Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer Hale
If you’ve watched a professional football game at some point during the past five years, chances are you already know Jennifer Hale. Since 2011, Hale has been a sideline reporter for NFL on Fox and, in 2012, she began covering the New Orleans Pelicans as a sideline reporter for Fox Sports Southwest. What sports fans may not know, however, is that the road to her dream job in sports journalism started at the Ogden Honors College.
“I was born in New Orleans and, though we moved away when I was young, my mom always laughs and says Louisiana got in my blood. Ever since we left I always wanted to come back and LSU seemed like the perfect avenue.”
Hale had her pick when it came to colleges, but the comparatively minimal cost of LSU (where she received a full scholarship) and the quality of the Ogden Honors education, won her over.
“Once I started being a little more practical about colleges and comparing them to each other, it really was a clear choice with the education I could get from the Honors College at LSU versus paying for a private or Ivy League school.”
While at LSU, Hale learned to balance the interests that would later inform her career. She became involved in LSU’s rich student life as captain of the cheerleading program, and was named homecoming queen and Miss LSU, among many other things, while excelling academically.
Now, when she’s not covering the sidelines, she’s emceeing various local and charity events, serving as the women’s health spokesperson for Thibodaux Regional Hospital in New Orleans, and empowering young women through her foundation, Sideline Pass. Her wide range of professional experience reflects her belief that you don’t need to limit your interests in order to succeed.
“I knew I wanted to cover either politics or sports, but I couldn’t choose between the two. It’s funny how things work out—I covered politics for nine years and I’ve done sports for five.”
Hale majored in political science before attending Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism for her master’s. She started her career covering politics for KNOE, a station in Monroe, Louisiana, which then sent her to Baton Rouge as their capitol correspondent. She quickly moved up from there, taking a job at WAFB in Baton Rouge and then as a weekend anchor for a station in Birmingham, Alabama. While in Alabama, Hale moonlighted for MSNBC and was sent to New Orleans to cover Hurricane Katrina. Once she arrived, she realized that she didn’t want to leave.
“I was passionate about moving back New Orleans and being a part of the building process. I felt like it was home and we all needed to rally and fight for the city.”
Her desire to stay in the city led her to what she thought would be her last job, as a morning anchor for WVUE Fox 8 in New Orleans.
“You know, life’s funny. As soon as you make a plan, God laughs. I had pretty much given up on the dream of ever doing sports full time and I was so happy as a morning anchor. I really thought it was the job I was going to have until I retired. I decided that I wasn’t leaving for the next offer or telephone call, but, lo and behold, I got a call.”
That call came from some old friends from her days at LSU who were now part of LSU Athletics. They wanted to revamp their website and asked Hale to interview former athletes and special guests at LSU football games to put on their website. This exposure, coupled with some work she did at the New Orleans Saints training camp for Fox 8, proved to be her big break.
“The folks with the Saints saw my work at their camp and looked at my stuff on LSU’s website and recommended me to Fox Sports. From there it just took off!”
Though it took her nine years to get to her dream job, Hale has no regrets. Her experience in politics has shaped her into the sports journalist she is today, and she advises other aspiring sports journalists to consider following a similar path.
“Being a good sports journalist is so much more than talking about game plans. It’s important to learn to be a good overall journalist. I’m so grateful for those years of hard news coverage because it’s made me so much better in the sports arena than if I had simply done sports my whole career. I think being well-rounded, being a storyteller, having those interview and journalistic skills, are invaluable.”
Hale has experienced some bumps along the way, but so far, all the bruises have been worth it, and she encourages future Ogden Honors graduates to keep moving forward.
“It’s a tough world out there. You’re going to take bumps, you’re going to get knocked down, but it’s worth it to keep pushing and keep fighting and keep putting yourself out there. The hard work will pay off in the end.”
Story by Allison Howell, Ogden Honors College