Jennifer Johnson, Anchor, WHAM Rochester

Jennifer Johnson, Anchor, WHAM Rochester

jenJennifer took the plunge into early morning news in 2010. It was the one shift she had never worked. Once she became a mom she realized there’s no time for sleep anyway so why not work a schedule that allows her more time with her kids?

She’s been in the business since 2000 and covering news in Rochester since 2002. She anchored the 7 PM and 11 PM news at WHEC-TV before coming to 13WHAM ABC and FOX Rochester. The story she became a journalist to tell came in 2006. It was a news conference in Washington DC to kick-off an awareness campaign about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Jennifer was sick with CFS for five years beginning at age 16. She went from being a three-sport varsity athlete to being so sick she missed her junior and senior years of high school and had to be tutored at home. Researchers say CFS patients experience a level of disability equal to those going through chemotherapy, have advanced stage AIDS or Muscular Dystrophy, but for years the public had little sympathy for CFS patients. A 1994 Boston Globe article about Jennifer’s’ battle helped take away some of the stigma. For Jennifer, seeing how information can lead to understanding and tolerance made her want to be a journalist.

Midway through her pregnancy with her second child, Jennifer and her husband Vinnie learned the baby had a defect called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). The case was severe and the baby was given a 23% chance to survive. They researched hospitals nationwide and were relieved to find that Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong in Rochester had the specialized equipment and experienced team their baby needed. Grace was born in the fall of 2011, underwent several surgeries, spent time on a heart-lung bypass machine and went home after 72 days in the NICU. Through TV coverage, her story inspired countless people to support Golisano Children’s Hospital – a place Vinnie and Jennifer credit for saving their daughter again and again. But it wasn’t meant to be. Grace passed away in February of 2013 at the age of 16 months after complications from her 5th surgery. The community’s love for Grace continues as people pledge support for the new Golisano Children’s Hospital. A NICU room and Healing Garden were built in her name. The overall impact of Grace and her story have brought in roughly $2 million dollars for the hospital – continuing to make it better for the child and families who will need it in the future.

Jennifer grew up outside of Boston and graduated from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Rochester is her home now along with her husband and two young daughters.