You may know news anchor Tamron Hall from “The Today Show” on NBC and “NewsNation” on MSNBC. What you may not know is that the award-winning journalist has Philly roots, earning her degree in broadcast journalism at Temple University, where she now serves on the board of trustees. Hall was in town covering the 2016 Democratic National Convention last week and took time to chat with us about her college days, Ishkabibble’s and what inspired her to become a journalist.
You were the first African-American woman to co-anchor “The Today Show.” How does it feel to see Hillary nominated this week as the first female presidential candidate?
It was incredible. I said today on-air on “The Today Show” you can put politics aside and acknowledge when it is the first black person or person of color, and I think it is important for us as Americans, people who support democracy, to say the same thing. You don’t have to subscribe to her ideology or her politics, but to ignore as we sit steps away from Independence Hall that we have a woman now nominated for president representing a major political party, it is incredible.
How do you think Donald Trump has gotten this far in politics?
He clearly has tapped into something that his party and his supporters have wanted to hear by the thousands. When I’ve interviewed Trump, supporters they say he is refreshing, he is a rebel, he’ll shake things up. So there appears to be an appetite for that.
In your own career, what inspired you to become a journalist?
This is all I have ever wanted to do. I grew up in Luling, Texas — a very, very small town. My grandfather was a sharecropper. I was raised by my stepfather, who was in the Army for 30 years. My mom was an educator. So I grew up in this family, people who were very engaged, very hard working, salt of the earth people.
For my family, news was and is a staple [and]I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I love interviewing people. I love hearing about their lives and how they got to where they are. I preferred the company of the 80-year-old lady who lived across the street from my grandfather [when I was growing up] over the company of my cousins, because I wanted to hear her stories.
So your time at Temple. How was that?
Phenomenal. Time of my life. I tell people I was born in Texas, but I got my soul in Philly! It’s phenomenal. I’m honored to be a board member. I never imagined I would be on the board of the university that I graduated from.
Iwent to school on student loans. My parents didn’t have the money to write a check for me to go there so it was important for me to get in and out in four years and work very hard. I had a job from the day I started. I’d take SEPTA to not very far from where Wells Fargo is — it was the Spectrum back then. I worked for Joe Frazier and his partner Burke Watson, I worked at a jewelry store on Market Street — I worked everywhere! I probably had 900 jobs. [Laughs] I worked for Peter Liacouras, the president of the university at the time. From day one, I worked until the day I left, but it was a wonderful balance of the opportunity of higher education but also the reminder that I wasn’t here to play around.
How many years were you in Philly?
I was here four years. I left, I think, five months after graduation. I tried to hang on as long as possible. My mother said, “Listen, it is too expensive — you need to get home and get yourself a job,” and that’s what I did.
Now that you’re in town for the DNC, what are some of your favorite places to visit?
This is so hard. I have so many favorites but I would have to say Parc at lunch. Get a table outside to see all the hip people — phenomenal. Capofitto for the gelato and the pizza. If you want kind of romantic, Morimoto. Very hot and sexy.
And then of course I love just about any place in the world that serves a good cheesesteak but my favorite still is Ishkabibble — takes me back to my years at Temple and the chicken cheesesteak that is unusual. People don’t realize that you can get a chicken cheesesteak! For many reasons I love South Street. It is also where I got my first tattoo and all of these wonderful dreams and memories.
You can watch Tamron Hall on “NewsNation” weekdays on MSNBC at 11 a.m. EST