John Johnson (reporter)

John Johnson (born June 20, 1938) is an American television anchorman, senior correspondent, documentary filmmaker and artist. He was a reporter on New York City television news for many years.[1]

John Johnson
John Johnson 1995.jpg
Johnson in 1995
Born (1938-06-20) June 20, 1938 (age 82)
EducationB.A., City College of New York
M.A., City College of New York
Honorary doctorate, St. Thomas Aquinas College
Alma materCity College of New York
OccupationDocumentary filmmaker, television correspondent/anchorman, Artist (canvas painting), author
Spouse(s)E. Jean Carroll (former)
Ann Yih Johnson

Johnson joined ABC News in 1968, ultimately becoming the first African American documentary producer, director and writer at a broadcast network. He won distinction for his documentaries Welfare Game and Strangers in Their Own Land: The Puerto Ricans. He was one of the first black filmmakers in the prestigious Directors Guild of America. Johnson then became a network correspondent and covered such stories as the Attica Prison riot that led to the deaths of 33 prisoners and 10 corrections officers.

In 1972, Johnson began a long run at WABC. Johnson was among the pioneers of the Eyewitness News format at WABC after it first came to New York in 1968. Decades later, the New York Times quoted Johnson's description of the multiculturalism of those early years: "We really did something different, we had a personality, and a news team that was a microcosm of America . . . We were black, white, Jewish, Latino. That’s why it became so beloved."[2]

In the late 1980s, he served as a rotating anchor of the 6 p.m. newscast in the aftermath of Roger Grimsby's firing with Kaity Tong and Bill Beutel. Johnson, who had also anchored the station's weekend newscasts and served as a reporter prior to this, eventually returned to reporting as senior correspondent after WABC made the decision to have Beutel anchor the 6 p.m. newscast by himself. During his years as senior correspondent, Johnson covered the release of Nelson Mandela from a South African prison and his presidential election. He reported from the first Gulf War, the Bosnian War and was one of the first reporters landing with American troops during the Unified Task Force intervention in Somalia. One of Johnson's last assignments at WABC was his reporting at the O. J. Simpson murder case in 1994-95.

While the trial was still going on, Johnson left WABC in March 1995 and became co-anchor of WCBS' 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts in June of that same year. [3] Johnson remained at the station until October 1996 when, along with several other notable personalities, he was fired. The timing of the firings was peculiar as Johnson and co-anchor Michele Marsh had offered a preview of the upcoming 11pm newscast at the end of the 6 pm news, with the firings occurring in the interim four and a half hours.[4]

Johnson was not out of work for long, as he and his WCBS co-anchor Michele Marsh were hired by WNBC to anchor the station's new noon newscast.[4] After a year, however, Johnson left WNBC due to care for his father who was dying of cancer,[5] and never returned to TV.

During his 30-year television news career, Johnson won nine Emmys and numerous other awards as a reporter, producer, writer and director.[6]

Johnson was to resurface again with the publication of his autobiography Only Son: A Memoir (Warner Books) in 2002. His memoir achieved success in China, where it was published in a Chinese language edition. In the book, Johnson describes his childhood in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, and, according to a review in Publishers Weekly, the "intense love-hate dynamic between his abusive father, 'Black Jack,' and his alcoholic mother, Irene—in a narrative frightening in its emotional intensity."[7]

John Johnson with one of his paintings

A former associate professor of fine arts and Chairman of the Arts Department at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and a guest lecturer at other universities before his broadcast career, Johnson then resumed his painting career.[5] His paintings, which have been shown in Europe and the United States, have been featured at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Walter Wickiser Gallery in Manhattan's art centers: SoHo and Chelsea.

Johnson has portrayed himself in such films as CopLand and 54. He was also featured in the award-winning documentary, Eyes on the Prize.

In 2016, Johnson's alma mater, the City College of New York, dedicated and opened The John Johnson Archive, a permanent collection of his documentaries, videotape, photos, war memorabilia, documents and personal possessions. The Archive celebrates Johnson's professional legacy and benefits students concentrating in the study of history, journalism, political science, social science and art. Johnson received the CCNY President's Award in 2015 and the Townsend Harris Medal for Outstanding Achievement in 2000 when he was also inducted into the Communications Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ Gay, Verne (November 6, 2019). "What ever happened to: John Johnson, longtime NYC news reporters". Newsday. Melville, New York. Retrieved January 26, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Buckley, Cara (November 9, 2008). "Toasting 40 Years of Breaking News and Happy Talk". New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Mifflin, Lawrie (August 17, 1997). "Vying for New York Stories, For Beguiling Announcers And, Yes, for People's Trust". New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b Huff, Richard (1996-10-03). "Wcbs Sign-Off Network Cancels News Team Bigs". Archived from the original on 2011-07-01. Retrieved 2011-02-02. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b Salamone, Gina (May 10, 2012). "Ex-newsman John Johnson's art portrays his life – as well as Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 26, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "THE EMMY NOMINATIONS; Complete List of Nominees", Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2002, retrieved 2011-02-02 CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "ONLY SON: A Memoir: John Johnson, Author, Jeff Coplon, With with Jeff Coplon. Warner $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-446-52552-7". Publishers Weekly. May 13, 2002. Retrieved January 26, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)


  • Johnson, John; Coplon, Jeff (2002), Only Son, Warner Books, ISBN 978-0-446-52552-7
  • "WNBC Anchor Quits to Nurse Dying Dad" 8/17/97.
  • "Axed Newscasters Anchored by Family. Marsh and Johnson Gather Strength for New Jobs at Ch. 4" 10/22/96.
  • "Anchor Away: John Johnson Jumping from Ch. 7. to Ch. 2" 3/17/95.
  • "Former Journalist John Johnson's Art Collection, 'In the Spectrum', Opens in N.Y.C." Huffington Post 5/19/14.
  • "Ex-newsman John Johnson's art portrays his life - as well as Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga," New York Daily News 5/10/12.
  • Allan Wolper talks with veteran New York newsman John Johnson, radio interview, 10/2/12.
  • "Up Close with Diana Williams" interview with John Johnson, WABC-TV Ch. 7, 5/11/14.
  • "Emmy Award Winner John Johnson, ’61, ’63MA, Gifts Papers to CCNY," City College of NY press release, 3/16/15.

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