Chicago’s morning star: Tamron Hall takes on ‘Today’

Tamron Hall

Tamron Hall

News that Tamron Hall was named co-host of the 9 a.m. hour of “Today” evoked memories of two other Chicago news anchors who'd ascended to the venerable NBC morning show. For Hall’s sake, let’s hope her tenure on “Today” resembles Jane Pauley’s illustrious 13-year reign more than Deborah Norville’s ill-fated 13-month run.

In any case, Monday’s announcement marked a huge career step for the 43-year-old Hall, who spent 10 years at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 before joining NBC News in 2007.

While continuing as host of MSNBC’s “NewsNation with Tamron Hall” (which moves to 10 a.m.), she joins Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Willie Geist as co-host of the third hour of “Today.” The move was first tipped by TV Guide business editor Stephen Battaglio.

"We’re really excited to officially welcome Tamron into the 'Today' family,” executive producer Don Nash said in a statement Monday. "She brings wit, enthusiasm and a keen sensibility to an all-around fantastic team, and I think Tamron, Al, Natalie and Willie will have a lot of fun together hosting the third hour."

Mindful of being the first black woman to co-anchor “Today,” Hall told “Just the other day I was reading about Meredith Vieira being the first woman to host the primetime Olympic shows. Of course, I knew what was happening with my negotiations behind the scenes and I thought, wow, these big moments at NBC News and now I'm a part of this for women, for black women, for all of us. And I'm just taken aback by it. I can't even describe to you how it feels.

“One of the things that a lot of people don't know is I own a couple of items that belonged to Lena Horne, that I bought at her estate auction. I have a jacket and a bracelet that belonged to her and when we finished the deal I put them on and posed in the mirror. I just stood there in the best Lena Horne pose ever. She was such an inspiration to me.

“There's a young lady who's the first black anchor in Utah. Someone sent me an article where she said that when she was a young girl she met me when I was co-anchor in Chicago and I inspired her. And now she's the first black anchor on a Utah TV station.”

Tamron Hall (1997)

Tamron Hall (1997)

It would be disingenuous to say I was a fan when Hall hosted mornings at Fox Chicago (first with Bob Sirott, then with David Novarro and at the end with Mike Barz). I thought she came across as a shallow, superficial diva who was out of her depth whenever the news turned serious. The more she insisted that she was a real “news journalist” who was “in the grind every day to be the first on stories,” the sillier she sounded.

Hall was no fan of mine either. At the 2000 Chicago Emmy Awards, she called me out for referring to her as “a Halle Berry look-alike” — as if I had insulted her.

But compared with some of the airheads fronting the current version of  “Good Day Chicago,” I’d say Hall was a regular Eric Sevareid.

More to the point, Hall has proven herself a capable, charismatic presence as her star continues to rise at NBC. By all accounts, she has grown up a lot since she worked here (“My party years were over in Chicago,” she told Her latest promotion almost certainly won’t be her last.

Of her new role on “Today,” Hall said: “We focus on news, the important stories that affect all of us and balance that with fun and with family. And that's why being on morning TV is such a natural spot. I was on morning TV for 10 years in Chicago. This is an extension of that but on a far bigger platform than I ever imagined.”