Alison Hall was about 19 years old when she went to New York City and found love.
Now 29, Hall was a journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto when she took an overnight Greyhound bus to New York for an interview with ABC News for a temporary internship position. Originally from Winnipeg, the St. Mary’s Academy graduate was smitten by a perceived bad apple with a reputation for toughness and belligerence. She saw something else.
"I absolutely fell in love with the city," she says.
Acting on that love-at-first-sight impulse, Hall subsequently took every opportunity to go back and make a career in one of the most competitive journalism markets on the planet.
"I basically made it my mission to try to make a life there once I got the job and spent the whole summer there," Hall says.
Hall spoke to the Free Press while enjoying a 10-day break back home, the first time she’s been able to hug her parents in 18 months. On a Zoom call from the family cabin in the Whiteshell, she says she permitted herself some decompression time after working a gruelling schedule as a New York-based producer/contributor of the TV news magazine Inside Edition. On top of those duties, Hall also anchors a weekly Wednesday show on the Law & Crime Network.
"It’s the same model as Court TV in that it covers courts from live in the courtroom," she says. "I’ve covered multiple trials for Inside Edition, the Weinstein trial and the Cosby trial, and I’d been asked to provide commentary and analysis on Court TV a couple of times and that’s what led into the Law & Crime role that I have now."
Hall recalls having her preconceptions about New York turned upside-down from the start, during that tightly-scheduled 24 hours she interviewed for ABC News.
"The very first day I went there, my cellphone was dying and I needed to get uptown for my interview and I only had a credit card. I didn’t have cash," she recalls.
New Yorkers proved to be more than helpful.
"Somebody sent me their phone charger at this café. Somebody gave me $10 to get in the cab," she says. "It really was just this day that felt like out of a movie. The city just sort of accepted me and I met all these people along the way to interview for my dream job, and the city basically treated me the same ever since."
"The city just sort of accepted me and I met all these people along the way to interview for my dream job, and the city basically treated me the same ever since.” – Alison Hall
She won the internship for the summer and returned to Toronto to ultimately graduate from Ryerson’s journalism program in 2013. She beelined back to New York so quickly, she missed her Ryerson graduation.
"It’s something I’ve always been sort of sad about. It would have been nice to walk across the stage after working so hard," she says. "But I was in New York and honestly not thinking too much about it."
A necessary return to Canada saw Hall working in her hometown for three months on Global’s morning news broadcast, which required she rise every day at 3 a.m.
"I was a producer and, man, those hours were very, very tough," she says. "But it was great. I was working on a daily morning show and learning from great journalists in Winnipeg. And I was producing, so I was going from interning — where you’re watching people produce and getting coffee and logging transcripts and watching interviews — to actually writing the scripts for Winnipeg news.
"It was incredible to be just be thrown right into it. While I was working at Global Winnipeg, I still had my sights set on New York and the United States in general and I just wanted to get in any way that I could."
That effort saw her move to San Francisco for a few months at a startup news organization
"With my limited resumé, they were willing to take a chance on me, hire me and sponsor my visa," she says. "So I actually moved to San Francisco for maybe nine or 10 months."
New York still beckoned.
"Basically the entire time I was in San Francisco, I felt like I needed to be in New York," she says. "Just being on the West Coast, I’m such a news junkie and I’m waking up and you feel like you’ve already missed the morning headlines. The shows that I would watch and the journalists that I would follow, they would already be halfway through their days."
When the start-up stopped, "I used the time with this precious visa that I had to look for jobs in New York. Thankfully that worked."
"I moved to New York permanently for the third time in July 2014. and I haven’t looked back since," she says.
"For me, it’s the energy," she says of the city’s appeal. "What I love about New York is that on every single street corner, on the subway, the cab driver that you meet, the concierge at the hotel that you’re staying at, everybody has something interesting about them. That’s across the board but in New York because there’s so many people and everybody comes from all over the world to make a life for themselves there. It really brings out a really special energy of connection and humanity."
"It can make you feel very small, but in a good way," she says. "It puts things into perspective and maybe makes you feel lucky for what you have and really look at your life but it also makes you feel a part of something bigger."
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.