Eric Johnson (’84 Comm.) and his longtime video editor Darrin Tegman (’91 Comm.) are huddled over a computer screen at KOMO-TV, putting the final touches on the latest installment of “Eric’s Heroes,” a popular weekly feature. This particular entry concerns a skier who miraculously found and rescued a snowboarder buried in snow on Mount Baker. The men’s growing friendship is as important to the story as the rescue.
Johnson has been at KOMO in Seattle since 1993, first as weekend sports anchor, then sports director, and now news anchor. His “Heroes” broadcasts, more than 280 since 2016, are a highlight, he says, featuring “sweetness, decency, and kindness” in contrast to the often-distressing nightly news.
Topics range from a young woman with cancer who became a cancer researcher to a couple who dressed to the nines to dance ballroom style in empty parking lots during the pandemic. He’s featured a man who engages in football tosses with strangers on the street, the country’s oldest nurse, a former band teacher with brain cancer who got his wish to ride in a 1977 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and numerous children and adults with special needs spreading joy and love.
“In this corner of the great Northwest, there are funky characters and free spirits seemingly around every corner,” he says.
Before there were “Eric’s Heroes,” there were “Eric’s Little Heroes,” which Johnson began at KGW 8 TV in Portland in the early 1990s. “I said to the cameraman on a slow day, ‘Go to a T-ball game and see if anything funny happens.’ Lots of funny things did happen, including a little boy whose coach told him to ‘go to second’ after he caught a ball in the outfield. The boy dropped the ball and ran to second.
“We made it our trademark,” Johnson says of the continuation of “Eric’s Little Heroes” at KOMO. “It was creative, fun, and wholesome.” He and his cameraman went to swim meets and soccer games, hockey contests and basketball competitions. He reported all the humor and mayhem in his measured, melodious voice like an announcer for professional sports.
Johnson was a young sports enthusiast himself when he decided to become a sports reporter. “It was the Rams vs. the Vikings on Monday Night Football in 1971 and Howard Cosell was announcing. I was ten years old. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I was all in.”
He pretended to do play-by-play announcements as he played the Super Star Baseball board game. He did his own analysis of the games he watched on TV on his cassette recorder. At East Valley High School in Spokane, he played baseball and football and wrestled, while preparing for a journalism career on the school newspaper and debate team.
At Washington State University, he played baseball—“with limited success,” he says—and did sportscasts on KWSU radio. He became a “disciple” of Glenn Johnson, longtime WSU professor and “Voice of the Cougs,” who was demanding but “cared enough to get me ready for this tough business.” As he did for many of his students, Glenn Johnson visited Eric Johnson at his first TV job in Boise.
Johnson moved from Boise to Spokane, then Portland, laser-focused on his goal of getting to the Seattle market. In his 30 years at KOMO, he’s won more than 50 Emmys and 7 national Edward R. Murrow Awards. As a sportscaster, he covered the 1995 Mariners playoff run, 1979 Sonics national championship, 2014 Seahawks Super Bowl win, and, most enthusiastically, WSU’s Rose Bowl games in 1998 and 2003. Now a news anchor, he’s “more of a fan.”
WSU also runs in his family. Daughter Grace graduated in May 2023 with a marketing degree. While wife Monique and son Jack didn’t attend WSU, each, he says, “has the heart of a Coug.”