Andria Hall, 51; left career in TV news to follow faith

By Jenna Nierstedt
Globe Correspondent / February 19, 2009
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By 2001, Andria Hall was living the dream.

She had established a 20-year newscasting career that included stints at Fox and CNN and an Emmy award from her days with WCVB-TV in Boston. She had appeared in a major motion picture and written a book.

In 2001, she gave up that career for a very different pursuit.

"She walked away from TV to take a faith walk; I thought she was out of her mind," said her husband Clayton Sizemore of Scotch Plains, N.J.

Fulfilling her goal of "marrying the camera with the cross," as family members said she called it, Mrs. Hall launched SpeakEasy M.E.D.I.A. Inc., public relations firm specializing in media coaching, public speaking, and image consulting. It was based in New Jersey.

"She was a woman of strong Christian faith," said her sister, Akosua Yeboah, of Albany, N.Y. "Andria really understood that there was power in the medium of television, and that really defined her. She wanted to be a messenger."

Mrs. Hall died Jan. 12 at St. Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., after battling breast cancer. She was 51.

Mrs. Hall joined WCVB-TV in 1985 as a reporter and producer for "Chronicle."

During her eight years there, her work garnered several prestigious awards, including an Emmy in 1992 for hosting.

"She really had a strong effect on the people here that she worked with," said Chris Stirling, executive producer of "Chronicle." "The time she spent on 'Chronicle' were formative years for the program, so the news of her death hit the people who've been here the longest the hardest. To have somebody taken at age 51, it was a shock."

Mrs. Hall's most memorable television package was a three-part series on a Maasai village in Kenya.

On the 20th anniversary of the show's airing, Mrs. Hall wrote in a piece on the WCVB-TV website: "I grew up and became a woman while reporting for Chronicle. I came there as a twenty-something and 10 years later left as a wife and mother of three. I owe so much to this program; some people think of it as just another television show, but I think of it as home."

Born in Henderson, N.C., Mrs. Hall moved at age 4 with her family to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., where she was influenced by her father's work as a pastor.

Working in the same church for 40 years, her father was friendly with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who occasionally dined at the family's home, Mrs. Hall's sister said.

While attending the State University of New York at New Paltz, from which she graduated in 1979 with a bachelor of science degree in speech communications, Mrs. Hall met her husband. The two were married in 1986 and brought up two boys and a girl.

She began her broadcast career in Albany, where she developed her style as a compassionate news gatherer.

While she was filming at a local high school, a mother came into the school office, crying because her son had been killed, turning the originally planned report in an unexpected direction.

"Any reporter would have wanted that story," Yeboah said. "But my sister said, 'Turn the cameras off. This woman has a right to grieve in private.' She reported the story, but not with eyewitness coverage. That to me exemplifies the kind of integrity she had as a reporter and as a person."

After nearly two years in Albany, Mrs. Hall moved to Hartford, where she starred on "PM Magazine," a newscast similar in format to "Chronicle."

One fan wrote to say she had named her newborn Andria, Yeboah said.

"She didn't think anything of calling someone up after receiving a fan letter," she said. "My sister would say, 'I'm not honoring them; they are honoring me.' Somehow she was able to translate over a camera something that people connected with, where they'd say 'I want that in my life.' "

After a short stint at a local news network in New Orleans, Mrs. Hall moved to Boston and joined Channel 5. While there, Mrs. Hall played a supporting role as a reporter in the 1993 movie "The Good Son" with Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood.

Upon her departure from "Chronicle" in 1993, Mrs. Hall caught what she considered her big break in journalism, her sister said. She moved to Los Angeles and joined "Front Page," a Fox network news-magazine show.

"That was the wildest time of our lives," her husband said. "Two weeks after we had the baby, she moved to California. It was a very interesting show with an incredible team. Andria was a pivotal player" in the network's shift from cable.

During her two years with Fox, Mrs. Hall covered the Oklahoma City bombing and the emergence of the hip-hop industry.

The final years of her broadcast career were spent as a weekend anchor for NBC in New York and then CNN in Atlanta.

From 2001 to 2005, Mrs. Hall hosted the faith and values program "America at Worship," which aired weekly on the Hallmark Channel.

She also was well respected throughout the Caribbean community and played a key role in the Caribbean Media Exchange, designed to improve the quality of media coverage of sustainable tourism in the Caribbean.

Mrs. Hall wrote three books about faith and the workplace and was featured in the Washington Post, Ebony and Jet magazines, Gospel Today.

Besides her husband, Clayton, and sister, Yeboah, Mrs. Hall leaves her children, Amber, Cameron, and Chase of Scotch Plains, N.J.; her mother, Mabel Hall of Somerset, N.J; and her father, the Rev. Willie J. Hall of North Plainfield, N.J.

Services have been held.

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