Most journalists don’t have to be pulled out of school by their mothers to cover an appearance by President Bush. But then most journalists aren’t 12 years old, like Johnta Austin, Real News For Kids’ Atlanta bureau chief.
Austin, one of Real News’ youngest reporters, covers about two stories a month, including Bush’s campaign stop in Atlanta in late October. Austin, who is paid union scale of at least $350 per day, is justifiably proud that he hasn’t made any embarrassing on-air gaffes so far. ”Although,” he divulges with a giggle, ”there’s a rumor going around that I’m jinxed. When I did a story on the Georgia lottery, the cameraman almost got knifed by a drunk. On a story about a girl who plays high school football, the cameraman had his leg and hip broken when he got hit by a football player. No one wants to go out on a story with me anymore.”
Although he has become an adept interviewer, adding his own questions to the CNN producers’ scripts, Austin says he doesn’t want to stay in the reporting business forever. ”I’ve been in the studio recording a (singing) demo,” says the wunderkind by phone from an Atlanta audition for a bit part on CBS’ In the Heat of the Night. Given his effect on cameramen, maybe he should stick with music.