Herlife Magazine — March 2013
Keeper of the World’s Diary
On-location assistant jennifer mccarthy Norton
Can you spot the common denominator among the following events that have transformed a nation, challenged a community, shocked a world, or broken down barriers? What instinctively comes to mind when you reflect upon the tragedies of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the Summer Olympics of 2012, the recent presidential inauguration, or the Newtown, Connecticut shootings? What all of these – and so many more life-altering stories – have in common is the voice of one individual who has become the intrinsic vessel of communication as she reports on events and issues of the day that at times seem surreal and unimaginable. These stories are the foundation upon which Chris Jansing, internationally recognized MSNBC anchor, reporter and host of Jansing & Co, airing each weekday at 10 a.m., is creating the world’s diary.
Despite her obvious beauty, she is less the face of the news and more the voice, the one persuaded by analysis, insight and reason, balanced artfully with sentiments that sometimes allow the heart to trump the intellect. While every seasoned news reporter or anchor knows the basic tenet of keeping a certain professional distance from every story, there are still those moments that defy such a standard. Even the best among them cannot always escape the realities of unspeakable tragedies as well as breath-taking triumphs as those standards sometimes waver and the emotional element of reporting the news takes a front seat.
When Chris was on location reporting on the horrific shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, last December, keeping a dry eye throughout the nearly weeklong broadcast was almost impossible. “You cannot interview people directly affected by such a thing and not feel the pain they are feeling. As a reporter, I have to allow that to happen so I can communicate the emotion authentically to the viewers,” Chris emphasized. “You meet family members of the victims; you meet members of the community. You cry with them. At times, it can be a challenge to find the balance of being a communicator and establishing that necessary distance.”
On the flip side, there are also those moments of celebratory pomp and circumstance, when inspiration surrounds you and the moments in which you find yourself leave you breathless and on the edge of unbridled excitement.
Take the Olympics, for example. When Gabby Douglas rose to fame as the first African-American to win gold in the individual all-around event, as well as the team gold medal with the U.S. Olympics Women’s Gymnastics Team in 2012, Chris was able to share that moment with the young athlete and her family, a moment forever etched in her memory. “When I covered the Olympics, I was honored to see the best in the world, competing among the best through blood, sweat and tears, and to be there in that moment of glory, to share with the family that one single moment which becomes a life-changing event.”
A native of Fairport Harbor, Ohio, Chris Jansing, née Kapostasy (although divorced, she continues to use her married name of Jansing for ease of pronunciation among viewers), was the youngest of 12 children, raised by two loving and supportive parents in a 900-square-foot home that, despite its size, was capable of housing a remarkable amount of love, support and guidance from her family over the years.
A graduate of Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, where she initially majored in political science but ultimately transitioned to broadcast journalism, Chris worked for the college radio station and the newspaper, where the rush of announcing that highly-anticipated upcoming concert was all the adrenalin she needed at the time to fuel her professional desire to share events and stories with the world. “There is such a rush and a thrill with reporting news and witnessing history, and in these days of instant feedback through online forums, it’s exciting to see the impact on the viewers of what I am reporting,” she noted.
After graduating college in 1978 and finding her footing through an internship at a cable station in Columbus, Ohio, she relocated to Albany shortly thereafter, where she secured a job in radio at a little station in Ticonderoga called WIPS. “I just loved it,” she recalled. “I was never a morning person, however, so my dad would call me every morning to make sure I was up and at work on time.”
For Chris, her $90-a-week salary with the $20 gas allowance was a slice of Heaven on earth. “I was renting a small, uninsulated summer home and living on next to nothing when it came to food, but I was having the time of my life. You know you are embracing your calling when you get up every day and are filled with excitement, which is how I continue to awaken each and every day,” she emphasized.
Although she had never thought about a career in television and confesses that she never saw herself as a natural on-camera talent, viewers would tend to disagree, as she has a natural way of embracing authenticity and believability. Plus, she subscribes to the basic tenets of journalism that command its students to do their homework and report with unwavering accuracy and fairness.
She was eventually invited to join the team at WNYT-TV in Albany. Shortly after being hired, she became the weekend anchor and eventually the co-anchor of the evening news. Chris stayed with the station for 17 years total, 11 of those years as the main anchor, earning her place among award-winning journalists with numerous honors and distinctions in journalism, including two Emmys. She also found a second home in the Capital Region, a place where everyone knew her name and treated her like family, and still does. “I have been blessed by the friends I have made in the Capital Region. They have been so amazing and supportive and have truly made me feel like an integral part of their families,” she smiled.
As she reflects upon such gratitude, she champions publications such as HERLIFE Magazine for fostering a sense of community and for establishing a genuine connection among its readers. “I appreciate the power of local news and how people appreciate and understand the lifestyles portrayed in that type of reporting,” she noted, “HERLIFE is a great means by which to address those common issues and events in people’s lives.”
Chris joined NBC News in 1998, where she has since covered major breaking stories such as the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the shootings in Tucson, Arizona and Aurora, Colorado, the nuclear disaster in Japan, the royal wedding in 2011 and the beatification of Pope John Paul II. She has reported for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and the TODAY Show, filing reports from all points around the world. She has also been a correspondent for Dateline NBC, Rock Center, and a substitute anchor for Weekend TODAY and the weekend edition of NBC Nightly News. While she openly confesses she never aspired to climb the proverbial ladder of success, setting incremental goals in her pursuit of acquiring a coveted position in her field, she remains humbly self-effacing as she discusses her rise to fame, a professional level she embraces more with responsibility than with ego.
Despite the frenetic pace at which Chris works and the long hours she keeps, one might think that getting a good night’s sleep is often an elusive concept. However, she likens herself to a sleep professional and admits that falling asleep – and staying there – is really quite easy. “Unless the stories on which I have reported have been particularly compelling or tragic, I can easily get to sleep at night and not let the events of the day affect me. I sleep well,” she noted.
A reporter at heart, Chris briefly relocated to Los Angeles for over two years in 2008, transitioning from being 90% anchor and 10% reporter to completely the opposite. “There is something exciting about being out in the field and reporting from the trenches,” she noted. She never really left MSNBC while in Los Angeles, however, as she would routinely commute back to New York to fill in as the weekend anchor for TODAY, eventually moving permanently back east to anchor for MSNBC as well as for Weekend TODAY.
Reflecting on what seems like a somewhat magical career for her, Chris can clearly see how things have changed since she first set foot into the fast-paced world of international news. Most importantly, the rapid advancements in technology require a different mindset when approaching the idea of going into journalism. “If you are considering entering this field today, you have to have more of an awareness of exactly where you want to go,” she commented.
Chris is undoubtedly the hardest-working woman in journalism and always comes to the news desk fully prepared. Her show may not start until 10 a.m., but she is up by 4 a.m. and doing her research for the day’s show by 5 a.m. “You have to be prepared to ask the right questions,” she said.
Chris expresses no regrets over the life she has been given. “Blessed” is an understatement when it comes to how she feels about the privilege she has been afforded to report the news of the day. However, she does wish she had kept a journal along the way, documenting the milestones of her incredible career. To compensate, she did initiate a personal blog two years ago, through which she updates family and friends with what is happening in both her professional and personal lives. In fact, she encourages individuals to do the same. “You owe it to yourself to keep track of events and reflect upon your life, to see where you have been and to look back on the situations that have led you to where you are today and who you are today,” she emphasized. After a brief pause, she reflected, “In a sense, I journal and chronicle for my job, keeping the world’s diary.”
When not compiling the life story of the world at large, Chris enjoys the simple pleasures of cooking and baking for family and friends. She loves to indulge her Hungarian roots and exercise her culinary skills by creating recipes of her heritage. She also enjoys walking through the city and just feeling a part of such a huge world to which we are all connected in some way, shape or form.
As for what the future holds for this ambitious professional, behind every potential door stands a welcoming opportunity, and when opportunity knocks to experience something new and different, Chris Jansing won’t complain about the noise. She will boldly get the door.
Nevertheless, she still holds fast to her roots, which have continually provided her with the down-home sensibilities and authenticity that still make up the DNA of her endearing personality. As her late father lovingly and with tongue-in-cheek used to tell her, “If you ever lose your job, you can always come back home.”
That feeling of home, of knowing you are right where you are supposed to be at any given moment, is pivotal to Chris’ success, and, no matter where she ventures, Chris always seems to find a way to make that place a part of her foundation.
“I love the adventure of it all,” she smiled.
For more information on Chris Jansing, go online at tv.msnbc/com/shows/jansing-co.
Chris found a second home in the Capital Region, a place where everyone knew her name and treated her like family, and still does. “I have been blessed by the friends I have made in the Capital Region. They have been so amazing and supportive and have truly made me feel like an integral part of their families,” she smiled.