Spokane news anchor's tie collection giveaway blows up into nationwide phenomenon

·4 min read

"Clothes make the man." So said Mark Twain. Whatever your gender, it's a fact that appearances can count for a lot, especially in the professional world. When you insert yourself into people's lives every day as a television anchor or reporter, there's a level of expectation that you'll look the part.

In my days as a sports anchor at CNN, a suit, shirt and tie were mandatory. Well, aside from one bizarre period when a news director felt that sports anchors should ditch their ties to look more casual. Thankfully, after a few weeks of open-neck shirts or crew neck sweaters that made us look like extras from "The Sopranos" (bada bing, bada boom), sanity prevailed, and we jocks regained our neckwear.

Tim Pham is a news anchor at KREM TV in Spokane, Washington, and ties are also his thing.

"It's part of our uniform," he says. "It's required in TV, I guess. It's not written on paper, but when you turn on the news, the viewer expects to see someone who is dressed professionally."

At one stage, Pham estimates, he had about 250 ties. That's when he had an idea to share the wealth.

"I have so many, and it's just overflowing underneath my desk," he says. "And so I thought, hey, I could probably give away some of these or donate them."

Watch the video to see how a simple tie giveaway went viral!

Pham posted on social media, targeting up-and-coming journalists who might not be able to afford a vast collection of ties early in their careers. "Phamily Ties," as he called the project, got an overwhelming and far-reaching response.

"It did reach a lot of journalists," Pham says. "But I also heard from people in different industries, recent college grads, a lot of seniors in college. Nonprofits even reached out to me. There was a jail that reached out to me asking about filling their closet for people leaving the prison system to then go find a job for an interview. One of the local universities asked if they could have any leftover ties to fill their closet for young professionals. And then I even had a high school having their first prom since COVID in two years asking me if I could outfit their senior class. So it has gone to all different types of people, which has just been really incredible."

When news of the tie giveaway spread, people offered to donate their own ties to help the cause. As Pham tried to come to terms with the logistics of shipping and handling the donations, businesses began reaching out.

"Used ties are really gross. They have a lot of sweat in them," Pham says. "And the laundry company that I spoke to, they were like, yeah, you should probably clean them when you send them out. And so we are meeting to talk about what a partnership looks like with the laundry company. And then a logistics company in the Spokane area also offered to take care of the shipping labels and pay for the shipping, which is extremely generous."

Since starting the giveaway, Pham has suggested that anchors at other news stations follow his example in their TV markets. He describes the initiative as "a grassroots movement of kindness" and says its success is perhaps a reaction to the proliferation of bad news and conflict that bombards us every day.

"There's just so much divisiveness on social media and in discourse amongst different people," he says. "I think a lot of times, people hear the cliche "If it bleeds, it leads." I don't think that always has to be the case. I think people do want the positivity and the good. I think that's something that draws people in, too."

Though the success of "Phamily Ties" has gone way beyond expectations, the caring, sharing message is precisely what Pham had in mind when he started the project. As a TV anchor in one of the top 100 news markets in the country, he's on the upper rungs of the ladder, but he hasn't forgotten the climb.

"It's silly. It's just a tie, but they can be quite expensive," he says. "So this is just a small gesture, and it's nice to be able to just give back. So many people lifted me up when I was going through the industry and coming up. This is just a small way to pay it forward."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: News anchor's tie giveaway snowballs into something he never expected