Tom Hall | WYPR

Tom Hall


Host, Midday  (M-F 12:00-1:00)

What are You Reading? (4th Friday of the month, at 4:44) 

Tom Hall is the host of Midday, the highly rated news and public policy program that features interviews with elected officials, community leaders, as well as thought provoking authors, artists, researchers, journalists, and scholars from around the world.

Tom joined the WYPR staff as the Host of Choral Arts Classics in 2003. After 10 years as the Culture Correspondent and then host of Maryland Morning, Tom became the host of Midday in September, 2016.  In 2020, Tom and the Midday team won an Edward R. Murrow Regional Award, one of journalism’s most prestigious awards.

Tom is also the Host of What Are You Reading? on WYPR.  He has also hosted the Maryland Morning Screen Test, and the WYPR/MD Film Festival Spotlight Series. In 2006, as the Music Director of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Tom received an Emmy Award for Christmas with Choral Arts, a special that aired on WMAR television, the ABC affiliate in Maryland, for 21 years.  He has been a guest co-host of Maryland Public Television’s Art Works, and in 2007, he was named “Best New Broadcast Journalist” by the Maryland Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2009, the Baltimore City Paper named him "Best Local Radio Personality." In 2016, 2017 and 2019 he was recognized as "Best Talk Show Host" in the Baltimore Magazine Reader’s Poll.

Tom has been invited to speak and moderate public forums at Johns Hopkins University, the University of MD and UMBC, Morgan State University, the MD Institute College of Art, the Creative Alliance, the Baltimore City Lit Festival, the Baltimore Book Festival, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the Stoop Storytelling Series, the Enoch Pratt Library, the Chestnut Grove Speakers Series, the Bolton Street Synagogue, the Ivy Bookshop, the Great Talks Series, the Phi Beta Kappa Political Forum, the Hamilton Street Club, the Baltimore Women’s Forum, the First Amendment Society, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University, the Baltimore Broadcasters Coalition and the College Endowment Association.  He has also moderated Mayoral Debates, panels at Light City in Baltimore, and at the Stevenson University Speakers Series.

He appears each year as the moderator of the Rosenberg-Blaustein Distinguished Artist Recital Series at Goucher College. His publications include articles in the Baltimore SunStyle Magazine, and Baltimore Magazine, and he is the co-author of The Bach Passions in Our Time:  Contending with the Legacy of Antisemitism, published by the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies.

Tom Hall lives in Baltimore, with his wife, Linell Smith.  Their daughter, Miranda, is a playwright.    @tomhallWYPR

Crown/Penguin Random House Publishers

(This program originally aired August 4, 2020)

When the novelist, journalist, playwright and activist James Baldwin died in 1987, his place in the panoply of great American writers was assured.   He is remembered as one of the most eloquent observers of the Black experience, and an insightful and compelling critic of racial inequality.  He was prolific and provocative, and one of the most important and invigorating public intellectuals of his time. 


Dr. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. is one of the most important and invigorating public intellectuals of our time.  He is the chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, and a former president of the American Academy of Religion.  In addition to many scholarly books and articles, he enjoys a wide audience as a contributor to MSNBC, and for his essays in publications such as the New York TimesTime Magazine and the Huffington Post.

Focus Features Films

It’s another edition of Midday at the Movies, our monthly conversation about films and filmmaking.  And Tom is joined once again on Zoom by our good friend Ann Hornaday – she’s a film critic for The Washington Post and the author of the wonderful movie-goers’ guide, Talking Pictures: How To Watch Movies.

Also with us again on Zoom is our friend Jed Dietz, the founding director of the Maryland Film Festival, and a leader in the restoration of its historic Parkway theater.

And listeners, we’d love to hear from you today as well. Tell us about the films YOU’VE been watching recently, either streamed or on the big screen.  Have any movies been especially helpful in getting you through these difficult times? 

A 2021 Maryland General Assembly Preview, Pt. 2

Jan 13, 2021

Wednesday was the first day of the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly. Given the restrictions occasioned by the pandemic, this 90-day session -- the 442nd in Maryland's legislative history -- will be unlike any other.

In Part Two of Midday's preview of the session, Tom speaks with Senate President Bill Ferguson.

Sen. Ferguson, a Democrat, has represented District 46 (Baltimore City), since 2011. He was elected to the Senate Presidency on January 8, 2020.  Sen. Ferguson spoke with Tom on Tuesday afternoon, via Zoom. Midday is posting their conversation online today, while our live broadcast is pre-empted by NPR's House Impeachment coverage. 

A 2021 Maryland General Assembly Preview, Pt. 1

Jan 12, 2021
Maryland State Government

The 2021 Session of the MD General Assembly begins Wednesday. Speaker of the House, Adrienne Jones, who represents the 10th District, in Baltimore County, joined Midday to discuss the legislative agenda.

Tom recorded his conversation with Speaker Jones (via Zoom audio) on Monday, January 11, about a half hour before Gov. Larry Hogan held a press conference in which he announced that he will be introducing the RELIEF Act of 2021.  That's a billion-dollar stimulus and tax relief package for individuals and small businesses, which the Governor said he will be introducing as emergency legislation on Wednesday. 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A short, concise four-page article of impeachment of President Donald Trump, co-sponsored by more than 200 Democratic congressmen, may come to the floor of the House of Representatives as soon as tomorrow.  Yesterday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave Vice President Mike Pence 24 hours to convene the cabinet and pursue removing Mr. Trump under the 25th Amendment.  Mr. Pence has long indicated antipathy to that idea.  If that route to removal is not possible, Pelosi has promised to pursue impeachment.  

Last week’s assault on the US Capitol by a mob incited by President Trump was for many a wake-up-call to the dangers of demagoguery.

Mr. Trump, whose four-year term in office has been one of the most divisive and chaotic in US history, is not the first American political leader who has sought to solidify his power by exploiting fears and prejudice and using brutish and inflammatory rhetoric to intimidate and silence his opponents.

Each week on Midday, it is our practice to read the names of the people who have lost their lives to violence in Baltimore City. We do so to stand in witness to their untimely deaths, and to remember their families and friends in their hour of grief.

Every week we will list the names of homicide victims on this page. 

Baltimore City Health Dept

Welcome to another edition of Midday with Tish the Commish, our recurring series of live conversations with Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, the Commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department and the city's chief public health advocate.

In today's program, Dr. Dzirasa provides an update on the pace and local availability of the COVID-19 vaccination program, and how the city is faring during Maryland's current upsurge in new cases, daily deaths and hospitalizations.   For more information on the coronavirus pandemic and when you can get the vaccine, visit the City's COVID-19 dashboard, linked here

Dr. Letitia Dzirasa joins us on Zoom.

Basic Books/Hachette Book Group

Now, a conversation about what makes us, us.  Or more specifically, what makes me, me and you, you.  With all that we share in common -- heads and shoulder, knees and toes, for example  -- what are the reasons that we are all unique individuals? 

Dr. David Linden is a neuroscientist and professor at Johns Hopkins University who started thinking about this when he signed up on an on-line dating website.

Dr. Linden is the author of several fascinating books.  The Accidental Mind explored how our brains evolved over time to make us capable of things like romantic love and belief in God.  

The Office of Senator Chris van Hollen

Our Newsmaker guest today is Maryland's junior senator, Chris Van Hollen, who joins Tom Hall to discuss the extraordinary, historic and tragic events of the past week, and the way forward for members of Congress, for President-elect Joe Biden and for the country.  

Yesterday, incoming Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said they supported efforts to remove President Trump from office under the 25th Amendment.  Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, offered his support for those efforts as well.

Two cabinet secretaries, an ambassador, and several White House staffers are among those who have resigned after the President incited an insurrection at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Courtesy Netflix

Midday theater critic J.Wynn Rousuck joins us again today with her reviews of two new films produced and now streaming on Netflix, that spotlight the extraordinary work of the late, two-time Pulitizer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is one of 10 plays August Wilson wrote chronicling the African-American experience in each decade of the 20th Century.  The 1984 work centers on a group of Black musicians in 1920s Chicago who are playing a recording session with the legendary blues singer, Ma Rainey, as they also confront the racial prejudice and economic challenges of their day.  The new Netflix film adaptation, directed by George C. Wolfe, stars Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman, in his last role before he succumbed last year to cancer. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Yesterday at this hour, the self-proclaimed “law and order” President, Donald Trump incited an insurrection in a 90-minute diatribe delivered just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, and within minutes of his concluding his remarks, at Trump’s suggestion, his supporters marched to the Capital, stormed the building, and disrupted the constitutionally mandated duty of Congress to certify the votes in the Electoral College.  

Violence, which before yesterday could hardly have been imagined taking place in the country’s most majestic and symbolic place, coursed through the building and the surrounding grounds.  Four people died, and it took Capitol Police and more than 1,000 members of the National Guard several hours to restore security to the building.  Last night, legislators returned to their chambers, and early this morning, Congress certified the results of the election that Mr. Trump still disputes.  

Dr. Leana Wen

Today, another edition of the Midday Healthwatch, our monthly conversation with Dr. Leana WenShe is an emergency physician and former Baltimore City Health Commissioner who teaches at the George Washington University School of Public Health. She’s also a columnist for The Washington Post and a medical analyst for CNN.  Dr. Wen joins Tom today to discuss the continuing COVID-19 catastrophe, the growing concerns over the pace and efficiency of the COVID-19 vaccination program, and what we know about the two new strains of  the COVID virus that have been infecting people in Europe and here in the United States. 

And as always, we welcome your questions and comments.

Dr. Leana Wen joins us on Skype.

For a useful guide to how COVID-19 vaccines are being locally administered, and when and where you can get your shot, read this Washington Post article by reporter Julie Zauzmer, here

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

In Washington today, a joint session of Congress was convened in the US Capitol to certify the count of the 50 state electoral college electors, and officially declare Democrat Joe Biden the President-elect. Nearby, supporters of President Trump gathered on the National Mall to hear speakers, including the President himself, assert the fantasy that Trump won the Presidential election.  Later, after large crowds of pro-Trump demonstrators, most unmasked, massed on the steps of the Capitol, a mob began breaching its public entrance, threatening the security of the building and the lawmakers within. The National Guard, which was deployed at the request of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, was reportedly unarmed.

Inside the Capitol, the first few minutes of the normally pro forma process of counting the electoral college votes were marked by objections from a minority of Senate Republicans who argue, without evidence, that the November elections were fraudulent.  But the proceedings were interrupted when the Capitol building was stormed by the pro-Trump mob. Security forces put the building on lockdown, used tear gas to clear the rioters out of the building and evacuated lawmakers to safer quarters.  The unprecedented situation continues to unfold.

AP Photo by Carolyn Kaster

Yesterday, the weather in Georgia was sunny and mild.  The tenor of the four campaigners who were locked in battles for Georgia's two Senate seats was anything but sunny and mild.  The campaigns set records for spending and turnout for special elections.

As we speak, the dust is beginning to settle in Georgia.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, a former pastor of Douglas Memorial Community Church here in Baltimore and the current pastor of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, is projected to be the first Black Senator ever elected in Georgia, and the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Georgia in 20 years.

In the race that pitted Democrat Jon Ossoff against Republican incumbent David Perdue, Mr. Ossoff held a lead at broadcast time, but the AP and other news media outlets still considered the vote tallies too close to call. [By 4:30pm on Wednesday, however, NBC News and AP had called the race for Jon Osoff.]

Maryland Food Bank

Over the past eleven months, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of more than 353 thousand Americans and upended the economic livelihood of millions more.  The number of Americans who struggle each week to put food on their tables has climbed to nearly one in eight – an estimated 26 million people, according to the US Census Bureau.  Even before the pandemic, more than a quarter of a million people in Maryland faced chronic food insecurity.

Tom's first guests today are on the front lines of the battle against hunger in our state.  Michael J. Wilson is the director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the non-profit Food Research and Action Center. (FRAC). 

Carmen Del Guercio is president and CEO of the Maryland Food Bank, a non-profit organization that’s been providing food assistance to people in need for the past 40 years.

Maryland Humanities

Maryland Humanities is a nonprofit organization founded nearly 50 years ago that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities. Among its most popular programs are Maryland History Day and One Maryland One Book.

Maryland Humanities recently elected a new leadership team.  Last February, Phoebe Stein left the organization after serving  more than 11 years as its Executive Director.  In May, she became the director of the Federation of State Humanities Councils. 

In August, Lindsey Baker was appointed to succeed her as Maryland Humanities' new Executive Director.

Mary Hastler is the CEO of the Harford County Public Library.  She was elected this past November to become chair of the Maryland Humanities board of directors.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

As of Saturday, a dozen Republican Senators had promised to join about 140 Republican members of the House in voting against certifying that Joe Biden has been elected President.  That vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

Yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Washington Post released a tape and transcript of a call between President Trump and his White House legal team and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his legal team, in which the President says: “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state...”

‘I just want to find 11,780 votes...’

Simon and Schuster Publishers

(Originally broadcast November 12, 2020)

On this archive edition of Midday, Tom talks with Evan Osnos, a staff writer for The New Yorker, about his latest book, Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now.

Tom spoke with Mr. Osnos about a week-and-a-half after the election, on the day that several media sources had added Arizona to the win column for President-elect Joe Biden.  Later that day, the state of Georgia was also called for Mr. Biden, as a hand count in that state got underway.  By the following day, most media outlets had declared Mr. Biden the president-elect. 

Simon and Schuster Publishers

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy implored Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Twenty years later, Ronald Reagan won election by asking Americans, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”  Not if the country were better off; if you were better off.

In a fascinating, compelling and wholly original new book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, the political scientist Robert Putnam and social entrepreneur Shaylyn Romney Garrett assert that from the Gilded Age of the late 19th century to the present moment, America has oscillated between a society framed by colossal income inequality and political polarization to a more progressive notion of concern for the common good and political cooperation.  

 Putnam and Romney Garrett observe that following the inequality and political polarity of the Gilded Age a decades-long era began in which Americans embraced the need for cooperation to confront the existential challenges of an economic catastrophe in the 1930s and a World War in the 1940s, and, civil rights legislation and safety net programs in the 1960s. 

But then the tide shifted, and deep polarity returned, and it defines our politics to this day.

Crystal Wiley-Brown

(Originally aired October 15, 2019)  

Today, Tom’s guest for the hour is the award-winning novelist, literary scholar, and artist, Charles Johnson

Dr. Johnson is bestknown as the author of Middle Passagethe epic novel about the 1830s slave trade for which he won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1990. At the time, he was only the second African-American man to have won the honor after Ralph Ellison.  Johnson's other novels include Night HawksDr. King’s RefrigeratorDreamerand Faith and the Good Thing.

In 1998, Dr. Johnson received a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called "genius grant."  In 2002, he received the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Dr. Johnson began his career in the 1960s as a cartoonist, creating comic strips and editorial cartoons for various publications, including The Chicago Tribune, Ebony and PlayboyIn addition to his novels, Charles Johnson has written numerous screenplays, essays, and children’s books.  

Robert B. Reich

(This program originally aired Sept. 17, 2020.)  

Tom's guest today is Robert B. Reich. He’s a busy and distinguished guy. He served in three administrations, including as Labor Secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency. He’s a professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, a columnist for Newsweek and The Guardian, an award-winning filmmaker, the founder of the non-profit educational enterprise called Inequality Media, and a frequent presence on television and in the blogosphere.

Photo Courtesy / Simon & Schuster

  This program originally aired on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. 

Frederick Douglass is one of the most gifted and admired figures in American history.  He was enslaved for the first 20 years of his life.  By the time of his death in 1895, he had become the world’s most photographed man, a counselor to President Abraham Lincoln, an unparalleled public intellectual, and a super-star speaker.

David Blight’s acclaimed biography of Frederick Douglass, the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for History, offers trenchant and sweeping insights into the particulars of Douglass’ many gifts, and how he changed the arc of the American story. 

David Blight joins Tom to talk about Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. 

Our conversation was recorded earlier, so we can’t take your calls and comments.   

Midday's Christmas Eve 2020 Special

Dec 24, 2020

Hello and Happy Holidays!  Welcome to the Midday Christmas Eve Special, with your host, Tom Hall.

Today, we’ll spend the hour listening to some music and some poetry of the season, plus, a story by Baltimore writer Raphael Alvarez. 


We've put together a playlist of our selections,  and you can find them below (when you've clicked into this article) in the order you'll hear them in the program...


Photo by Rajah Bose

Tom's guest today is the New York Times best-selling author, Jess Walter.  He is the author of seven novels, a short story collection, and a nonfiction book.  His 2012 novel, Beautiful Ruins, was on the Times best-seller list for more than a year.

Jess Walter's latest novel is called The Cold Millions.  It's an expansive and beautifully crafted chronicle of the nascent days of the labor movement in the west in the early 20th century.  It takes place in Walter’s hometown of Spokane, Washington, and it incorporates figures both historical and imagined...

2019 photo by Chris Hartlove

2020 comes to a close a week from tomorrow, and for many of us, it can’t end soon enough.  It has been a year of unprecedented calamity, with levels of disease and death that are incomprehensible.  Nearly 80 million people are infected with the Coronavirus around the globe; about 18 million are infected in the United States.  More than 10 million Americans are out of work.  Hundreds of thousands have been killed by this pernicious disease, and our health care system, in some places, and for some people, is under tremendous strain. 

It is my custom on this program to take some time at the end of the year to remember, briefly, some of the people in our local area who have passed away during the year.  None of the folks I am mentioning died of COVID-19, and as always, this is not an exhaustive list.  I simply want to call attention to a few of the people in the area who I was blessed to know, and who our community was blessed to have...

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

2020 has been a year for the record books. And thankfully, it's also been a year filled with good books as many of us have turned to turning pages as a means of escape during this difficult year.

If you're looking for a new read to lead you into 2021, WYPR's staff have you covered with 21 great titles. Why not 20 books for 2020? Trust us, we tried. There were just too many good ones to choose from!

Check out our book reviews, author interviews and recommendations below. 

Flickr / Patrick Breitenbach


 Need some podcast recommendations  to freshen up your playlist? We asked a few of our colleagues at WYPR to drop by and  share their current favorites.

City Hall Photography by: Mark L. Dennis

Yesterday, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. held a news conference to announce the release of a joint report by the City and County Inspectors General that outlined egregious revenue losses in the water system that serves both jurisdictions.  

The two inspectors general estimate that the city and county have lost millions of dollars in water and sewer revenue, despite the fact that $133 million dollars in contracts have been awarded over the past ten years to improve the water system and billing processes. 

Emily Opilo covers City Hall for the Baltimore Sun.  She and her Sun colleague Alex Mann wrote about the report for today’s paper.  She joins us on Zoom…

Mary Pat Clarke


Yesterday, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. held a news conference with the city’s Inspector General, Isabel Mercedes Cumming, and the Baltimore County Inspector General, Kelly Madigan, to discuss the release of a joint report about serious problems with the city’s water billing system.  The two inspectors general estimate that the city and county have lost millions of dollars in water and sewer revenue.   This despite the $133 million dollars in contracts that have been awarded over the past ten years to improve the water system and billing processes. 

We’ll have more on this latest outrage from City Hall a little later in the program, but first, Tom welcomes a woman who has certainly witnessed her share of outrages during her long tenure in Baltimore City Government.  Former City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke joins me.  She retired earlier this month after more than three decades on the Baltimore City Council, representing the old 2nd and later the 14th Districts. Her service on the council included two different tours of duty as Council President - the first woman ever elected to the post.

Mary Pat Clarke joins us today on Zoom.

The Office of Senator Ben Cardin.

Tom's Newsmaker guest today is Maryland's Senior Senator, Ben Cardin.

As record numbers of new COVID-19 infections and deaths threaten the nation's beleaguered health system, 1.7 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in just the past two weeks.  

Last night, Senator Chuck Schumer (D., NY) and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., KY) announced a deal for a $900 billion dollar stimulus bill.  The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill today.  It’s the first COVID-relief package since the CARES Act was passed way back in March.  It includes a direct payment to adults and children of $600, half of what the direct payment was nine months ago, and a $300 supplemental job benefit, which is also half as big as the first federal unemployment supplement that Congress passed at the beginning of the pandemic.  Will the stimulus be enough to keep the economy -- and millions of struggling Americans -- afloat as winter sets in?