Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Joshua Johnson's New NBC News Show: A Space for Opposing Views to Meet

Joshua Johnson

Joshua Johnson wants the information superhighway to be more than a one-way street.

The out journalist says his new show, Now Tonight With Joshua Johnson, premiering Monday on the streaming platform NBC News Now, will be a place where people of varying opinions can come together and, if not agree, at least see and hear one another.

“We’ve got a unique lane that we’re trying to occupy on the air,” he tells The Advocate, noting that many sources of political news and commentary tend to focus on a single ideological point of view. His show will instead be a space “where absolutely everyone is welcome,” he says.

Now Tonight is very much in the vein of 1A,” the public radio talk show he hosted for several years, where he gave airtime to people on different sides of issues. While not ignoring when guests or callers spouted racism, homophobia, or other heinous views, he attempted through conversation to give them “a chance to reconsider what they think,” he said in 2019.

With the new program, he says now, “We can pull the sides together and say we have to have a conversation. When we’re yelling at each other, we can’t talk to each other.”

Any topic will be fair game for Now Tonight, Johnson says. The show will respond to news of the day and also dive into long-standing issues, featuring expert guests and taking questions and comments from the audience via email and voice mail. Most of the show will be live, but there will be some taped segments; for instance, he’s already taped an interview with Brené Brown, author of Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience.

The coverage will definitely include LGBTQ+ issues, he says, adding that those issues intersect with many others. “LGBTQ stories could weave in, in ways you may not expect,” he says. “We’ve entered a period when we can say these are stories like any other.”

His passion for bringing all sides together to talk to one another sprang out of an LGBTQ+ story that made headlines in 1998, when he was a freshman at the University of Miami. The Miami-Dade County Commission was considering the reinstatement of its gay rights ordinance — the one repealed by voters egged on by entertainer Anita Bryant’s antigay activism in 1977. He encountered people demonstrating both for and against the ordinance, and he says he realized, “I just want to talk to these people. … I want to be the conduit between these two sides.”

“It kind of set me on a path that was inexorable,” he adds.

Johnson joined NBC in 2020, anchoring The Week With Joshua Johnson on MSNBC. That show ended in September, and since then he’s been busy preparing for Now Tonight’s launch.

He’s found NBC and its various entities to be welcoming of diverse viewpoints and identities. He recalls saying at one point, “I am a big Black gay dude with muscles and a motorcycle and a Mohawk.” One executive couldn’t understand why Johnson felt the need to say that. “They wanted me as I am, and that’s amazing,” he says.

In addition to his journalistic acumen, Johnson is known for his love of so-called geek culture, such as superhero movies and video games. He recently bought a PlayStation 5, and gaming on it “is kind of a good barometer of how much brain power I actually have left,” he says.

Johnson, who is in a relationship, also spends his free time exploring his adopted city of New York as the pandemic eases. His home base for work is the fabled 30 Rockefeller Plaza, “which is such a trip,” he says.

He touts Now Tonight with earnest enthusiasm. “I think we’re going to have a great program,” he says. He actually wishes the lane it will occupy would become more crowded, saying, “I wish this lane was full.” He wants viewers to know “whoever you are, wherever you’re from, you’re welcome.”

 

Now Tonight With Joshua Johnson will stream live Monday through Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern on NBC News Now, available on Peacock (NBCUniversal’s streaming service) as well as on Fubo, Pluto, Samsung TV Plus, the Roku Channel, Tubi, Xumo, YouTube, YouTube TV, and NBC News’ apps on Roku, Fire TV, and Apple TV. Episodes will be archived. It can also be viewed at NBCNews.com/now; follow the show on Twitter @NBCNowTonight.

Tags: Media, News

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