Tamron Hall runs across the lawn of the Independence Mall, becoming a bright orange streak as she greets a group of screaming fans for selfies during her brief break. While doing an interview, she often stops in midsentence to wave back at pedestrians screaming her name.
The cohost of the Today show and host of MSNBC Live with Tamron Hall and Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall has her hands full covering this year's Democratic National Convention. But she can think of no better place to be than where, she says, she got her soul: Philadelphia.
Also a member of the Temple University board of trustees, Hall makes it back to Philadelphia almost every month. In fact, an old friend she met in her first week as a journalism student at Temple, sits in the studio.
When Hall isn't on the set, her Philadelphia return is filled with late-night gelato and pizza trips to Capofitto. She hopes an Ishkabbibles run is on the horizon. It's through the food scene, Hall says, that she sees the way Philadelphia has changed.
"This is a beautiful city," she said, Independence Mall behind her. "When I came to Philadelphia in the late '80s, it was going through a very difficult time." The city was battling crime, poverty, and an uptick in drug use. She says it was one of the "urban nightmares that would blast out on the national news."
A native Texan, she moved to Philadelphia at 17 after being accepted into Temple. It was in Philly that she began to make story lines for the people she saw on the subway, the mother or father about to start a second or third shift. She worked her way through school, as a cashier at Magnum jewelry store on Market Street, and at Houlihan's restaurant which is now Devon Seafood Grill on South 18th Street, where, she says, "I was a legendary hostess, and by legendary, I mean terrible at my job."
Now, she hosts in a larger arena, with a direct and unwavering approach to interviewing.
The election - with an unorthodox nominee like Donald Trump, and with Hillary Clinton as the first woman nominated for president by a major political party - is different.
"On MSNBC, every other guest will call this an unconventional election, whether it's a lawmaker or a seasoned political pundit," said Hall. "What that means, I think, is one for the history books to explain, but what we do know is that it's something different from what we've ever seen."
A recent interview with actor Scott Baio had her trending on Twitter after she took him to task over offensive tweets about Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama. Hall says her approach hasn't changed. Being both objective and passionate, she says, is "not something that I'm trying to do, it's something that I hope that I am." For Hall, journalism is a lifestyle. She studies in all mediums, monitoring prime-time news, reading, and breaking promises to herself to unplug.
And she says journalism, as "we know from this election, has an incredible impact. People expect us to do our job, and elections remind us of that."
On the Investigation Discovery Channel, Hall will host a special Aug. 7 titled Guns on Campus. The show arrives in the middle of a national outcry for gun-control overhaul; the passing in Texas of Senate Bill 11, a law allowing students to carry concealed weapons on campus; and the anniversary of the 1966 shooting at the University of Texas in Austin.
"We wanted to personalize the gun debate that's happening right now," Hall says. "We've become so used to [shootings] that in order for it to make headlines, sadly, it has to be a big number."
As Hall maneuvers on various platforms, she says, "they're all different but they're all me." As the first black woman to host Today, she says, "It's not lost on me what that means."
Newsrooms continue to grapple with abysmal diversity numbers, and Hall doesn't sugarcoat the issue. "We're not there just for the head count," she says. "We're there for perspective."
Although celebrity was never why she got into electronic media, it comes with the territory. She hasn't gotten used to it.
"I had an African American woman hug me a few minutes ago and say, 'You make us proud.' That's a lot," she says, eyes welling with tears. "When they stand out in the sun for hours for a selfie, I hope it means that I'm doing a good job."
The lights turn back on, and the producer lets her know a scheduled newsmaker is about to get to the set. Hall's eyes dry. She whips around and prepares to do her job.