Emmy Award-winning producer Janice Johnston ’88 was the keynote speaker at Upper School Career Day on February 20. She is currently the Coordinating Producer of ABC News Magazines and Specials, and she was recently honored with a Salute to Excellence Award by the National Association of Black Journalists.
At the beginning of her speech, Janice pulled an old notebook out of her bag: her MFS Senior Project journal from 1988.
“For my Senior Project, I was a production intern at KYW- TV’s morning talk show. What I experienced during that amazing opportunity has been more helpful in my current career than any class I took at Princeton or any seminar in law school,” said Janice.
“I think I spent the first day with a permanent grin on my face – I was still in shock that I had gained entrance to this unknown world. Watching the show from inside the studio, meeting the producers, seeing the ‘control room,’ going to the news floor – all of it was just plain fun. I did everything from making coffee and copies, to managing the audience, to entertaining Davy Jones’ daughter. One journal entry says, ‘I wish Senior Project were longer! I could do this forever.’ Well, fast forward to the present: I grew up to be a television producer.”
A former practicing attorney, Janice has been with ABC News since 1998, where she has worked on 20/20 (her current assignment) and Good Morning America. She has filmed everywhere from the White House to Taylor Swift’s house, and she has traveled extensively from the volcanoes of Hawaii to the base of Mt. Kenya. Her recent stories include the record-breaking special “Highwire Over Niagara Falls: LIVE,” as well as coverage of Robin Roberts’ battle with a rare blood disorder. While working with ABC News, Janice has earned four Emmy Awards and multiple Emmy nominations, as well as two George Foster Peabody Awards, an NAACP Image Award Nomination, and a National Headliner Award from the Press Club of Atlantic City.
Janice explained to the students gathered in the Meeting House that prior to working in television, she was a corporate litigation associate at a law firm in New York. She spent a year serving indigent tenants in Brooklyn Housing Court, and she also worked as a speechwriter for Senator Bill Bradley. Janice then decided to transition to television, and she networked diligently until she was able to obtain a position at ABC.
After describing her early career, Janice fielded questions from students and shared some of her more recent experiences: covering the Presidential campaign, shadowing a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and sitting with Keith Urban on his porch. She spoke about difficult and heartfelt interviews, as well as the more glamorous ones.
“I get to meet everyday people who have shown enormous courage in extraordinary circumstances. I feel most blessed to have shared those stories.”
In closing, Janice offered some advice: “Be engaged in the world around you. Ask great questions. Take it on. And, perhaps, keep a journal – you’ll be surprised what amazing stories you have to tell.”