Reporter Jonathan “JJ” Burton | SCSU JRN ’11

Jonathan Burton made the jump from newspapers to television news, and hasn’t looked back. After graduating from Southern in 2011 with a B.S. in journalism, Burton started his career with the Middletown Press. He then switched to television news, working on the assignment desk at WTNH in New Haven, and then on-air jobs at WTOC in Savannah, Georgia, and KOKI in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Currently, he works for ABC Action News WFTS in Tampa Bay, Florida as a reporter.

Interview by Bradley Robidoux, SCSU JRN ‘23. Answers were condensed and edited 2022.

Was TV reporting what you wanted to after graduating college? 

I sort of planned my entire life out from about 10 years old. I wanted to learn newspaper reporting first and I wanted to get a job in newspapers for at least about a year or two. But, always TV. 

I would have still been a reporter: That was going to happen regardless. There is nothing else in this life that I wanted to do, or want to do. And I still love it. I think I love it now more than ever before.

What is your job like each day? 

We go in at 9 in the morning, to the morning meeting and pitch our stories. Then I get with my photographer and plan out what we’re going to do. And sometimes I might go shoot an interview, or he’ll get video himself, or we’ll just go together. We usually do one story, and we get the entire day to work on it. 

Is there a story from Tulsa or Savannah you look back fondly on?

So, I was in Savannah. It was my first  Emmy nomination actually, and it was a story about a casino ship that was stuck in the middle of the ocean on a sandbar. 

It was its maiden voyage and we just started using the backpacks and my boss called me. It was like 4 in the morning and she’s like, “We need you to get in and we need to get a boat. Because the casino ship.” I’m in bed and this is my first on-air job. I’m like, “Well, how am I suppose get a boat?” Like, that’s impossible. But somehow, I managed to get a boat and we were live out there all day from about 7 a.m. until about 6 p.m.

Is there a piece of advice you would give to journalism students?

If I wasn’t a reporter, I would feel empty and just unaccomplished. If you’re doing something that has to do with journalism and it completely fills you up and you feel good about yourself and about life, do it and don’t do anything else. I get to go to bed and I get to wake up every day happy to go to work. So if that’s how it makes you feel, you got to do it.