‘I’m still working on the mom thing’
By Elton Lugay
With a new partner, Kristine Johnson continues to anchor the evening news and punch up ratings for CBS 2.
TF: What prompted the reshuffle at CBS News?
KJ: My former co-anchor Chris Wragge was given an enormous opportunity to host “The Early Show” on CBS. Maurice DuBois was in turn moved from mornings to evenings to replace Chris. The rest as they say is history.
TF: How’s your rapport with Maurice DuBois?
KJ: I feel very comfortable co-anchoring with Maurice. He’s a solid anchor that I know I can depend on. But what I admire most about him is his view on family. The way he talks about his son and wife is a clear indication he knows what really matters in life.
TF: Without meaning to compare, Chris Wragge strikes us as more relaxed, less stiff on TV.
KJ: Chris and I became very close over the past four plus years. He’s like an extended member of my family. We talk often and remain close confidantes. But this profession often brings about change. I’m having a wonderful time getting to know my new partner and I look forward to working with him to continue our ratings climb at CBS 2.
TF: What’s it like anchoring the 11 p.m. newscast?
KJ: It’s a high-profile newscast. And it is primetime. Maybe back in the ’50s and ’60s the 6 o’clock news was the standard news of record, but now with people leading such busy lives, some people get their news at 5 o’clock in the morning and late at night. I think every newscast we have here at this station is an important newscast.
TF: How do you balance parenting and career?
KJ: I’m still working on the mom thing. Steve and I have two children – Ava and Burke. Being a mother is tough, and that’s the most important job I have.
TF: Did you know that you were voted as one of the hottest “TV anchor babes”?
KJ: I’m not sure how many people were surveyed for that poll. But I’m sure if all the participants saw me in my “normal” state, they would have voted for someone else.
TF: Were you really born at Clark Air Base?
KJ: I was born at Clark Air Base. My mom is from Pampanga, and my father is Swedish American. His name is Erik Johnson. He was a meteorologist for the U.S. military when he met my mom, Africa Dizon. He asked her to marry him. At that time, my mother was divorced from a previous marriage to a Filipino husband. She had four children already. One of the conditions that my mother gave my father when he asked her to marry him was that if we live in the United States we have to bring my children. So my father officially adopted all of my brothers and sisters.
TF: What was it like growing up with half siblings?
KJ: I don’t really think of them as my half brothers and sisters. They’ve been in my life since the day I was born. And my father does not think of them as not his biological children. And they look at my father as their father. I have a younger biological brother also.
I think that one of the best qualities of Filipinos is being family-oriented. I feel that family is so important to Filipino people. When we get together for holidays, we eat all day long. We sit around the kitchen, around the table, and we have the best conversations. And at the center is the food. And that’s what brings us together. And that’s what makes us create memories.
TF: How did you become a journalist?
KJ: I’m a graduate of journalism from the University of Nebraska. I was on my freshman year during Operation Desert Storm. I was transfixed by the news on the television screen, how they were able to communicate with everyone watching from their living rooms, and bring the pictures and the sound and information. I was frankly in awe. And I thought, I wanna be a part of that. I wanna be able to communicate in that way.
TF: Do you get affected reading news about the war?
KJ: You know when we cover stories about local soldiers that are over there that don’t come back alive, and they’re as young as sometimes 19 years old. How senseless all of these lives lost, it is just for what, for what? But then I can’t let my personal views be transferred over the air.
TF: Any role models?
KJ: Diane Sawyer – she’s just cool. No matter what the subject matter is, she’s able to keep an even tone. But yet you still feel as if she’s sensing the emotion of the story. And Barbara Walters, she has interviewed world leaders. And I admire her for that because she was able to do that. I would love to be able to travel and bring stories from the field, too, but with me having two children at home, I have to be able to balance this in my home life. And it’s tough.
TF: Is it harder for married women to stay in journalism?
KJ: For female journalists who are in this business, I think, it’s harder, especially when there’s kids involved. When you’re single and you don’t have children at home. Yes, it’s easier to pack your bags and leave for a week. Whereas I’ve got to make sure that I have babysitters lined up.
Frankly do I wanna be away from my children for a week? Not right now, I don’t. For now, in the position that I’m in, it’s a perfect place for me.
Being news anchor for a major New York network is more than I had ever dreamed of. If I’d have to walk away tomorrow, I’d be okay.
A recipient of three Emmy Awards, Kristine Johnson headlines CBS 2 News at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. weekdays with Maurice DuBois. She lives in New Jersey with her family.