“It’s exciting,” said City College alum Victoria Johnson, describing a typical day at work. “You never know what’s going to happen: fire, a pursuit, dolphins in the ocean. There’s beautiful scenery every day.”
Johnson’s workplace has billion-dollar views of San Diego. Most weekday mornings, she flies high above America’s finest city in a helicopter, covering traffic and news stories for KFMB-TV News 8, San Diego’s CBS affiliate.
“You don’t go to college for something like this,” Johnson said. “Airborne traffic reporting you learn on the job.”
Johnson networked her way into the position with help from a friend put her in touch with a former boss. Her first day as an on-air talent was in Sept. 2006.
“Victoria is driven,” said Sara Williams, News 8’s 11 a.m. producer. “She is always coming up with ideas, and shoots, edits, and tracks her own stories. She’s a one-man band.”
Danger is a factor in Johnson’s daily routine. “One day (another) helicopter almost hit us,” she said. “The (pilot) didn’t communicate and cut us off (above) Rancho Peñasquitos.
“A lot of the time, birds or hawks will fly too close,” Johnson said. “If it broke our tail rotor, we would just spin.”
Aside from the danger, Johnson loves the job because she loves reporting.
“I worked in the field for three years before I went to City,” Johnson said. In 2008 and 2009, she took several Radio and Television classes. Newscene helped Johnson hone her on-air skills in front of the camera.
“(Newscene) reinforced what I learned on the job, and it gave me more structure in ad-libbing,” she said.
Johnson has a bachelor’s degree from U.S.D. in communications. Her advice for City College students aspiring to work in news, particularly as reporters, is to take as many television performance classes as possible.
“The teachers want to help you, and they have contacts,” said Johnson. “It’s good because it’s hands-on.” She suggests getting as involved as possible because classes offer the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them without getting fired.
Johnson, who aspires to be a news anchor, knows that most people with on-air reporting jobs started off in a small town at a small station.
“I’m really tied to San Diego,” Johnson said. “My situation is different.”
Climbing the ladder in San Diego is not impossible. Lisa Lake, a former City College student who now teaches on campus, was a 10 News anchor for several years.
When Johnson’s chopper is on the ground, she does her reporting from Gillespie Field in El Cajon. Either freezing or roasting in a little office located in an airplane hangar, she starts each broadcast with a smile that can be heard on air.
Johnson’s drive and ambition are on par with others in TV news, but her pleasant personality is extraordinary and welcoming.
“I first met her a couple of years ago,” said Alexis Heller, a 6 a.m. producer at News 8 who called Johnson “a very nice person.”
“(It is) funny to hear stories such as that she reports in sweats many times – things that I . would not expect from someone who reported for a TV station,” Heller said.