TROY — A reporter who won an Emmy for covering the Memorial Day tornadoes credits much of his success as a reporter with where he got his start: Troy City Schools.
“My homeroom teacher, Mr. Owen, got the go-ahead from the principal, Mr. Herman, at the time, to do the announcements over video,” Allen Henry said. “He asked me if I wanted to do it because I was in theatre with my drama director, Mrs. Imboden. He’d seen me on stage and thought I had a good voice, and we just started doing the morning announcements.”
Jeff Owen, who teaches English at Troy High School, saw that Henry was “socially mixable” and had a talent for getting people comfortable enough to open up to him during interviews, as well as a natural ease in front of the camera.
“What really made Allen stand out was his dedication to his work; he was creative yet in control of his overall message,” Owens said. “When Allen went to Ohio University, I knew they were getting a good one.”
Troy Drama and English teacher Irene Imbolden said Henry was always an “outstanding” student at THS.
“It’s been very exciting to see Allen keep reaching all of the goals he’s set for himself,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed Allen’s ability to tell stories through the news from high school through college to now in his professional career. He’s got an ability to take those human interest stories and really bring the interesting parts to the forefront.”
After graduating from Ohio University in 2014, Henry started his professional career at WSFA-TV in Montgomery, Alabama. In July of 2018, he relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana and covered breaking news and general assignments for WVUE FOX 8. In July of 2018, he returned to the Dayton area to report for Dayton 24/7 Now and care for his mother, Mindy Malki, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer.
The days leading up to the Memorial Day tornadoes that hit the Miami Valley were big news days for Henry; that weekend the station had covered the KKK rally that had taken place in Dayton on the Saturday before Memorial Day, and he had the Sunday to recharge before going into work Monday to cover a story on businesses in the region opening back up. The storms that were supposed to roll in that evening weren’t expected to be the tornadoes they became; Henry recalls that as the night continued, it became clear that things were getting more serious. He worked through the night and into the next day, nearly 24 hours straight, before being told to go home, take a nap, and return to work at 6 p.m. the same day.
“I was running on just empty,” Henry said. “I just came in, and they gave us different cities. I got Beavercreek, and they said, ‘go to Beavercreek and see what you can find.’ At that point, the day after, there was no shortage of things to go see. You go one block, it’s blown away, another block, it’s fine.”
Henry continued his work reporting for Dayton 24/7 Now through July 2020, and relocated to NBC4 in Columbus in August.
Although the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the usual flow of the Emmy awards and the annual banquet was replaced with a virtual ceremony over zoom, Henry felt overjoyed to have won an Emmy for his coverage of the tornadoes.
“As a recognition from my peers across the country that we did good work, and that we put blood, sweat and tears and countless night hours, it felt really good … I still think about the people of Dayton,” Henry said.
The one thing Henry wishes could have been different is having his mother at his side when he won. Due to the pandemic and her health, Malki currently resides in a nursing home and was able to FaceTime Henry the night of the awards ceremony to congratulate him. While Henry credits Owen and Imbolden with helping him find and use his voice, he credits his mother with giving him his voice and a strong work ethic, and being his biggest supporter.
“She, as a single mom, was just everything. (She) always watched, and was my number one supporter, and I’d get text messages (saying) ‘you look a little shiny tonight’ so I’d know to put a little powder on,” Henry said. “(She’s) my number one fan, and always did everything (for me).”
Currently, Henry is still waiting on his Emmy to arrive and expects it to come soon. While he doesn’t have a spot for it yet, his focus is primarily on taking things one day at a time and bringing his skills as a reporter to the Columbus area.
“It’s hard right now with everything going on to plan too far ahead, but I just focus on what I do, and try to do the best I can at my job,” Henry said. “I just want to find a good place where I can work, stay there for a while, and keep telling good stories.”