A television broadcasting legend in New Orleans, Phil Johnson worked for nearly 40 years at the city’s top-ranked CBS affiliate, WWL-TV. During his career, he served as promotion director, documentary producer, news directors, assistant general manager, and editorialist. Johnson retired from WWL-TV in 1999.
A graduate of New Orleans’ Jesuit High School (1946) and Loyola University (1950), Johnson began his journalism career at the now defunct Item newspaper. His print experience also included a brief stint in print journalism in Chicago, and a prestigious Neiman Fellowship at Harvard University in 1959. He would return home, at the dawn of the local television era, taking a position as promotion director at WWL-TV in 1960, just three years after the station signed on the air.
As a professional communicator Johnson received countless honors and awards. His writing and narration of television documentaries earned him an Emmy and three George Foster Peabody Awards: in 1970, for a documentary called “Israel: The New Frontier;” in 1972, for “China ’72: A Hole in the Bamboo Curtain,” which featured footage filmed by the first non-network American news team allowed into the Communist nation in almost 25 years; and in 1982, for “The Search for Alexander.” Johnson also served as a war correspondent, reporting for the station from Vietnam, Beirut and Israel.
New Orleans viewers may know him best for the 10,000 broadcast editorials he produced throughout his tenure as editorialist at WWL-TV, presenting the station’s editorial opinion on local, state and national topics from 1962 to 1999.
In 1997, Johnson was named to the New Orleans Broadcasting Hall of Fame and merited a Lifetime Achievement Award from his peers in the Press Club of New Orleans.
In 1999, Johnson’s alma mater, Loyola University New Orleans, awarded him its Integritas Vitae Award, the university’s highest honor for an individual “with a high moral character in a lifetime of unselfish service without exception of material award or public recognition.”
The editorials in this collection were authored by Phil Johnson during his long career at WWL-TV and aired on the station as a regular nightly presentation from March, 1962 through July, 1999. Following his retirement Johnson returned to deliver infrequent editorials at Christmas, and on the occasion of a colleague’s death.
WWL-TV was established by Loyola University New Orleans in 1957 and owned by the university until 1990.
The collection chronicles the 36-year political history of New Orleans and Louisiana from 1962-1999. All editorials were written and delivered by Johnson unless otherwise noted in the index. Please refer to the index key of designations.
Special Collections and Archives, located on the third floor of Monroe Library, is open for research and quiet study Monday-Friday, 9:00-4:30.
Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.