Veteran journalist Annette John Hall retires from WHYY

I can’t believe you’re retiring. I came, and now you’re leaving!

Annette John-Hall (AJH): It’s damn COVID. You know, I was working from home when they hired you. You obviously have to be in the studio to do what you’re doing. I didn’t get a chance to see you, but I’m so, so happy you’re at WHYY now. You are so awesome.

And you too. But let’s talk about your career. First here at WHYY. First of all, I was able to re-listen to Cosby Unraveled, the podcast, and I believe it was your first podcast. How was it?

AJH: It was more than an idea, as my grandmother would say, to go from print to broadcast. But, you know, I couldn’t have found a better place to learn and do while doing Cosby Unraveled. I had never hosted anything before, but I know how to report. And the thing that I think put Cosby Unraveled above the rest of the podcasts that were out at the time was that we were reporting in real time, we were reporting on the trial. We were doing field journalism and returning to the Richard Allen Homes in North Philly, where Cosby grew up, speaking to his community there about how they felt about the trial and about him. And I think that gave the podcast another level of authority and nuance, to speak to people you rarely hear on the radio.

Annette John Hall. (Courtesy of Annette John-Hall)

From Cosby Unraveled, you then started working on hosting our next podcast, which was The WHY. Four days a week. How did Cosby prepare you for this level of production, boots on the pitch every day?

AJH: Yeah, we learned to prioritize, you know, doing a podcast four times a week. Trying to process topical news was a chore. But from Cosby Unraveled, I learned how to do a narrative podcast to tell a story, for our reporters to walk us through the story. Writing a script for a podcast is really different from writing for print. It’s almost like writing a play a bit in there, but real for life.

And you’ve won awards for this podcast. Congratulations!

AJH: Thank you.

Annette John Hall. (Courtesy of Annette John-Hall)

But I have to ask you. You started your career right out of college as a sports journalist. There weren’t many women covering the sport. How has that changed or shaped you as a journalist?

AJH: Well, when I started in 1980, fresh out of San Francisco State University at the Oakland Tribune, that toughened me up. You know, I was one of the few women on the road. I can only think of one other black woman on the road at that time, which was Claire Smith, who just had a building named after her in Temple. And when we saw each other on the road, Cherri, we were like,[relieved sigh]”. It’s so good to see someone else who understands what you’re going through. You know, I had situations where they wouldn’t let me into the locker room. I had situations where I was hit on by players and coaches so young that I didn’t know how to go about it. It was sometimes scary, frustrating. But I’m so happy to be able to be considered one of the women who paved the way for the many, 10, dozens of other women who are doing it now.