Sharing a stage with broadcast legends like Larry King and Ted Turner doesn’t happen to everyone. And when it happened to Steve Johnson, the feeling was surreal.
Johnson, who earned his bachelor’s degree in communication in 1994 from the University of Missouri–St. Louis, is the managing editor for KFOR (Channel 4) in Oklahoma City, Okla. Last month, when he walked on stage to accept an award at the 36th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards, he was in awe.
“We were at Lincoln Center in New York, and here I was, on stage, in the spotlight, and in front of some of the biggest names in television news, and I got total stage fright,” he said. “Scott Pelley from CBS News was there. David Muir from ABC News was there. Ted Turner was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. Larry King from CNN was there. Big-time people, and it was like I was back in elementary school, in the musical and I have the lead part and just freeze up. It felt just like that.”
Johnson and his team from KFOR received the Emmy for the station’s coverage of the May 20, 2013, Moore (Okla.) tornado.
“I could not have been more honored, proud and humbled that we were all there. For sure, it has to be the highlight of my career,” he said. “To even be nominated for any award, especially an Emmy, is such an honor. When our team won, it was such a proud and humbling moment. To be recognized by your peers as being the best of the best is truly amazing.”
Johnson grew up in Glendale, Mo., and attended Westminster Christian Academy.
“I chose UMSL because I wanted to make sure I had a four-year degree, and UMSL was a logical choice for me because it was close to home, affordable and had the degree program that I was looking for,” he said. “I enjoyed my time at UMSL, especially once I was able to get into my degree courses.”
Johnson knew communications was for him, and once he began taking classes and talking to his adviser Mike Murray, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Media Studies, he felt like he was on the right path.
“I recall many visits to his (Murray’s) office to talk about class schedules, careers and my future,” he said. “Even after graduation, we’ve kept in touch, and I’ve been able to rely on him for advice.”
While at UMSL, Johnson began working at KTVI (Channel 2). After graduation, he accepted a job at a television station in Tulsa, Okla. He worked at stations in Tulsa, moved to Oklahoma City, then Houston, Texas, and back to Oklahoma City. As managing editor for KFOR, he is in charge of the day-to-day news-gathering operations.
“No two days are the same. During my time working in television news at KFOR, I have been a part of coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, the 1999 tornadoes that swept through the Oklahoma City metro and the 2013 tornadoes that hit Moore, Oklahoma,” he said. “Our main goal is to service our community, and it takes a team to do that.”