Milwaukee Talks: WISN-TV anchor/reporter Jason Newton
In just a few years, Channel 12 anchor and reporter Jason Newton has become a familiar and respected face in local news thanks especially to his commanding and high-profile presence on one of the top-rated 10 p.m. newscasts.
While some think he's been here longer – as you'll read below, he was often mistaken for his predecessor at the station – Newton arrived with his wife April and then-infant son Jonas from Jason's native Maryland in 2007.
Since then, a second son has arrived, and the Newtons have sunk roots deep into Cream City soil. That connection to Milwaukee means Newton is less receptive than many of his colleagues to job offers from outside the city.
In this latest installment of Milwaukee Talks, Newton tells us about how he came to love Milwaukee and what his days (and nights) are like here now.
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell us about when you got started here?
Jason Newton: I came in 2007 and started doing weekend mornings with Portia (Young) and Lyra (O'Brien), and then it shuffled up after that. It was weird coming into that position, because the guy before me – DeMarco (Morgan) – was so loved. So, out in the community people would say, "Hey DeMarco." I'm like, "no I'm Jason." "Oh, DeMarco I saw you this morning with Portia." "No, it wasn't DeMarco."
OMC: I know that this is the kind of job in which you have to move around to an extent, but is it more tempting to stay put now that you have kids?
JS: Definitely. You become more comfortable because of them. My first thought when it comes to moving to a different job now is, alright, so that means Jonas will have to change schools and then they have to get used to new friends; they've made all these friends in the neighborhood. So that becomes a new factor now. As a single guy, you're like, "I'll go to Hawaii if I want to and report there." But it's a whole new way of thinking. As with everything in life now with kids.
OMC: Do you still think about it?
JN: It would have to be something really, really good for me to decide we'll move, and I feel like it would have to happen before the kids were old enough to have those really tight friends like where, you know, you go to games together and all that kind of stuff. I think my dream would be to be in a city where family could see us; where my mother is able to see me on a nightly basis.
OMC: Are they still in Baltimore? Would that be a place you'd consider, then?
JN: They're still in Baltimore. If there was any call I would take it definitely would be Baltimore.
OMC: So, how did you get to Milwaukee? You were working in Maryland before, weren't you?
JN: I knew nothing about Milwaukee. I knew "Happy Days" and that was about it. When my agent first told me about the job, I had gotten out of television. I had worked in Salisbury, Md., for seven, eight years. And I figured, it's close to home, I'll stay here and make a career out of it. And then there were changes within that company. A guy came in and began anchoring the show that I was anchoring. So, I got shuffled to another position. I said, alright, well maybe this is a sign, and so I went to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and taught kids how to use cameras and report and that kind of thing and then still had the itch.
OMC: So you went looking for a job?
JN: I hired an agent. I wasn't out that long, but long enough that I wasn't sure what to do. I said to him the only stipulation is I want to be on the East Coast. I'm an East Coast guy. So he calls back and is like, "Great, I've got something. Milwaukee!"
And I had no idea. The first day I flew in for the interview, it started to remind me of Baltimore a lot. And people always talk about the nice Midwestern people.
OMC: Did you find that to be the case?
JN: Oh, yeah! But I didn't believe it. I was like, you don't have to sell me on it, I'll figure it out on my own. It was weird at first.
OMC: When you came to Milwaukee the first time were you sold on it right away?
JN: Yeah, the interview I was sold on. I think the best thing I did, I rented a car. I was just going to take a cab. I was staying at the Ambassador. I figured, you know, I'm just going to drive around and see what this is about because my vision was farm fields and dairy cows and that stuff. (Laughs.) But I drove 794 up the lakefront, went up by Bayshore and then circled back. It was summer. If I'd have come in a blizzard, you'd have never seen me. (Laughs).
OMC: If you came here in winter, even if it wasn't terrible, you might think there's not a whole lot going on. But in summer there's so much going on. It's more obvious.
JN: Oh yeah, and everyone is outside. You have to find stuff in the winter. In the summer people are outside and not just cruising. They're working out, they've got the kids out, they're walking the dog. Even when we go down to the air show – and we've gone every year – it becomes like this big family reunion thing. And I think that's the whole Midwestern "your family is my family" thing. I don't know why that doesn't happen other places but I think that's what we enjoy.
OMC: Were you married at the time?
JN: Yeah, we were married at the time but only had one child.
OMC: Your wife is from Marquette (Mich.), isn't she?
JN: She's from the UP. That was a big part. I think that she knew about how cold it got in the winter. She was prepared. I knew East Coast snow, but I didn't know this kind of thing. It was good to know that she had an idea what we were in for but it was also good to know we had a safety valve so that when things got a little bit too unfamiliar we could always drive up to her parents' place and just sorta relax and cool out. There's family there. That first year we did that more often than I thought we would. As years have progressed it's sort of fallen off. Because of the comfort level and now we have two kids.
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