Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2005 | People

Opening Doors: Tom Tyrer

By Tina Owen
Having carved out a successful career in cable television, Tom Tyrer (left) now helps UI students, including Isaiah Scales, get a start in the industry.

Life, as far as Tom Tyrer is concerned, is like an endless procession of revolving doors that can transport you to new possibilities—if you have the courage to step through.

Tyrer, 85BA, 87MA, of Manhattan Beach, California, took such a step during his days at the UI, when he switched from pre-law to English and the master’s program in expository writing. But after graduation, he discovered that he was considered over-qualified and under-experienced.

"I looked very good on paper,” he says. “But, unlike my friends in business school, I hadn’t done any internships. It took eight months to get my first job, and I vowed that if I were ever in a position to help other UI graduates get a foot in the door, I would do it.”

Now senior vice president of corporate communications at Fox Cable Networks in Los Angeles, Tyrer is living up to his promise. By a quirk of fate, his first job in Chicago led him back to California, where he joined the up-and-coming maverick network Fox Broadcasting. He now oversees public relations for a group including FSN and its 12 regional sports networks, National Geographic Channel, Fox Sports en Español, Fox Movie Channel, and the company’s interests in several sports teams and stadiums.

In 2003, he returned to the UI campus to meet with English and journalism students. "My message was that L.A. isn’t on the other side of the moon and that trying to get into a company like Fox isn’t like trying to climb up the side of an ivory tower,” he says. “There’s a big front door, and it’s often open.

"In our television shows, we’re trying to create stories that are relevant to young people, Latinos, African Americans, people from the Midwest, and other cultures. If we want to be true in doing it, we’d better have people in our company who are representative of those groups.”

UI communications senior Isaiah Scales was among the students at Tyrer’s presentation. Afterwards, he left to go to his next class but realized that he was missing a rare opportunity. So, he returned, introduced himself to Tyrer, and took his own step through the door marked “Career Development.”

With his new mentor’s help, Isaiah landed an internship at Fox Sports last summer, where he worked on the Best Damn Sports Show Period hosted by fellow Ottumwa native Tom Arnold. A personal dream come true, the internship also represented opportunities denied to other generations of African Americans. Scales particularly thought of his grandfather, whom he takes after in spirit and personality.

"Since eighth grade, I’ve wanted to work in television or film and live in Los Angeles,” says Scales, who made such a good impression that studio bosses offered him a permanent job. “When I walked through the gates of the Fox Studios, Iowa and my grandfather came with me.”

Though happy to have helped, Tyrer points out that Scales owes his success to his own hard work, perseverance, and courage. Tyrer just held the door.