Samantha Hayes returned to work after her summer break in January, the mum-of-two hoped that 2024 would be a year of happiness and healing. After separating from her fiancé six months earlier, Sam was optimistic that a fresh start meant life was looking brighter for her and her children, Marlow, four, and Amaya, two.

However, nothing could have prepared the beloved broadcaster for the shock announcement that Newshub would be shutting up shop, bringing down the curtain on her stellar two decades at Three. Not only had Sam’s home life been turned on its head, now her work life was in turmoil too.

“It felt unfathomable,” she tells Woman’s Day over a pot of English breakfast tea at a café near the Newshub studios in central Auckland. “When I started this year, I thought, ‘This is really going to be it. This is the year that things get back on track!’ And then it all crashed down around me again. It was a bolt out of the blue and totally heartbreaking.”

But now, as she enters her final week presenting the flagship 6pm news bulletin alongside her longtime friend and colleague Mike McRoberts, Sam is feeling reflective. If the upheaval of the past year has shown her anything, it’s that she is more resilient than she ever could have imagined. A family separation and job loss in the space of 12 months was a challenge she never saw coming. But, now she’s proud of getting through it in one piece.

Press image of Samantha Hayes and Mike McRoberts in the newsroom

“I have learnt that I’m stronger than I realised,” says Sam. She has been announced as the solo host of Stuff’s new 6pm show ThreeNews. “It’s been a rough few months and my tendency is to keep busy and block out the difficult emotions. That way I don’t have to confront the hard stuff. But it’s important to let yourself feel it – to move through it. Three has given me so much. I’m so grateful for all of it and it’s been important to process the enormity of this loss.”

The newsreader, who grew up in Milton, Otago, filed her first story for Three at the tender age of 17, during a month of work experience. Several years and a journalism degree later, Sam returned first as a reporter. Then at age 23, she landed the Nightline presenting job.

From there, she held many different roles over the years, including a stint across the ditch as Three’s Australian correspondent, before joining Mike on the six o’clock news eight years ago.

Sam Hayes smiling at the camera with one arm across her stomach and the other hand around her neck
The future is bright for the determined news presenter.

Sam adores her work and describes her colleagues as family. She says that while she and her workmates understood the difficulties facing the industry, none of them believed Warner Bros. Discovery, the company that owns Three, would shutter the entire news operation.

“It’s not like we had our heads in the sand,” she insists. “We were aware of the issues with falling advertising revenue and rapidly changing viewer habits. But most of us did not think that such a huge step would be taken so rapidly. I remember Mike said he thought that they would amputate a few more limbs before they decided not to resuscitate.”

She says the loss of Newshub has felt like a grieving process. “It’s been a roller coaster. There’s the shock, then the despair and the anger, then the disbelief. I went through the whole range of emotions before accepting it and it’s not linear. Some days are easier than others. I’ve found it’s very similar to going through a separation in terms of that journey of grief.”

For newly single Sam, facing the financial stress of a redundancy was particularly frightening given the fact that she no longer had a partner for back-up.

Sam Hayes looking to the horizon on a beach

“Losing a job is something so many people are going through at the moment and it really is horrible and scary. It’s like the ground moves and you can’t stand up properly. For months, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. But at the same time, it did give me the opportunity to really sit back and think, ‘What do I want from life?’

“Ultimately, I just kept coming back to the fact that I love doing the news and I love live television. I love being able to show people what’s happening. The collaboration involved and the teamwork is beautiful too. I just couldn’t get my head around not being live each night and for all New Zealand’s major events and breaking news.”

Meanwhile, slap-bang in the middle of this turmoil, Sam turned 40. But given what was going on at work, she didn’t feel like a big party. Instead, she opted for a quiet get-together with friends and precious time spent with Marlow and Amaya.

“It really didn’t feel like a time of celebration, but that didn’t stop the kids,” says Sam. “They were adorable because they were just so excited. The kids rushed in with presents that their dad had helped them get and opened them all for me days before my birthday! They couldn’t wait. It was so sweet.”

Samantha Hayes with toddlers Marlow and Amaya
Being Mum to Marlow (left) and Amaya has kept Sam grounded through life’s recent upheavels.

And while some women dread their forties, Sam tells us she’s the opposite. She feels positive and excited about stepping into the next decade.

“Sure, I’m getting older – we all are – but I’m comfortable with that. There’s a confidence that comes with life experience, and a surety and a decisiveness. So through all of the ups and downs of the past four months, I’ve felt like I trust myself. I’ve been able to really reflect on what’s important.”

Sam is also fitter and healthier than she’s been in a long time after taking up running again. She hits the pavement and the local trails near her city-fringe home at least three times a week, not to mention having regular scooter outings with the kids.

“Running is great because you just put on some shoes and go. And even if I’ve only got a little window of time, I can squeeze it in and I just feel so good afterwards. It’s that endorphin rush that’s incredibly satisfying.”

Sam knows there are likely to be tears when she utters her final sign-off on her last Newshub bulletin on Friday night. Saying goodbye to Mike will be painful. She credits the legendary journalist, who is moving to the National Business Review, with helping her become the newsreader she is today. “He’s been so gracious and giving, and we have a beautiful friendship, which I know will continue.” 

Samantha Hayes and Mike McRoberts laughing together sitting at the news desk
Sam’s grateful for the friendship of her Newshub co-anchor Mike.

While it will be “extremely odd” not having Mike next to her in the new job, Sam notes with a smile that given newsreaders appear to be a species on the verge of extinction, she’s incredibly grateful to have landed the role as senior correspondent and presenter at Stuff. The move is tinged with sadness for the end of Newshub, but creating a programme from scratch has been a unique experience and she can’t wait to get underway. She hopes Newshub viewers will tune in and give the new show a chance.

“We will continue doing the gutsy, brilliant journalism that Newshub is known for. We’ll also have the weight of hundreds of excellent Stuff journalists dotted around the country behind us too. It’s actually pretty exciting. There’s a real buzz about it.”

While life has dealt Sam more than her fair share of challenges in recent times, she says it’s her children who continue to inspire and motivate her to persevere. Amaya is full of confidence and curiosity, while Marlow is funny and thoughtful.

Sam Hayes staring into the distance on a beach
Moving with the tides of change, Sam is ready for her new news journey.

Sam marvels at the thought her sweet son will start school later this year. “We did a school visit yesterday and – wow! – all the kids looked so big and grown-up. I can’t believe my little boy will be there soon.”

Describing Marlow and Amaya as her “happy place”, Sam adds, “The kids have been such a reprieve. When I’m with them, I’m able to switch off all of the chaos, turmoil and emotion of what’s happening professionally and just be with them. They’ve given me a great sense of perspective on it all. They don’t care what I do. They just want me to be their mum.”

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