In 2007, after over a decade of covering breaking news stories including one of Amtrak’s most devastating accidents in Illinois and even a one-on-one interview with Senator Barack Obama, just before announcing his run for the presidency, a young but experienced journalist propelled her career out of her local news beginnings in Dallas (KBTX) and Chicago (WFLD) onto a national agenda by joining the MSNBC/NBC family.
Hall, a television trailblazer, now serves as not only a co-host on the Today Show, but also as an anchor of MSNBC Live with Tamron Hall. As if those two shows weren’t enough to drive a journalist’s career into the stratosphere, this high achiever has also hosted Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall since 2013. The series, now in its third season, takes an in-depth look at the crimes that rocked the nation. Hall has garnered notoriety for special reports including “Making the Grade,” “Debating the Black Agenda,” the 2012 London Olympics and “Education Nation: Teacher Town Hall,” which was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2011. She has also served as a correspondent for the NBC News special “The Inauguration of Barack Obama,” which won an Emmy for Outstanding Live Coverage in 2010. Hall was also a vital part of the NBC News team to receive the Edward R. Murrow Award for Reporting for her segment on domestic abuse as part of Today’s “Shine a Light” series.
Hall, a Temple University graduate, was honored with Temple’s prestigious Lew Klein Alumni in the Media award in 2010, and in 2015 was appointed to Temple’s Board of Trustees. Her passion for people and justice leads her involvement with several charitable organizations that strive to end homelessness and illiteracy, as well as others that fight domestic abuse. She was recognized by Day One, a New York-based advocacy group for victims of domestic violence, for her work and support of their efforts. She penned a poignant personal account of her sister’s death for theGrio.com in 2010, which garnered praise from several outlets for its honesty and attention to the often-overlooked issue of domestic and dating violence. In addition, Hall is an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists.
A person who strives to never limit herself or her capabilities, Hall chooses to focus on the road ahead as opposed to challenges and stereotypes. Tamron Hall is without a doubt driving her own career and going it her way. The incredibly-talented media maven discussed her career, her personal brand, and what inspires her each day, with Monarch.
You have done an incredible job navigating your career. Currently, you host and/or anchor shows like NewsNation, Today and Deadline. First of all, what attracted you to each of those shows?
There wasn’t necessarily an attraction as far as what drew me to those shows. I moved here in 2007 to join MSNBC at a time when the network began focusing heavily on politics. It was an incredible race with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both standing on the cusp of making history, as the first African-American or first woman in the White House. So joining MSNBC at that time, and then I was on the Today show, and because we have great synergy at NBC, it seemed like a natural progression.
I was lucky enough to join both of those teams and fortunately became a permanent part. As far as Deadline is concerned it was the same kind of thing. It was produced by Peacock Productions which is the in-house production company at NBC. Oftentimes when Peacock pitches an idea they will include NBC talent; and in this case we knew that Discovery was interested in teaming up with us to do a show of some sort. We had conversations about OWN and other networks in the Discovery family. Then we had one of those phenomenal conversations when you just hit it off with people and, along with the producers, we were able to come up with Deadline: Crime. So again it was thanks to the synergy of MSNBC, NBC and Peacock Productions that this was able to happen.
So, how do you juggle it all?
Oh gosh, like anybody else. I tell people often, the things we want in life we find time for and we find a way to get them. So I love my job and don’t really think of it as strange. I do look at people who are parents and have similar schedules, and I think, “How do they do that?” It’s remarkable to be able to be a fulltime parent and still have a demanding job. But they do it brilliantly and they inspire me.
How do you avoid burnout? Do you have to say no to a lot of projects?
Of course [laughs]! There are many projects that are pitched that aren’t suited to me or my personality or how I see myself and my role as a journalist. We’ve turned down many things, but thankfully so far nothing I’ve regretted. But I’m always open to new ideas.
Each of the shows you work on has a distinct target audience. When it comes to your own personal brand, what is the most important thing that you work to convey about yourself across all audiences?
That I am doing exactly what I want to do. Each of these parts of Tamron are real. My interest in Deadline: Crime is real. My joy that I hope I am able to radiate, if I’m lucky, on the Today show’s 9 o’clock hour is real. My passion for having a political conversation or on breaking news is all real. These are all things that I am genuinely part of and interested in and genuinely passionate about.
What topics are you most inspired or excited to report on each day?
I am always inspired by stories of resilience, like when people are able to persevere in the most difficult of circumstances. I’ve been a journalist for 25 years; and when I see a person standing in front of a home they just lost and are still saying how do we put back the pieces, that’s incredible for me. It leaves me inspired as a journalist, but mostly inspired as a human being.
Race is quite a controversial topic in the news today. What are your thoughts on how we can get past controversy and move toward embracing diversity in the media?
I don’t see race as controversial. I see it as a reality. As long as we grow up in different parts of the world, different parts of the country and in different neighborhoods, there’s always going to be an opportunity to understand and also opportunities for people to misunderstand. So there’s no way to have everyone completely on the same page. Even if there were an island where people were exactly the same skin color, same hair color they would still find a way to have distention.
I don’t think when we talk about race there is going to be some sort of fairytale where the prince kisses the princess and it’s all magical. That’s ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity for unity. We see it all the time. We see it after tragedies like 9/11 and we see it when we celebrate Olympians together when the colors that matter most are red, white and blue.
As an award-winning journalist, is there anything else career-wise that you have your eyes set on accomplishing?
You know, I just want to expand Deadline: Crime and that brand. I think that it gives me an opportunity to talk about domestic violence. It’s given me the opportunity to meet incredible people who have been impacted by violence but who have been inspired to change things. I met a grieving father last weekend whose daughter was murdered; and as a result he was able to change the law in his state of Connecticut – a law that at the time of his daughter’s death may have saved her life.
Thinking back to the younger you, is this where you expected you’d be in life?
No; I didn’t imagine this specific journey. But I grew up in a home with great love. There wasn’t great wealth, but there was great love. My mother, my aunt and my grandfather, who had a second-grade education, always told me that I could do great things and I would be able to have a seat at the table. So no, I didn’t think I was going to be in New York on the Today show, but was I surprised? No. But am I honored and humbled by it? Absolutely!
Did you have any other career aspirations other than journalism?
There was no backup plan [laughs]. This was it. It was do or die!