David Ono: L.A. to Katrina, Haiti and beyond

By Christian Manoukian

The Society of Professional Journalists on Thursday hosted ABC7 Eyewitness News co-anchor David Ono.

Ono, who has been the evening co-anchor for 21 years, said that while he enjoys spending time in the studio behind the anchor desk, what he finds more rewarding is “getting out and seeing the world and reporting back on fascinating stories that I occasionally run into.”

He has covered Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and Japan’s tsunami.

“From my experiences covering Katrina and this tsunami and many other tsunamis, water is the most destructive force on our planet,” said Ono. “It’s unbelievably powerful.”

He traveled to Hiroshima, Japan to chronicle the survivors’ stories after the atomic bomb was dropped on it during World War II.

He covered the royal wedding in London, followed the trail of drug runners through Central America and reported from Paris on a terrorist plot to destroy the Eiffel Tower, according to Ono’s web bio at KABC TV Los Angeles.

Recently, Ono surfaced in Boston, chronicling the 2013 marathon bombing. He has won three Edward R. Murrow awards and 16 Emmys.

No matter how far he’s traveled, Ono has covered a few stories over the years that stuck with him.

One such story was when he traveled to the small _ÀåÂ_Äshing town of Ofunato, Japan to track down a man who survived the 2011 tsunami and shot video of waves obliterating large parts of his town as it swept through.

He caught up with the man, who still lives in what remains of the town, to document his story of recovery.

“This feature shows you how that simple thing can be so exceptionally destructive; in less than seven minutes, this man’s whole village was wiped out,” he added.

Ono also did a feature with Associated Press photographer Nick Ut exploring the story behind Ut’s photograph of the “Napalm Girl,” the photo that arguably, according to Ono, “shortened the Vietnam War.”

“It’s a truly dynamic story because Nick just happened on that girl unintentionally, but took his photos and saw her burn wounds, he took her to the hospital, and truly because of Nick, this girl lived. They’re still friends today as a result,” explained Ono.

After Ono’s presentation of his work, he opened up the _Àå‰Û_ oor for a questionand-answer discussion with the audience.

One of the _ÀåÂ_Ärst questions he _ÀåÂ_Äelded was about what it was like to interview former President Barack Obama twice at the White House.

“It’s a great honor. Not many reporters get a phone call from the president saying, ‘Come and sit down with me,'” said Ono.

“But at the same time, you can’t let it go to your head and think, ‘I’m the best reporter there is,’ because you’re not. It’s far more strategic than that,” Ono explained. “Obama knew ABC7 had one of the best ratings in the country, so he wanted to use me because I’m the No. 1 anchor and there was a message he wanted to send to my audience.”

Ono was then re-invited by Obama to give a civil rights speech at the White House.

“That’s highly unique. Not many journalists can go to the White House and make a speech on how they perceive the world,” said Ono.

He proceeded to take questions on everything from whether or not he works on assignments alone (He does, but takes one editor with him when traveling internationally) to what his top tips are for young journalists eager to enter the _ÀåÂ_Äeld.

His advice was particularly illuminating for many of the aspiring journalists in the audience.

Ono presented the _ÀåÂ_Äeld of journalism as a series of stepping-stones.

“You’re never going to start out as an anchor, you have to work your way up. I started out making $3 an hour working the system that electronically displayed people’s names on the screen. Then I gradually graduated to reporter, screenwriter, then producer, then associate producer and then anchor,” said Ono.

Above all else, Ono advised the audience to “take internships, please!”

He explained how valuable it is to get your foot in the door and not let go.

“It’s how I ended up where I am today,” he said with a smile.

After the presentation, the leadership of SPJ was delighted that Ono was able to come and share his wisdom with everyone.

“Honestly, David’s really humble when it comes to these things. He’s just here because he really wants to help, he just wants to give to the next generation of journalists,” said Olivia Lenoir, vice president of SPJ.

She added, “With the current political climate, that advice and help is more necessary than ever.”

David Ono holds a question-and answer-discussion.

Alberto Muro / The Poly Post

David Ono holds a question-and answer-discussion.

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