Ernie Hall

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Southern campus

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Southern campus alumnus lands first Emmy

Ohio University alumnus Ernie Hall received his first Emmy this year for his work as a photojournalist with Action News in Jacksonville, Fla., on the local CBS/Fox affiliate station.

Hall graduated from the Southern campus in 2006 with an associate's degree from the Electronic Media Program. He began his career as a photojournalist with the local CBS affiliate and has since worked in two other markets. Hall took over his current position at Action News in July 2010.

His stories range from breaking news to in-depth investigations. This was his second Emmy nomination and first win.

"My first Emmy nomination was for a breaking news piece in Columbus, Ohio in 2010," explained Hall. "My reporter and I responded to downtown Columbus in reference to an inmate who escaped police custody at police headquarters. While covering the story, the suspect ran past my reporter and me. We chased him while recording until he was arrested on the State House lawn. The next day, the suspect granted us an interview with him to explain his actions."

He attributes his success to the support from his family, friends and mentors from the Southern campus. Hall first learned about the Electronic Media Program from his close friend Debbie Heaberlin, then a criminal justice major.

"The proximity of the campus to home and work was already a plus so I decided to go and check the program out," said Hall. "The faculty was friendly and always helpful from the very start. The campus and scheduling is perfect for a non-traditional student such as myself. I decided I wanted to earn a degree from a university which was recognizable anywhere I might want to go. These factors made Ohio University's Southern campus the obvious choice."

 Don Moore, director and assistant professor for Southern's Electronic Media Program served as a mentor for Hall.

"A day or two after receiving Deb's phone call I went to visit the campus. I was able to speak to Don Moore about the program and given a tour of the facilities," explained Hall. "I was impressed with the technology and the experience the faculty had. I understood this program wasn't just about paper or text work, but had a hands-on approach that appealed to me."

Hall has been putting that hands-on education to work in his stirring reports. His Emmy-winning piece, "Black Market Baby Searches for Family," is a three-part series that tells of a house in Gainesville, Fla., that was supposed to be a refuge for pregnant teens in the 1950s and 1960s. Later, it was discovered the operator of the house was selling the babies to couples wanting children. The series tells the story of two women connected to the house. The first put her child up for adoption. The second was put up for adoption. Both are now searching for their lost loved ones. Reporter Catherine Varnum and Hall worked several weeks researching the Southern Rescue Workers Home and its operator. This story has become embedded in both Varnum's and Hall's lives. They continue to keep in touch with the people involved.

"As a journalist, one must remain open to anything happening and be prepared to tell the public of the actualities of the story as presented through the eyes of the persons involved," said Hall. "Each time I revisit this story it reminds of the dark side each of us possess and the hope that can, if given the chance, overcome it."

Hall's former mentor is not surprised by his protégé's big win.

 “We knew Ernie would be successful, he had that drive of never being satisfied," said Moore. "He put in long hours outside of the classroom working with instructors and staff to better himself. He’s worked hard to earn it, hats off to him"

Hall knows that there are many traditional and nontraditional students in the Electronic Media program who hope to follow in his footsteps.

"My advice for Electronic Media students pursuing their passion would be to listen," he said. "Never say, 'I know, even when you think you do know. Sometimes you may know part of it but not all. Find a mentor or two or three. Learn from everyone. Take the best traits of people and make them part of you, take the worse traits and make them serve you. Never think you know what a story is until you actually know what the story is and even then you don't know all of the story."