Birmingham television news anchor Janet Hall is hanging up her microphone for the final time this week, ending a 40-plus-year career of delivering news to TV viewers across Alabama.
“I just felt like 40 was a good time to step out,” Hall said. “It’s just time.”
“I thought it would be fun to be here for a couple of years, but here I am 40 years later,” Hall laughs. “My roots reached up and grabbed me.”
In 1985, she joined Scott Richards on the weekday evening anchor desk, a place she now shares with Jonathan Hardison and Sarah Verser.
“I am very blessed to have worked with such wonderful people over the years,” Hall said. “This is a team sport. It’s not an individual deal. This is a family here.”
Hall has received numerous awards for her work, including the 2016 Silver Circle from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the 2004 Betsy Plank Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Alabama and the 1999 “Local Hero in the Fight Against Breast Cancer” by the Komen Foundation. Hall says the memories that bring her the most pride and joy happened in the aftermath of some of Alabama’s toughest tragedies.
“The biggest stories I’ve ever been involved in are the disasters: snowmageddon, the tornadoes, the blizzards and right now – the pandemic,” Hall said. “It takes local feet on the ground, talking to people and pulling that community together, and if not for television news, I don’t know how that connection is made in such a strong way. That shared experience is what pulls us together.”
Hall has served the Birmingham community for decades through her work at Asbury United Methodist Church and a variety of service organizations, including the Komen Foundation’s Race for the Cure, AIDS Alabama, The American Red Cross and Goodwill Industries. She is also a singer and songwriter, a “hobby” that she has pursued throughout the years in venues around the Birmingham area. Her song “Alabama Breeze” was featured on a CD produced by the Alabama Department of Tourism.
With all of that, Hall says being a journalist in her hometown is one of the greatest privileges of her life.
“It really means something to me to do journalism in your hometown,” Hall said. “I very quickly realized I was rediscovering my hometown and things about it I had no idea about, and I still am. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Hall hopes her fans will continue to watch local TV news.
“I really want news consumers to choose very carefully who they listen to,” Hall said. “Listen carefully and balance what they hear in one place against what they hear in another, but don’t just listen to one. You’ve got to have more than that.”
So what’s next?
“I don’t have anything specific planned, but I just have some ideas of some other things to pursue,” Hall said. “It’s just having the time and the freedom to indulge myself in various hobbies.”
Hall says regardless of what she chooses, retirement will include travel time for her and husband, Frank O’Neil.
“I want time to see my kids who are both out of town,” she said. “We’ve had to snatch time here and there, so it will be nice to say, ‘Hey, I’m coming!’ I’m looking forward to that.”