It’s rare to see Charles Hallman of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder in a suit and tie. There’s no need to dress up when you’re covering sports, as Hallman has for MSR, Minnesota’s oldest Black newspaper, since 1990. But one afternoon in early April, there was Hallman, all decked out and dapper as he walked into the Target Center, completing the look with the tan trench coat that once belonged to his father, Charles Sr.
The occasion? A ceremony at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four, celebrating Hallman’s induction into the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Hall of Fame for his lifetime of women’s college basketball coverage.
Hallman was the only one of the five Class of 2022 inductees not from a mainstream media publication, and the only one honored in Minneapolis; the rest were feted at the Men’s Final Four in New Orleans. He’s believed to be only the third Black inductee overall, joining William Rhoden of the New York Times (now ESPN’s Andscape) and the late Brian Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
At the same time, Hallman, 67, also received the Mel Greenberg Media Award from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association for his efforts promoting women’s and girls basketball in Minnesota. Greenberg is the longtime Philadelphia-based women’s hoops writer known as “The Guru,” the founder of the Associated Press women’s Top 25 poll.
It capped a series of honors for Hallman, who has covered Gopher women’s sports and the Lynx longer than anyone. Several months earlier, the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport named Hallman to its Title IX Honor Roll on the 50th anniversary of that landmark legislation. The Twins even gave him a jersey and asked him to throw out a ball at a game on his birthday, April 28.
Never a self-promoter, Hallman isn’t comfortable with all this attention. “My oldest son (James) keeps trying to tell me to sit down and enjoy it,” said Hallman, of north Minneapolis. “He probably knows I don’t like it more than anybody. But now I’m getting used to it, not because I deserve it, but because I can’t get away from it. I can’t hide from it.
“I go to events now, it doesn’t matter where I’m at, someone makes a reference that I’m a Hall of Famer. That’s something I guess I’ve earned.”
Hallman might be one of the most fascinating people in Twin Cities media. The grandson of a minister and husband of a retired pastor, journalism has been Hallman’s passion but never his full-time job. He made a mid-career shift to teaching and spent almost 20 years in the St. Paul school system before retiring. He’s also the longest-serving assistant basketball coach in Minneapolis City Conference; he just finished his 27th season at Minneapolis South High School.
Besides his sports coverage, Hellman frequently writes about social issues and the arts for the Spokesman-Recorder. Early in his career, Hallman developed a keen eye for identifying and calling out injustice, and he’s especially attracted to covering underserved and under-publicized groups.
He and the late Kwame McDonald waged a two-man campaign in MSR to get the University of Minnesota to retire basketball star Linda Roberts’ No. 21, an oversight finally rectified in 2006, 25 years after she finished playing. Roberts, who is Black, was a two-time Wade Trophy finalist as the country’s top player and still holds the Gophers career record for rebounds. As Hallman noted, Lindsay Whalen only waited 10 months to see her No. 13 go to the Williams Arena rafters.
Spokesman-Recorder senior editor Jerry Freeman likens Hallman’s approach to a journalism ministry. “He’s a very spiritual, religious kind of guy, and he’s very active in his church,” Freeman said. “What he does as a journalist is his service. He feels that in a very spiritual kind of sense, that it’s his mission, and he’s very devoted to it.
“He’s got a tremendous amount of energy and perseverance. He can crank out five or six stories a week. Just about anything we ask him to do, he’s game.”
Originally from Detroit, Hallman grew up about a mile from Motown Records’ “Hitsville USA” headquarters. Coming home from school, he often ran into Motown greats like the Temptations and The Four Tops.
An only child, Hallman listened to music constantly and read everything he could get his hands on. Even today, Hallman’s mind is a storehouse of 1970s music and television trivia. (Trust me: Don’t challenge him on this.) He always wanted to be a journalist, a dream he said some of his professors at Michigan State did not exactly encourage. But his mother, Queen Ethel, now deceased, believed in him and supported his ambition.
“I never wanted to be a sports reporter, because I didn’t want to be typecast — here’s this tall guy, he loves sports, therefore he wants to write sports,” Hallman said. “I purposely learned to be versatile in every kind of subject matter I could cover.
“I’ve covered every kind of beat you can imagine. I don’t like fashion shows. I don’t do that. I don’t like fluff pieces. I love investigations. I love writing profiles and taking on issues that people don’t want to take on.”
At Michigan State, Hallman took an interest in women’s sports after meeting some Spartan women’s basketball players at freshman orientation. “’They said, ‘Come to our games,’” Hallman said. “I went and enjoyed it. They were very good players. I just felt that was something that was neglected in terms of news coverage.” So he wrote about them for the student newspaper.
Years later, Hallman took the same approach with the University of Minnesota. As assistant news director at KMOJ-FM, he hosted a weekly show highlighting women’s sports. In the 1990s, former U women’s athletic director Chris Voelz remembers Hallman as the only nonstudent reporter regularly covering Gopher women’s games.
“Charles was a gift to women’s athletics,” Voelz said in a telephone interview from her home in Idaho. “There was somebody from one or two papers who would show up here and there. But Charles Hallman was always there, at least for women’s basketball and volleyball. If it was a national championship we hosted, he was always there.
“He was always thoughtful. He was kind. He wasn’t intrusive. But he was a stalwart, and he really believed in what he was doing, and believed in what the women were doing.”
Three more things make Hallman unique among Twin Cities media:
He doesn’t compose his stories on a computer. He writes them out longhand, on paper, before tapping the finished version into his laptop. “Typing slows me down in terms of my writing process,” Hallman said. “I keep Walgreens, Walmart, Office Depot and all these people in business, because I buy lots and lots of legal pads and pens.”
He doesn’t own a car. He takes the bus everywhere, and keeps a thick pack of bus schedules in his work bag. “You meet interesting people on the bus sometimes,” he said. ”It’s funny. I got a couple of story ideas from riding the bus.”
He doesn’t stand for the national anthem. Most Twin Cities teams play the anthem 10 minutes or so before a game begins, so Hallman usually remains in the press room until it’s over. “I became a Christian at age 14,” Hallman said. “One of the Ten Commandments is, don’t put anybody above [God]. I look at the song and the flag as an idol, so I refuse to recognize that. When I learned the song itself was written in a racist way, I had no intention of recognizing that.”