The following was sent out from sunherald.com:
Longtime digital content leader Renee Johnson became WLOX-TV’s news director this month – three decades after she first fell in love with journalism as a high school student on the Mississippi Coast. Johnson, who grew up in Ocean Springs, took over the role after former news director Brad Kessie left in October to lead WOOD TV8 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Johnson said she will expand WLOX’s local coverage and grow its digital streaming channels.
And she said local journalism is deeply important on the Coast. “The future of all news is more local,” Johnson said Thursday. “I feel a responsibility to help raise good journalists,” she added. “We need journalists. They play an important role. We need people who are willing to do a hard job, ask hard questions, hold powerful people responsible and inform the public.” Johnson started working at WLOX in the 1990s after a mentor match program at Ocean Springs High School sent her to the station to shadow reporters and producers.
In college, she returned home on weekends to work at the WLOX studio. She graduated from the University of South Alabama and has served as digital content manager at WLOX for the last 20 years. She said the proudest moment of her career was coverage of Hurricane Katrina. WLOX staff broadcast from the station before, during and after the storm’s landfall in 2005. Katrina battered the Coast so hard the ceiling started to peel from the newsroom, Johnson said, and once the winds died down her team drove to Highway 90 to survey the damage. “It really hit,” she said. “We were some of the first people to see this. It was our responsibility to tell people that.”
Johnson is WLOX’s first female news director. She worked closely with Kessie, who led the station for 35 years and announced in September he would step down to move closer to his hometown of Chicago. Johnson lives in Diamondhead with her husband and two children.