‘20/20’ Producer Selected as Commencement Speaker

Emmy Award Winner Janice Johnston ’95 Recently Covered Las Vegas Shooting
Janice Johnston

Janice Johnston ’95 earned her sixth Emmy in 2017 for the “20/20” episode “Las Vegas: Heartbreak and Heroes.” Photo courtesy ABC

October 17, 2019

Emmy Award-winning television producer Janice Johnston, a 1995 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, will serve as the school’s commencement speaker May 17.

Johnston, a senior producer and director with ABC News, is known for her work on “20/20,” “Good Morning America” and “ABC News Specials.”

“We wanted someone who would bring a new and unique perspective from speakers we’ve had in the past,” Student Bar Association Vice President Rachel Staub and 3L Sen. Timothy Sensenig said in a joint statement. “We also wanted someone who would fit the personality of the class: ambitious, successful, diverse and spirited. We believe Ms. Johnston fills this tall order, and we look forward to hosting her in May.”

In 2017, Johnston won an Emmy — her sixth — for the “20/20” episode “Las Vegas: Heartbreak and Heroes,” in the Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story in a Newsmagazine category. The episode documented the work of first responders after a shooter fired on attendees at a country music concert, killing 58 people and wounding more than 400 others.

Johnston’s assignments have taken her to a range of places, from the White House to Mount Kenya. Currently, she’s working on her 11th annual Country Music Association Awards show ABC special, which airs this November. Johnston, a longtime country music fan, has produced shows with everyone from Luke Bryan to Taylor Swift.

“Law school taught me how to think about the multiple angles of a story,” she told UVA Lawyer in 2014. “In my work, storytelling is shaped by asking questions. I focus hard on what we are going to ask.”

In addition to her Emmys, Johnston has received George Foster Peabody Awards, Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, an NAACP Image Award nomination and, most recently, the 2019 Christopher Award for “One Way Out: Thailand Cave Rescue.” (The Christopher Awards “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”)

Johnston won Peabody Awards in 2012 for ABC’s coverage of Hurricane Sandy and a special on broadcaster Robin Roberts’ bone marrow transplant. Roberts is the co-anchor of “Good Morning America,” which Johnston helped produce for about a decade.

Johnston won her first Peabody in 2001 for coverage of 9/11.

Before she turned to television, she was a litigation associate at a New York law firm, represented indigent tenants in Brooklyn Housing Court and worked as a speechwriter for former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

“Janice Johnston has had a remarkable career that has taken her around the world and up close to some of the most challenging breaking news stories of the past several years,” said Dean Risa Goluboff. “We are excited to hear what she has to share with the Class of 2020.”

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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