Meet the Pelicans broadcasters: Jennifer Hale
All five members of the New Orleans Pelicans broadcast team appeared on Tuesday’s edition of the Black and Blue Report. We are re-running the interviews this week. Today: Jennifer Hale, sideline reporter for Fox Sports New Orleans
Sean Kelley: Jen thanks for joining us today. I know you’re probably a little tired coming back from London, but at the same time excited that we are starting a new season tomorrow night.
Jennifer Hale: I am thrilled and let me tell you this big storm was hitting the UK as we were trying to leave and they were saying to expect delays through Wednesday and I said, “No, you don’t understand. I have to be home in New Orleans by Wednesday night at 7 when we tip off.”
SK: That’s outstanding. Your travels now have taken you international. You’re global now, Jennifer Hale. How was it broadcasting from the UK?
JH: It was so much fun. We had an absolute blast. London was gorgeous and the people were so nice that it actually reminded me a lot more of the South in that respect than I thought it would. Everyone was so welcoming and cordial and happy we were there, and it was a really neat partnership between the NFL and what they’re building over in London. We met a lot of the soccer clubs, but also they have a real growing sense of traditional American football clubs over there as well.
SK: It’s amazing, they’re going to play a lot of games there. We’re going to have to have you on to talk about how much football terminology they truly do know over there across the pond.
JH: Well you know what was fun Sean? They cheered for everything. It was a very exciting game because no matter what happened, they went crazy.
SK: I love it. We could use a little of that soccer type fandom in our game too. There’s no doubt about that. Will you kind of give us a little backstory? I know bits and pieces of it, but the folks that see you now see you as a sports journalist. That has not been the case the whole way through. Where did this all start and how did you end up where you are today?
JH: Yeah life is funny. It’s kind of weird what twists and turns it will take. I’ve always loved sports, and when I went to get my master’s degree, which was in broadcast journalism, you had to pick a specialty and I asked to double-specialize and do sports and politics, because I loved both. After I graduated, it was the political doors that opened first for me. I worked for several years as a political reporter, covering Washington, D.C., and the state capitol here in Louisiana. I spent a lot of time in Baton Rouge, which was great, reading budgets, figuring out how that process works and I loved it. I always kept sports kind of in my back pocket. I always loved it and thought, “Jeez, maybe it will resurface somewhere somehow.” And indeed it happened. I was working for free really, for LSUsports.net. I did some reporting for their website: interviewing different players, stuff like that. It was more fun to be on the sidelines of an LSU game than up in the stands. Some of the Saints folks, Greg Bensel saw it and told me he had some friends at NFL on Fox and they were looking for sideline reporters. We followed up and it was just really a dream come true. The NFL on Fox hired me now three years ago. This is my third one in the NFL, and it just kind of grew from there. NFL turned into NBA and it has been just an amazing ride.
SK: Other than that experience making you a well-rounded broadcaster, what things from the news or political side have translated to the sports side?
JH: I think good journalism, no matter what subject you’re covering is about the facts and properly putting them in perspective, not putting your own spin on it, and I find in sports it can be really difficult. Everybody’s a pundit now and everybody has an opinion and everybody wants to be clever and funny. Sometimes it’s hard to find true, real information and that’s what I have done for a decade. I find that that has really helped me and that’s the feedback I have gotten from a lot of my superiors as well, is that it’s a clean broadcast, it’s factual, there’s no spin, there’s no innuendo. That’s what good journalism is, also just learning to deal with people. Whether its politics or sports, working with people and managing people is a huge key developing sources, and certainly politics is a great training ground for that.
SK: Tell me a little more about your process. What’s your favorite thing about preparing for a game day, and what is perhaps the hardest or the most stressful thing about preparing on a game day?
JH: Well, probably two different situations. You have so much more time with the NFL than you do with the NBA. NFL there’s 17 games; we don’t have a bye week. Basketball there’s 82. Basketball is a lot faster. NFL we have a three day build-up where we meet with the teams and you just have a lot more time to get ready. Basketball, I’m always with the Pelicans, which I love because you really get to know the team and you get to become an expert on your players and your coaches and your style. You know intrinsically where the strong points are, where the weak points are. So for an NBA day, we start with shoot-around in the morning and then I’ll go back and go over those notes, put together all of my suggested reports – I always try to walk in with about 20-25. Then you get to the arena, as you know, fairly early because we start our pregame interviews usually. I used to do a player, Sean you used to do Coach Williams. The key, really, for a sideline reporter is reacting to what happens in the game. That’s really why you’re there. What do you see on the bench? Injuries, expressions, frustrations, temper tantrums like Dez Bryant had this past weekend. You need to be the eyes and ears of your broadcasting crew on the ground.
SK: It’s an amazing job that you’re doing right now and you juggle so many different things. This next question may fall flat on the floor here, but when you actually do have some free time, what do you like to do? What kind of makes you go a little bit when you’re not at work?
JH: I have to exercise. I just get so sluggish when I don’t. I’m a big fan of Crossfitting, PRX, and cycling. When those aren’t available, I’ll be out running. I also love to cook and bake. This will sound funny to a lot of people but now an awesome night or afternoon for me is getting to stay home and put a game on the television, pour a glass of red wine and make a big gumbo. That’s so fun especially when the weather cools down. Believe it or not, I still love to travel just for fun.
SK: Where is the spot to go? Between the NFL and the NBA you must travel to about 40 markets. Is there one that you can go to that doesn’t have a major league sports team involved?
JH: Yeah we were trying to add up how many flights I took last year and I think it was like 250. I love to surf when I can, so I would love to go to remote spots. I went to Puerto Rico last summer, just a dive place kind of off the radar screen. I had some friends recommend it. Little run-down motel, but great surfing. That’s what I love, just to get away from it all and unplug.
SK: What’s the one thing, Jen, that you would love for folks to really know about you that maybe they haven’t picked up yet?
JH: I guess it would be how seriously I do take my job. I think there are a lot of different types of sideline reporters out there and I think there are some excellent ones. Suzy Kolber has just been an inspiration. I think she just does an amazing job. Bonnie Bernstein, they do the job the right way and they put the profession in the right light. I know there can be a lot of grey areas. I guess I would want folks to know how seriously I do take it and what a privilege and an honor I consider it to be able to do this job and that I love it and will bring them the most quality information at every turn.
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