With the 100-degree temperature mark looming, today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from Weldon Johnson, part of the Explore Arizona team for the Arizona Republic.
He has been with The Republic in various roles starting as a high school sports reporter in 2000. Weldon also worked as a community news reporter at the Republic in Scottsdale, Ahwatukee and Chandler before his most recent position as weather reporter. He came to Arizona after working as a sports reporter with The Flint (Mich.) Journal.
Weldon, time to share:
How I got into journalism: I've always been somewhat of a storyteller. I was the youngest child in a big, loud family and figured out at an early age that if I wanted to hold the floor I had to have something to say. That experience also taught me the value of actually having something to say before opening my mouth. My high school English teacher decided she wanted to revive our school's newspaper when I was in 11th grade and asked me to help. That pretty much put me on my career path.
My career and current beat: I started in sports, working as a stringer covering high school sports for the Ann Arbor News while I was in college. I stayed in sports for most of my career working first as a part-time staffer in Ann Arbor, an intern in Cincinnati, my first full-time job in Iowa City and at the Flint Journal. I came to Phoenix for the National Association of Black Journalists convention in 2000 and through a chance conversation, found out The Republic was looking for a high school sports reporter.
I worked in sports for my first four years at The Republic before making the jump to community news and had the opportunity to cover several Valley cities over the years. In December 2014 I was offered the opportunity to cover weather and traffic. I've always been fascinated by the weather so that was a fun beat for me. I recently joined the Explore Arizona team and I'm looking forward to that new challenge. I may still sneak in a few weather stories when I get a chance.
The top 3 stories I've covered: Hard to pick just three but these are the first that come to mind for very different reasons.
While I was working with the Scottsdale Republic I would occasionally review jazz concerts at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. I was writing a preview story on an upcoming performance by McCoy Tyner and had the opportunity to speak with him. I'm a huge fan of John Coltrane's music and Tyner was the piano player on some of Coltrane's most famous work. To be able to speak with a man who is a legend in his own right about his time with one of the giants of jazz is something I'll always remember.
In Flint I sometimes covered Big 10 football. I didn't cover the teams on a regular basis but I would go to Michigan or Michigan State home games to do sidebars or columns to help beef up coverage for the paper. I was at the 1994 game between Michigan and Colorado when Kordell Stewart threw the Hail Mary pass to win the game for Colorado. As a sports fan it was an incredible thing to witness. As a University of Michigan graduate I had different reaction. I kept my cool though.
A few years ago I had the chance to interview a woman who had been given up for adoption when she was a child. She had recently found out about her birth family and was going to meet her sister for the first time ever, even though they were both in their 70s. She allowed me to be there when they met. It was an incredible thing to be there when they met. I'll never forget the looks on their faces when that door opened.
Any hobbies, interests, anything else you’d care to share: I've always thought that if I could do anything (and talent weren't a factor) I would have been a musician. I would have loved to be the bass player for Prince or maybe in a 70s funk band (if time travel were possible). I've tried to play a variety of instruments throughout my life and I'm currently learning to play guitar. I'd also like to learn to build guitars at some point. I've always enjoyed woodworking.