John Chandler '96 always knew he had a passion for sports.
The nephew of the late, great Nev Chandler began his career at Saint Ignatius High School as the Sports Editor for The Eye and a PA announcer, working with former Athletic Director Dale Gabor '66 and Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle '69.
Over the years, John's passion has evolved into his calling, and then a dream job as a sports anchor/reporter at WNBC in New York. His work ethic has translated into plenty of success as he's covered the biggest events and some of the most recognizable faces in sports.
On Saturday, his hard work was rewarded with a New York Emmy® for his storytelling work in sports for WNBC.
"I'm surprised to get this Emmy Award," Chandler says. "New York is competitive. You have a lot of outlets, and not just locally, but plenty of national competition. The YES Network won a bunch of Emmys, Ian Eagle, a national voice won, and so did Sara Kustok, the Nets game analyst, becoming the first female to win an Emmy in her category. It's pretty intense competition. We place too much importance on awards, but it's nice to be recognized by your peers. We have a very dedicated, talented staff at WNBC that shares in this award. It's a team sport: the most important thing is that even though my name is on the award, our entire sports team is responsible for it, and we won for storytelling and features. That's what drives me."
Chandler's career began in Cleveland as a sports producer and then as a sports anchor/reporter with WEWS NewsChannel 5, following his graduation from Boston University. He covered Cleveland sports, big-time national events, and the journey of LeBron James. For his work, he earned two Emmy nominations for Best Sports Anchor and Best Sports Report.
From there, Chandler moved to Boston to work as an anchor/reporter for the New England Sports Network (NESN), WVIT (an NBC O&O, or owned-and-operated station) in Hartford, Connecticut, and WEEI radio. His wife's family is from Boston, so it was a natural transition. The move worked out well professionally, too, as he won a New England Emmy Award for Best Sports Reporting in 2010.
In January 2014, Chandler achieved his dream of working in the Rockefeller Center. He accepted a job with WNBC in New York as a sports anchor. The job wasn't just limited to sports, though.
"I always wanted to work at Rockefeller Center. It seemed like a natural progression, as I saw myself as a sports guy," Chandler says. "Though with local news here, there's less value on sports, as people get their news from Twitter and national outlets. My boss said, 'We have a real shortage on general assignment news. We need you to fill in on news.' I'm a fan of being employed, so I said 'Sure!' I've always wanted to work at NBC in New York and I've always had an interest in news, so it was great."
Chandler found himself at some of the coolest events a reporter can be cover: the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup Finals, and the World Series. Chandler also traveled with the New York Giants to deliver live updates from the road. In 2018, Chandler's work was recognized with a New York Emmy® for news writing.
As of late, however, Chandler's work looks a lot different.
With no sports happening, Chandler's boss asked him to step into a news role to cover the devastating outbreak of COVID-19. Chandler was a bit apprehensive at first, never having been in general assignment news full-time.
But Chandler did have experience in covering a tragedy.
"I was at the 2013 Boston Marathon when the bombs went off," Chandler began. "I was on Boylston Street when the first one went off. A friend from college had brought me as a fan, as the marathon is a huge part of Patriots' Day in Boston. My son, who was 2 months old, was strapped to my chest. I happened to be right there amidst chaos. I got to safety, and my wife said, 'You better go to work.' Journalism is journalism. So, I found the NBC truck and started doing reports, for whatever affiliates needed them. When my boss hired me in New York, I said 'I've never done news before.' My boss said, 'I seem to remember you doing stuff for us at the marathon.' I've always had that experience in the back of my mind. I'm leaning on that crisis-by-fire reporting experience from Boston."
Covering the coronavirus has not been an easy experience, but it's been a worthwhile one.
"It made me more aware that reporting has to be founded in good, accurate, factual info. At the end of the day, nothing else matters," Chandler says. "All bells and whistles get stripped away. We have a responsibility to deliver people the information. Information is everything. I can't go a day without being called fake news, and that's heartbreaking. People think we're going out there with agendas. We're so politically fractured, so I'm acutely aware of that. But at the end of the day, we're just trying to get information into the hands of the people who need it."
In today's world, the Emmy doesn't seem as important to him.
"It's great to get, but it's not a goal. When you do a story, you're not saying, 'That story will win something.' We may joke around about it. But today, reporting is reporting, journalism is journalism," Chandler says. "Without sports, what roles can I fill and what needs to be done? What stories need to be told?
"I struggle most with the word essential. Am I essential? Others are far more essential than I am. But I feel responsibility when I leave the house in the morning to get information to the people who need it. I want viewers to know, to see, and to access the scale of the tragedy, and how overwhelmed our healthcare professionals are. I want to take people inside so they can see how heroic these people are and how badly the patients they're treating need them."
This weekend's NFL Draft did offer a brief respite for a weary nation, and for Chandler.
For the Clevelander at heart living in Brooklyn, covering the draft allowed him to take his mind off of the pandemic, at least for a little while.
"The NFL Draft was nice to worry about, when the most important thought is, 'Did the Giants, Jets, and Browns get it right?' As a Browns fan, the draft is our Super Bowl," Chandler says. "It's nice just to worry about that and escape. I look forward when sports is top of mind again."