Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Soup Cans Interview: Jackie Johnson

Regular readers of Soup Cans are familiar with one of our most popular features: "Jackie Johnson Fashion Watch." We're absolutely stoked because our fav LA news personality, fashion and weather extraordinaire Jackie Johnson herself, recently took the time to answer some of our questions. The KCAL 9/CBS 2 weathercaster spoke to us about her desire to chase tornadoes, her trendy wardrobe, and (sorry to disappoint all of you single guys out there) her upcoming wedding.

You've said that you're "fascinated by weather." When did this fascination begin? Was it sparked by something specific?

Yes! I have been fascinated by the weather since I was a little girl! Science was always my favorite subject. When I was in Elementary School I did my 5th grade science project on the weather. I used my own weather instruments and logged the weather for an entire month.

I think growing up in Michigan had a lot to do with my interest in the weather...we had severe storms every spring and summer, and extremely harsh winters. I loved the excitement and bit of fear I felt when my parents got us up and took us into the basement in the middle of the night when the tornado alarms went off. And I would have to say, like most kids, I took extreme interest during the school year hoping for just enough snow to warrant a "snow day!"

People complain about the lack of actual weather in Southern California. How do you feel about reporting the weather in Los Angeles?

Although I do miss the intensity of tracking the tropics during hurricane season, Southern California weather actually keeps me quite busy! Here we have so many different microclimates that we actually give forecasts for many different locations. For example, yesterday it was cloudy and in the 60's along the coast, but we were also dealing with record heat in the triple digits and excessive heat warnings in the valleys and thundershowers in our mountains!

We're obsessed with the outfits you wear each night during your broadcasts, mostly your impressive collection of belts. Where do you like to shop in LA?

Thank you very much! I am very flattered! I have seen your "Jackie Johnson Fashion Watch" and have to admit a few times before getting ready for work I thought to myself "What would Soup Cans say?"

The wonderful thing about LA is there are so many places to shop! I wish I had one particular store, that would make it much easier. I enjoy being outdoors so my favorite shopping is walking down Melrose/Robertson and in Santa Monica. Oh, and my friend also sells clothes so I am able to get great deals, thank goodness!

And yes, I do wear a lot of belts...my mom always told me they make the outfit look "finished."

Have you ever experienced any frightening personal moments involving weather?

I would say they have been a little more "exciting" than "frightening." But this is coming from someone who would love to chase tornadoes! One moment that comes to mind is when I worked in Miami, I was driving to work at 3am to cover a tropical storm that was moving in. To get to work I had to drive over the Key Biscayne bridge and the wind was blowing so hard I thought my car was going to blow off the bridge. About an hour later the police wouldn't let anyone drive on the bridge...

Have you ever had someone complain to you about an imprecise weather forecast you had made the day before?

Yes, we do get that every so often. But more often I seem to get "Jackie, can't you do something about this weather we're having?!"

Linus of Hollywood wrote a song about you titled "Jackie Johnson." Did you find that flattering or a bit creepy?

I found it very flattering and I like the song!

You live in tremor-prone LA. Do you buy into the theory of "earthquake weather?"

In my meteorology classes in college, we did not cover that theory. I do find it interesting when Californians tell me about their "earthquake weather" theories and how their personal experiences can attest to the theories.

Finally, we hear that you've recently become engaged. Congratulations! Who's the lucky guy and have you set a date?

Yes, thank you! I am very happy. His name is John Kidd and we will be married sometime next June. He is a former NFL player and now runs his own telecom company.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Soup Cans Interview: Dan Harris

Each Sunday, we make sure to check out the first-rate Dan Harris anchor, in our opinion, one of the only weekend news programs worth watching: ABC's "World News Sunday." Here Harris tells Soup Cans, in an exclusive interview, about his stage fright, how he copes with criticism (constructive or not) and who he has to thank for helping him match his suits and ties.

What have been some of the most rewarding and challenging parts about anchoring "World News Sunday" over the last year and a half?

It's incredibly thrilling -- and also terrifying -- to have my hands on the steering wheel once a week. I still find it very challenging on many Sundays to figure out what the lead story should be. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to cajole the senior producers into stacking the show my way (even though I usually lose).

What did it feel like to return to your Alma mater, Colby College, in 2005 to deliver the Commencement?

It made me incredibly anxious. This may sound counterintuitive for a television reporter, but I have really bad stage fright. So speaking in front of a couple thousand people (some of whom were my former French professors) was daunting.

I was also a little bit sheepish. I mean, I can't imagine those kids wouldn't have rather had a cooler speaker than me.

That said, it was a huge honor. My parents were psyched.

You've done numerous reports on controversial subject matters, such as religion. How do you respond to those who are critical of you and your stories?

To state the obvious, being criticized is never fun. We correspondents have delicate constitutions; we like our inboxes to see a regular flow of "attaboy" notes. So the reverse can smart. However, once the sting subsides, criticism is often pretty useful. A few months back, the father of one of my fellow correspondents (who's a scientist) sent a very thoughtful critique of my coverage of a story on evolution. It changed my way of thinking about science stories.

You've described yourself as "fashion-dyslexic." Has this changed much?

There is no cure for this condition. However, my fiancée, Bianca, is very vigilant. She monitors my tie choices regularly. (This is embarrassing, but I also have some pictures in my closet of which ties go with which shirts.)

You've been to some of the most dangerous places in the world like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel, and Iraq. What's been the most worrisome situation you've ever found yourself involved in?

My personal favorite correspondent-in-danger story is from Torah Bora, back in 2002. I was shooting a standup, when some bullets started whistling overhead. Naturally, I got really scared and hit the ground. In the frame behind me, however, you could see that none of the Afghans were ducking. My crew gave me a lot of crap for that.

David Muir has told Soup Cans that he never wears his Red Sox cap in Yankee stadium. As a Boston native, do you?

David's a huge wimp.

Kidding. (The guy's like twice my size; he could kick my butt.)

I've never even actually been to a Yankees game.

Which of your stories are you most proud of?

I've got a story coming up next week (7/8, to be exact) that I think could be strong. "How To Buy A Child In Ten Hours." It's a Nightline investigation. We went to Haiti and negotiated to buy (but did not actually buy, of course) child slaves. Using hidden cameras, we found traffickers who were willing to sell us children -- any age, either sex -- for as little as $150. We also went out and met child slaves and their owners. Haiti has a huge child slavery problem; there are an estimated 300-thousand kids in servitude there. I had no idea about this -- or about the enormous problem of modern day slavery generally -- until I read a new book called "A Crime So Monstrous", by E. Benjamin Skinner. I recommend it.

The story I'd like to start covering more aggressively, however, is global warming. In my opinion, it's the most important problem in the world, and we (the media, the country, etc) are not talking about it enough.

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