By Rowena Lindsay, deputy inside editor
Northeastern School of Journalism graduate Tania Dall was recently nominated for an Emmy Award following her coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombings for WWL TV in New Orleans.
Dall’s coverage consisted of a two-part series on Louisiana residents who ran in the 2013 Boston Marathon. The first part of the series looked at the runners immediately in the aftermath of the attacks, and the second followed one woman’s recovery and training for the 2014 marathon.
“I saw what happened when that terrorist attack happened,” Dall, anchor and reporter for WWL TV, said. “It was heartbreaking. I have fellow [Northeastern] friends, and just people who I still know who live in Boston, some of them are runners. It kind of dawned on me that I would like to do something for this story, and you know it is a huge marathon, so there had to be runners from Louisiana.”
Dall contacted as many runners as she could, doing phone interviews and meeting runners in the airport on their way home.
“One of the women who I ran into at the airport, she was very sweet very nice, and then it dawned on me – I think it was four of five months later – that it would be really interesting to find out what happened to that lady because she had a cast on and I was wondering if she was going to go back and it would be such a great story,” Dall said.
This idea marked the launchpoint for the second part of the series. She tracked down runners, including the woman from the airport, and followed their progress and training for the upcoming marathon.
The series was originally intended to have three parts, with Dall returning to Boston to cover the 2014 marathon, but her station decided not to send her since it was not a local story and other markets were covering the event.
“I was disappointed because things happen where you work on something for a really long time. I had been working on this story for almost a year,” Dall said.
Despite the change, the project was still a success. It was photographer Adam Copus, with whom she worked on the story, who suggested that they submit the piece for an Emmy.
“I have actually only submitted two things for Emmys before, one of them didn’t [get nominated] and this was the second time, so I was kind of floored when the nomination came out,” Dall said.
Dall came to Northeastern as a political science major with every intention of going to law school and becoming a corporate lawyer. Then, she took a history of journalism elective and ended up changing her major and career path to journalism. She further explored this newfound passion for journalism while on co-op at the Boston Globe.
“The excitement of news and every day being different is pretty phenomenal,” Dall said. “You never know what you’re going to be covering and who you are going to be meeting.”
She ended up staying on part-time and working weekends at the Globe’s metro desk throughout the remainder of her college career.
Another co-op position, this time at CNN’s Washington bureau, was her first foray into TV journalism.
“It was actually a week before Sept.11 that I started, so it was like being thrown into the deep end,” Dall said. “There was a lot of really interesting things going on and getting to see how they covered the Sept. 11 attacks, and it was interesting to see how hardcore people can be, especially at the network level.”
Although Dall originally wanted to go into print reporting, she chose TV ultimately because of the stability it provided during a time of crisis for print news outlets, as well as the economy.
“That is part of the reason that I did not pursue print, because someone was like ‘newspapers are hemorrhaging right now, it’s going to be really hard you, may get laid off, it might not be worth it, you should try TV,’” Dall said. “And I always liked the idea of working for CNN or BBC and I’d be a foreign correspondent, but I was like, ‘you know what, I’ll do the TV thing’ and here I am 10 years later doing TV.”
Her dream of becoming a foreign correspondent came from her international upbringing. Her parents were both immigrants; her father is British and Swiss, and her mother is from Zambia. During her childhood, she lived in Peru. She went to high school and middle school in Amman, Jordan.
However, working in New Orleans has provided an unexpected opportunity to draw on her international experiences.
“Here in New Orleans, it doesn’t feel like you are in the United States sometimes,” Dall said. “I really love the city… history, music, people, culture, crazy politics, corruption, you name it – everything happened here. I wasn’t here for Hurricane Katrina, but there is still a lot of rebuilding and a lot of really good journalism stories that I have been able to be a part of here.”
Dall’s professors and advisors at Northeastern remember her fondly.
“We had a good relationship. I encouraged her, and it seems like she had a very successful foray into journalism,” retired professor emeritus Nicholas Daniloff said.
Dall cited Daniloff, as well as co-op advisor and now senior faculty coordinator for cooperative education Kellianne Murphy, as influential figures during her time at Northeastern.
“[Dall] was very vivacious and energetic and positive,” Murphy said. “She had an adventurous spirit, she wasn’t afraid of trying new things. I knew she would be successful no matter what she did, because she really threw her all into everything and was a focused and determined person.”
While Dall is unsure of where the journalism industry is going, she is confident that it will continue to be an important part of democracy.
“I think that journalists are important. I think that it is our job to inform the public. I think that it is our job to keep the government agencies and elected officials in check,” she said. “I think that, without us, there could be some serious problems, and that is when things kind of crumble, and even though modern technology is changing things, I do hope that employers invest in good journalists and invest in their professional advancement.”