Skip to content

Tamron Hall talks ID documentary on deadly University of Texas shooting

Tamron Hall (Photo courtesy: NBC)

Tamron Hall (Photo courtesy: NBC)

Tamron Hall continues to expand her wheelhouse. The co-host of NBC News’ “TODAY,” anchor of “MSNBC Live with Tamron Hall” and host of “Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall” on Investigation Discovery, produced by NBC News’ Peacock Productions, is working on a documentary for ID about guns on college campuses, which will premiere in August, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas shooting. The 50th anniversary of the tragic event coincides with the passing of the the state’s “campus carry” law, which takes effect August 1, 2016, and provides that license holders may carry a concealed handgun throughout university campuses. The law gives public universities some discretion to regulate campus carry.

Hall will be conducting in-depth interviews with the University of Texas faculty members along with student testimonies of those who have dealt with gun violence on their campuses. In addition, she is gearing up to release reports on the summer Olympics in Rio. Navigating a tight schedule, Hall made time to speak with rolling out on her new reporting endeavors, her hit show “Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall” and shared her thoughts on the Republican National Convention as she reports from Cleveland. Check out what she had to say.

Why is anchoring important to you?
Reporting is more important to me. I started out as a reporter and obviously when you are in a situation where you’re sitting across or standing across from someone impacted by whatever story, whether you’re in Baton Rouge over the weekend or whether you’re traveling with Deadline Crime as I’m able to do in shooting the show. There’s a connection that you have to humanity and to the story when you are right there on the ground of where it happened or happening. Obviously, being an anchor also allows you to be the ears and eyes for the viewers in a different way, but I know that every person who sits behind an anchor desk sees themselves as a reporter. Those who I admire and those who’ve gone on to do great things in this business and illuminating or shining the light on things that we should all know as Americans and citizens of the world have been great reporters. You can’t be a great anchor without being a great reporter.

How do you manage to stay objective?
It’s my job. It’s the equivalent of asking an attorney or judge, how do they remain objective, especially in a case of a judge listening to both sides. I’ve been a journalist for 25 years so it’s not something that I have to think about. I know my role as a journalist. I know my role as a citizen and I know my role as an African-American woman. There are certain things that I’m going to report that I can add perspective to as a Black woman and as a woman, but I can also be objective and listen to a side that may very well differ from what’s happening in my own life as a Black woman in America. My job is to remain objective, but it does not mean to be passive. It doesn’t mean that I don’t push and challenge all sides. I think sometimes people mistake objectivity with being passive. It’s not my job to sit there and let someone say whatever they want. My job is to challenge when necessary and challenge fairly to all sides.

Where do you see yourself fitting in during this era which fuses information and entertainment?
I think it’s always been fused. The”TODAY” Show is approaching its 65th anniversary and I think it has been phenomenal at balancing just that. Some of the greatest newsmakers over the past sis decades have been on the “TODAY” show and sat in one of those chairs to be anchored by the many great hosts of that show and then we have entertainment mixed in. Look a Barbara Walter’s storied career. She was an entertainment style reporter who then went on to interview nearly every great leader in the world during her many years of being an active reporter. I don’t think it’s something new. I think the social media aspect of it there are different elements of it that are new. I always grew up as a fan of Johnny Carson, for example, who would have on the newest comedian, but then would have an in-depth interview with Muhammad Ali. When you think about the front lines of any civil rights movement there were entertainers alongside Dr. King. I think that our lives have always been a mesh of what’s entertaining and what’s serious. We’ve all had examples; I think if we really look at what impacts us a viewer or what impacts us a reader and there’s a meshing of it all.

I just did a hit today from Cleveland for the”TODAY” show so it’s barely not culture entertainment. We do news on the “TODAY” show and our third hour is a lot more relaxed and a lot more in the moment or current. I don’t consider myself a pop culture reporter. I consider myself a reporter who talks about all things.

How do you stay balanced? Do you exercise or meditate?
Currently, I am walking around Cleveland with Jonathan Capehart from the Washington Post looking for a snack. I surround myself, thankfully with good friends and good people. I’ve been very vocal about my faith and I try to make it to church every Sunday. I’m not for the idea of it being some kind of ritual, but I think it’s nice to be around people who are like yourself searching for an answer. For me, that doesn’t mean a certain denomination or certain belief other than how do we make ourselves a better human being or inspire others to be better. To me, that doesn’t have a denomination.

Let’s talk about the premiere of the documentary centered on the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas shooting. 
It’s a one-hour special on guns on campus. What we do is retrace what happened 50 years ago at the University of Texas at Austin, the tower shooting. That was the first mass school shooting. When you think about it, just look at our lives that is something we think of as almost sadly commonplace. We can name Columbine, Virginia Tech and those are the big names, but those small school shootings are campus shootings that happen all the time that don’t make the national news lead. This one is the first time we saw someone arm themselves and take out mass numbers of people and injuring others.

We are taking a look at it now because this is the anniversary and Texas has passed an open carry or concealed carry allowing guns on campus. It’s stunning. The reaction from the faculty and the reaction from students overwhelmingly they were against it. The lawmakers in the state of Texas passed this law that allows students to carry on campus including in classrooms.

Private universities are exempt from it and that was in the eleventh hour as they describe it a deal that was made. Public universities like the University of Austin now allow for students to carry concealed weapons on campus and in classrooms. We had an opportunity to talk to the University of Texas’ chancellor Dale McRaven. He grew up in a gun culture, family and now he is trying to figure out how to make this work even though he does not agree with the lawmakers decision to pass this legislation.

It’s fascinating. I interviewed for the first time and I had never experienced this. We have a survivor from Virginia Tech who shot multiple times and is adamantly against this and adamantly against students being able to carry on campus. And then I have a young woman; Her name is Amanda Collins. She was raped while she was a student at the University of Nevada and she was licensed to carry, but not able to carry that day on campus. She believes that had she had her weapon with her, she would have been able to kill the man that raped her and went on to rape another woman as well. We have them together and we ask is there a possibility or is there a way to find common ground on this debate on guns on college campuses. It is going to take effect August 1st, but a lot of people have no idea that this is happening and the debate that is happening with that college campus. It’s a done deal now.

What can we expect this week during the Republican National Convention in terms of news coverage?
Well you know I’m here for my MSNBC show that airs at 11a.m. and I’ve also been doing hits for the “TODAY” show at the 9 o’clock hour that I co-host, as well. We’ve been on the ground and we’ve already had great discussions, but I think like everyone else we are waiting to see what Donald Trump explains is his way to make America great again and we’re watching to see if this is now the party of Donald Trump. If he can unify his party I think that is the large question right now. We just had an NBC news Wall Street Journal poll that shows a vast majority of Republicans do not see their party as unified and we’ll see if their nominee is able to pull the party together.