Student Media Was a Stepping Stone to Alumnus's Success at MSNBC

Kelsey Paulus, '22

The opportunity given to Kent State Media and Journalism students to use real, up-to-date production technology leaves them with a great amount of knowledge and experience upon graduation. Jeff Johnson, ‘09, now a senior producer at MSNBC, saw Kent State Student Media, specifically TV2, as his first market to succeed in.

Johnson, a journalism major, began his TV2 career as a host on a campus-centered show called “College Corner” in early 2006, during his second semester. After that, he was a news anchor until graduation. His cohort was the last to experience the old newsroom in what was then known as the Music and Speech Building, and thus among the first to work in a brand new studio in Franklin Hall.

The Franklin Hall newsroom “opened” in November 2007, and for the first time, TV2, the Kent Stater and were converged in the same space. The new space allowed student journalists and producers to work together, daily, to cover news for the web, broadcast and print.

“When we moved over to Franklin, it really changed what we were able to do,” Johnson said. “I thought it was really great to have the opportunity to work with the Kent Stater people and everybody who did the online stuff. I just thought it was a really great, collaborative environment.”

Among his many memorable moments in Student Media, one that stands out the most is traveling to Chicago to report on Election Day 2008, covering the results of the presidential election.

“To be able to have an opportunity to be out in the field, covering such a historic event as a student reporter, I mean, there was nothing like it,” Johnson said. “To be there, to actually witness that history in Chicago that night. And I’m there as a one-man band – I’m shooting my own stand-ups, I’m writing my packages – they sent me with all this technology to be able to feed everything back to the station.”

That evening, in the middle of an interview with a news anchor back in Kent, the results were finalized and announced. Johnson was the one who announced Barack Obama’s presidential victory on live television that night.

After his sophomore year, Johnson interned with NBC Los Angeles (NBCLA) and returned as a production assistant upon graduation. Because of that internship, and because of his experience as an MDJ student, he was fully prepared to enter that role with ease.

Now, Johnson works at MSNBC, one of the most watched and respected television channels across the country. Before being in his senior producer role, he was a line producer for four years at the station.

“My professors, to be honest — they were a little hard on me,” Johnson said. “I think they saw potential in me, and because of them being hard on me and not really letting me slack off at all, I really feel like that prepared me and gave me the chops to go into a professional newsroom and not be intimidated.”

In his current role, Johnson assists the executive producer in crafting shows and copyediting scripts. He also leads a team of writers and helps oversee editorial vision, assignments for segment producers and the production of studio graphics.

He also currently manages the internship program at MSNBC and helps run the Black Employee Network, which helps junior employees to gain more knowledge from someone higher up in the company.

“It’s beneficial for everybody because I had several people come up to me and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that I would have such a great time just working on this project and getting a chance to learn things I wouldn’t have otherwise learned,’” Johnson said. “I think those opportunities help, I think it helps with retaining employees because they see that they do have these opportunities to work on stuff like that.”

POSTED: Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - 12:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, December 7, 2021 - 3:51pm