Lights, Camera ... Relaxation

At home with Columbia's television celebrities

Alicia Barnes, ABC Columbia evening news co-anchor, calls her sitting room her favorite room because it offers a place for reflection. Stylist: VanJean Boutique; Makeup: Pout; Hair: Total Bliss Salon; Interior Design: Mack Home.

Photography by Robert Clark

In today’s fast-paced world, the news is literally changing every second. For four Midlands newscasters, delivering the news in a timely, accurate manner each day is an ongoing critical expectation. It’s busy, it’s fast-paced, it’s stressful. So how do these local personalities spend their down time? In the tranquility of their homes, of course.

Alicia Barnes

For Alicia Barnes, ABC Columbia evening news co-anchor, a woman’s home truly is her castle. She has learned the art of creating quiet moments at home, critical after the long days and hard work she devotes to her demanding position. With an 11-year career that began in Lansing, Mich. and has spanned the United States from coast to coast, Alicia knows the dedication and commitment it takes to be successful in the broadcasting business. Embracing extraordinary achievements as well as bitter disappointments  – from being named San Diego’s Favorite Female Newscaster to getting laid off and going through a divorce – Alicia is a person who knows when it’s time to “get rid of the diva” and float back down to earth.

On the heels of these major life changes, Alicia joined the ABC Columbia team. Following years of twists and turns, it’s no surprise that Alicia calls her sitting room her favorite room in her home. “I just like to sit and think,” says Alicia. “Someone once shared a prayer with me that says, ‘Disturb me, O Lord, when I get too pleased with myself, when my dreams have come true because I have dreamed too small.’” She cherishes a place for reflection, defining the importance of her home – from the simplest light to a table or a chair. Alicia finds herself giving thanks for all that she has. “I think when you lose it all, you cherish things differently when you get them back.”

With a style that combines the eclectic with the modern, Alicia has added a lot of texture to her home – “Just like my life,” she says. By incorporating organic materials, such as natural stone and old woods, including driftwood and natural sticks, as well as oyster shells, Alicia’s sitting room provides a great level of interest and distinctiveness. She complements these elements with more modern pieces of glass and acrylic. Alicia’s sitting room also features many personal effects, including a shadowbox holding memories from her time as a Torchbearer for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. “My proudest moment during my news career so far was serving as a Torchbearer and carrying the Olympic flame through my hometown of Atlanta,” says Alicia. “I was so humbled and grateful to be asked.” For this reason, her shadowbox is always only a glance away.

A shadowbox holds memories from her time as a Torchbearer for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

And so are freshly cut flowers, thanks to her love of receiving them, displaying them and smelling them. “I think my fascination came after being a little girl watching the movie The Color Purple. My favorite line in the movie is, ‘I think it makes God mad when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.’” This certainly applies to life’s blessings, of which Alicia has been sure to take notice.

Andrea Mock

Andrea Mock, News 19 WLTX evening news amchor, enjoys beginning her days in her morning room. With its warm ambiance and natural light, it is the perfect space to gradually awaken and greet the day.

As the Friends @ 5 and evening news anchor at News 19 WLTX, Andrea Mock is following in the journalistic footsteps of her childhood idol, Connie Chung. A cum laude graduate of Kent State, Andrea moved to Columbia in 2007 and doesn’t regret the decision. “I love the weather, the people and the hospitality – it has become my new home,” she says.

Balancing the commitment of anchoring the news and mothering a young son, Andrea often greets each day much too early, making it somewhat ironic that her favorite room in the house is the morning room. Flanked by huge paladin windows and featuring vaulted ceilings, the open space draws in natural light, while also providing a great view of the tops of the trees blowing in the wind. The ambiance is warm, thanks to the two-sided fireplace, providing a wonderful setting to gradually awaken and greet the day ahead. “Every morning, I make my coffee and cuddle up in my huge white leather chair, and my son, Brady, takes his favorite Mickey Mouse push toy and does laps around the coffee table,” says Andrea. “We start every day that way, and I love it!” Brady also loves the large rectangular table in the middle of the room, which he has also turned into a toy that he pushes around while Andrea happily chases him.

The morning room boasts a convenient view of the driveway, allowing Brady to pull his purple chair up to the window and look out in wait for a much-anticipated play date.

As the entertainment hub of Andrea’s home and the most formal, it’s the spot for goldfish and coffee during play dates and appetizers and drinks for girls’ nights. And with no television, no computer and no telephone, it’s the ideal setting to unplug, unwind and focus on friends, family and fellowship.

The room is filled with beautiful pieces, such as Andrea’s favorite oversized pink and red vase, as well as family relics, including an exact replica of the P-47 plane Andrea’s grandfather piloted in WWII. “I was very close to my grandpa, so this piece is very special to me,” says Andrea.

It’s no wonder this room brings Andrea much peace, tranquility and immense happiness – from morning until it’s time to get to work.

Dawndy Mercer Plank

Dawndy Mercer Plank, WIS-TV news anchor, finds peace and serenity in her backyard retreat.

Dawndy Mercer Plank is no stranger to the camera, having started her television career in 1989 as a reporter in Green Bay, Wis. In 1992, she moved to South Carolina to co-anchor WIS News Sunrise and was later promoted to co-anchor of WIS News 10 at 5. Dawndy then moved to Houston, Tex., where she starred in commercials and industrial films. She also spent time at other stations in Houston, but in 2001 made her return to Columbia.

When she isn’t anchoring the 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. or 7p.m. news on WIS-TV, or off running a marathon, or giving of her time to charitable organizations, Dawndy finds peace and serenity in her own backyard. From the start of her day, after her morning run, to the end of a hectic evening, her backyard is her retreat. “It has the perfect view of the sun rising in all its strength every morning, greeting me to start another day,” says Dawndy. “When I return after another chaotic, overscheduled day, it will be there again with all its beauty.”

This unmatched beauty, with rolling terrain, impressive trees and the colors of nature, lets Dawndy feel rejuvenated and free. Frequent visits from deer, squirrels, butterflies and birds help to bring a sense of peace. The beautiful space also serves as the workout room for Dawndy’s dogs, where time can easily be filled with the joyful repetition of a game of fetch. And when the opportunity for a quick rest arises, Dawndy will relax in the hammock or her favorite lounge chair to soak in the view in its entirety.

It’s not all play and leisure in the backyard, however, as the space also serves as her office with no walls, where she checks her e-mail, gathers updates on the latest news headlines, or drafts speeches for her many appearances. What better place to read and study the Bible than in the beauty of God’s creation? “The artwork is unmatched by any other,” says Dawndy. “It’s God’s artwork. I love how it changes from morning to night and changes even more dramatically from season to season. It’s as if I am redecorating my special room over and over.”

Dawndy’s family shares her love of the outdoors. Craig, her husband, and Chandler, Chase and Camille, her stepchildren, are in the process of building a tree house complete with a porch and windows so that everyone can enjoy the breathtaking views. “Making this place even more special is that the evening hours at dusk offer just as much beauty, especially on a full moon night when it appears there are stage lights illuminating the land,” she adds. And, every now and then, Dawndy finds it’s nice to turn off the spotlight and let God take care of the rest.

Tyler Ryan

Tyler Ryan, cast member of Good Day Columbia on WACH Fox, often finds himself in his man cave, which is a fully functioning voice studio and thinking spot.

Tyler Ryan has come a long way from his days as a radio board operator. While working full time as a radio host, Tyler attended Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire to learn the business. “It’s kind of backwards,” he admits. Yet, Tyler has worked up and down the dial, from Vermont to Alaska, Florida to the Cayman Islands. In 2002, he made a move to Charleston to work for Cat Country and continued to expand into television and hosting, among other things. By 2005, he had moved to Columbia to work at New 92 and tried his hand at infomercials. Two years later, he began his first stint at WACH Fox filling in as a weather personality. After several more years at local radio stations, he watched his creative services firm, Tyler Ryan Talent, expand, and he returned to WACH in 2011 as a cast member of Good Day Columbia.

Tyler also continues to work on national creative and television projects, voice acting and professional emceeing and hosting. He serves as spokesperson for Riverbanks Zoo, The Heroes Vest Fund, the First Responders Memorial and other charities.

Because of his extensive broadcasting background, it’s understandable that Tyler’s go-to room in his house is his creative man cave, which is a fully functioning voice studio and thinking spot. “I have created the room by hand, retrofitting a closet into a sound booth, adding in all the needed equipment to fully function as a creative wheelhouse, with the ability to create and edit audio, video and, of course, write,” says Tyler.

The functionality of the room, with four networked computers, allows Tyler to process and send video, while editing a radio commercial or simply updating Facebook. Tyler’s man cave also gives him a bird’s eye view into the backyard, where he can watch his two four-legged girls as they romp and play.

The imaginative room boasts special photos, signed guitars and other assorted memorabilia that Tyler has collected over the years through his travels. But even with all of the fancy equipment, Tyler’s favorite spot in the room is his “thinking chair.” “It gives me a different perspective from the traditional ‘in front of the computer position,’” he says.

“It’s in this chair I can read, research and write.”

Functionality and creativity provide a place for peace and thoughtful reflection. And for a man like Tyler, who wears many hats, sometimes he simply has to sign off.