It’s no secret that News4JAX anchor and reporter Scott Johnson is a big fan of superheroes, but would you have guessed his favorite superpower is telepathy? Or that he wanted to be a secret agent while growing up? Or that he enjoys experimenting with auto repairs despite, as he put it, knowing next to nothing about mechanics?
Those were just a few of the many questions that came up during Scott’s Ask Me Anything chat Tuesday with News4JAX Insiders. He was a good sport about answering everything we threw at him. And besides his hobbies and passions outside of work, he also had some insights to share about the realities of working in local journalism, especially in this day and age.
Below you’ll find a complete recap of Scott’s AMA (Editor’s note: Some questions and responses have been edited for clarity):
What is it like to do stories that have an impact on people’s lives?
It’s something that is difficult, honestly, at times. Many times, we learn of important critical stories that need to end up on the news that night. That means you have to become an “expert” on a topic that was brand new to you that day. And you have to do it with care because many stories are very personal to the people involved. So it’s something that both myself and my coworkers take very seriously.
Do you have a favorite type of Mexican food?
Funny thing you should ask about Mexican food. I have been a regular at La Nopalera for frankly almost two decades. The thing about me is I eat the simplest of foods. So, if you ask what my favorite food is at a Mexican restaurant, the answer is the simplest: burrito
If you would, walk us through a “typical” day in your life.
So, basically we start the day with an editorial meeting with the whole news team to discuss what’s going on that day and what’s important. Then the hard part begins. You get a story assigned to you and have X number of hours to get it on TV. That includes finding the interviews, writing, editing, etc. The hardest part always is getting people to agree to speak about an issue on television. Sometimes it’s much more difficult than others. Because some people don’t like to be on TV and in many other cases the topic is so sensitive or personal, it makes it hard.
I want to be an investigative reporter when I grow up. Do you have any advice for me or for somebody else who would want to work in that particular field?
First, learn everything you can about local, state, federal law, government, etc. Stuff that prior to being a reporter you probably never really use. Here are a few examples: how bills are passed at the city, state and federal levels; how lawsuits work; how to find things like arrest records, legislation that’s passed, etc. When you understand all that stuff, it’s second nature and that’s really how investigative journalism works.
What’s your favorite place in southeast Georgia to do a story?
Southeast Georgia is different depending on where you go. Brunswick is the largest area, so “big” news stories often come out of there. But that doesn’t mean Kingsland, St Marys, Woodbine, etc. don’t get the big stories. Brunswick just has the larger population base that makes more news.
If you weren’t reporting and anchoring, what would you be doing?
Hmmm. This is a great question on another career. This has evolved as I’ve aged. As a kid, I thought something like a doctor. Then, as a young man, I wanted to be a secret agent (that was more dreaming, lol). As I’ve gotten older and more familiar with video production, I think I would like to make movies or documentaries.
What would a typical off-day look like for you?
I have two children. One thing you learn about as your children get older is their social lives become your social life. Gone are the days of rushing out with friends on a Saturday night. Now, running to Publix for ice cream is about as exciting as it gets and trying to hang out with them.
Are you a fan of Star Wars and the Marvel Universe?
Both Star Wars & Marvel are really the center of my world away from work. Funny you should ask.
If you could have any super power or comic book character’s abilities, what would it be?
I think telepathy would be cool, but flying would be awesome, too. Sadly, I’ve thought about this question a lot, which leads to the other question. Marvel and Star Wars. A fan of both and frankly they probably occupy more of my time than they should.
Do you have a favorite movie genre? And what is your all-time favorite TV show?
Superhero movies are my thing. As far as favorite show of all time, we’re going way back. Night Court. Popular sitcom in the 80′s. Really if you rank my top 10 shows, they were mostly from the 80′s.
Are there any news stories that have made an impact on you or have touched you in a way?
Certainly. One of the big ones takes me back to 2003. I had just arrived here to Channel 4 and was assigned to cover the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia. I was excited and it was the first launch I ever saw. I was, however, dismayed days later when it crashed upon re-entry. Covering that was hard for all of us. It was personally upsetting being that I had been so excited to see it launch and then see that tragic loss of life.
Besides comic books, professional wrestling and Star Wars (not to mention 80s TV series), what are some of your hobbies?
This is a weird one. I have known nothing about cars (mechanics). But as a personal cheapskate, I have often tried to repair them myself. While I now only know next to nothing, I have learned a little more about what’s under my car’s hood. Has been fun to learn over the years.
What’s one thing most people wouldn’t know about you?
Why I shaved my head... a lot of people ask. Frequently. It was roughly 2009 or so, I had been discussing with our former news director my receding hairline. This was frankly an issue I was never happy about and, being that TV is an image industry, I wanted to make a change. She and I brainstormed and came up with the idea of me shaving my head. And that’s what we did… live on TV. No real reason beyond bad hair, lol.
What’s one thing about this job most people wouldn’t necessarily know from the outside looking in?
Particularly for local news reporters, we’re just local people who live in your community. Often we can get conflated with national correspondents who may be more distant and have less of a link to the news they cover. That’s not the case for local journalists. We are as impacted by much of the local news we cover as our viewers are.