Emmy-winning sports anchor loves sharing stories
By Michael Sudhalter
In just 11 years as a sports broadcaster, WFAA ABC-TV Sports Anchor Jonah Javad has won six Emmys and five Edward R. Murrow Awards. The 33-year-old is nominated for several more Emmys this month.
As he’s grown in his career, the awards are more about the people whose stories he’s sharing — rather than his own accomplishments.
“When you’re younger, you’re competitive and you want all of those awards and accolades,” Javad said. “The most rewarding part now is telling the families or the kids that their story is Emmy-nominated or Emmy Award-winning. I usually stay in touch with these folks and it’s special for them to hear that some people found their story so inspiring that it won an award.”
Javad, who considers himself “culturally Jewish,” is at the top of his game, because he has a good work-life balance. The Rockwall citizen and his wife, Nalina Shapiro, are expecting their first child this fall.
“I used to live to work, but now I work to live,” Javad said. “Having better balance has made me a better husband, broadcaster, friend and hopefully, a better father.”
Although a formidable and serious storyteller, Javad likes to cut loose on occasion — like when he chose the theme of an obscure 1990s television show, “California Dreams,” for the broadcast to coincide with the Cowboys’ arrival in Oxnard and a Rangers win over the Dodgers.
Or when he rusted off a lovable accent from his native Massachusetts — to narrate highlights from the Rangers-Red Sox series finale.
Javad has worked in the Dallas-Fort Worth market for 5½ years and credits his mentor and friend, the venerable Dale Hansen, with hiring him at WFAA. Hansen retired from WFAA in 2021 after nearly four decades with the station.
“Dale gave us the platform to be our authentic selves,” Javad said. “It’s hard to be the older man in a changing new industry and he still managed to make it work. It was a credit to him and his ability to adapt.”
Growing up in the Boston area
Javad was born in Boston in 1990 and grew up in nearby Newton, the son of a Jewish mother and a spiritual but not religious father.
He attended Hebrew school at The Sunday School for Jewish Studies in Brookline — the hometown of former Cubs and Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Javad studied for a bar mitzvah but performed it before an informal setting of friends and family at home, in 2003.
“I think my parents were really good about making sure I was a well-rounded kid,” Javad said. “They’re both well-educated and had seen a lot of the world. A lot of that rubbed off on me at a young age. The things they stood for in our family and their compassion for others impacted me.”
Whether he knew it or not at the time, the concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) had taken root with Javad.
“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has always meant a great deal to me,” Javad said. “I’ve always believed in giving back if you can, and if you can’t, just give your time.”
Javad is also involved with 26 Shirts, a Buffalo nonprofit, as well as “anything involving animal rescue,” he says.
As a child of the 1990s and early 2000s, Javad was enthralled with ESPN “SportsCenter,” watching it several times throughout the day.
“Becoming a sports broadcaster became my dream about 20 years ago when I realized I wasn’t going to be a 6-foot-8 basketball player,” Javad said. “I wanted to be around sports, but I needed a new path. I played sports, watched sports in my free time and collected sports cards. To do anything else would be disingenuous.”
Ironically, Javad did not grow up a Boston sports fan — during a golden era for its franchises. Between 2001 and 2011, Boston experienced seven major sports championships.
Javad stuck with the perennially mediocre (and sometimes, worse) Cincinnati Bengals because he liked their team colors when he was 7. He stuck with the Ohio-based franchise even when jumping on the Belichick-Brady Bandwagon would have made for a smoother ride.
Javad’s father recognized his tween son’s love of sports and brought him to the offices of NewTV, the public access television station for the city of Newton.
“I credit that experience for a lot of my success,” Javad said. “I learned about the technical aspect of television as well as directing, lighting and cameras. It gave me the opportunity to see and do things at a really young age. I didn’t have to wait until I got to high school.”
Javad continued his journey at NewTV as he enrolled at Newton North High School, gradually taking on more responsibility. He eventually hosted a Newton-focused sports show.
Javad recently watched footage of his earliest broadcasts. He was humbled by how much he’s improved over the years and a bit embarrassed at how inexperienced he was at the time. Javad solemnly swears that the footage won’t ever see the light of day outside his household.
Journey to broadcasting
By the time Javad began thinking about college, it was clear that sports broadcasting was in his future. He applied to the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, known for producing the likes of Bob Costas and Mike Tirico.
Javad was accepted into Syracuse but told that he’d have to apply to Newhouse after he enrolled on campus.
It ended up being a blessing in disguise.
Javad visited the University of Missouri (Mizzou) — where one of his favorite ESPN anchors, John Anderson, was a graduate. He was accepted into the Missouri School of Journalism and traded the Northeast for the Midwest.
“I hit the ground running,” Javad said. “On my third day on campus, I was working for the student-run television network. We covered all University of Missouri sports and we had a large staff. Looking back, I could not have imagined attending another school.”
Javad’s time at Mizzou cemented the fact that he writes all of his own content. He won’t read anything on-air written by someone else.
It was also in Columbia, Missouri, that Javad developed a love of playing golf. On his off-days, he can usually be found on one of the Metroplex’s many courses — including Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Buffalo Creek in Rockwall, Prairie Lakes in Grand Prairie and many more.
Javad’s senior year of 2011-2012 was especially productive. He worked at KOMU NBC-TV, which is run by the University of Missouri and part of its broadcast journalism curriculum. He won the first of his Emmys and Murrow Awards at KOMU.
Working at the No. 137 television market gave Javad the launching pad to begin his post-collegiate career in the No. 54 television market of Buffalo the following year (and eventually, the No. 5 TV market of DFW).
He was also the Mizzou journalism student selected to deliver the commencement speech as a graduating senior in Spring 2012.
“It’s one of those moments that I’ll look back on one day and be really proud,” Javad said. “The Missouri School of Journalism produces a ton of talent, so it was special to share some words with the graduates.”
Asking Javad to pick his favorite story is like asking a parent to tell you which one of their children is their favorite.
There is one tale that Javad shared, because it was a poignant story that followed him from Buffalo to Dallas.
While in Buffalo, Javad covered the story of Ezra “Pancho Billa” Castro, who was battling cancer. Javad’s broadcast helped raise approximately $2,000 for Castro, courtesy of the notably charitable “Bills Mafia” fanbase.
Fast-forward, Javad moved from Buffalo to the Dallas area — where Castro lived. Castro had picked the Bills over the hometown Cowboys in the 1980s because “he liked their colors.” Much like Javad would nearly two decades later, Castro stuck with the lesser team despite the success of the hometown franchise.
By the time Javad arrived in Dallas, Castro’s cancer had progressed to the point where the prognosis was not good.
“He was more than glad to tell his story as long as it helped somebody else,” Javad said. “ I spent time getting to know him and his family, friends and approach to life. Sadly, he passed away in May 2019.”
Javad relished his time in Buffalo, where he met his wife — then a news anchor at another television station. Although it’s in the Northeast, Buffalo has a far different character than Boston, with just two professional franchises — the Bills and the NHL’s Sabres — and colder weather.