John Hockenberry

John Hockenberry
Born John Charles Hockenberry
(1956-06-04) June 4, 1956
Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
Education Studied math at University of Chicago
Studied music at University of Oregon
Occupation Television journalist/Author
Years active 1980–present
Notable credit(s) HEAT with John Hockenberry, Talk of the Nation, ABC News, Dateline NBC, The Infinite Mind, Edgewise, Hockenberry, The Takeaway
Spouse(s) Alison Craiglow Hockenberry (1995-present)
Children 5

John Charles Hockenberry (born June 4, 1956) is an American journalist and author, a four-time Emmy Award winner and three-time Peabody Award winner. Since April 2008, Hockenberry has been host of The Takeaway, a live national news program created by Public Radio International and WNYC New York.

Hockenberry has reported from all over the world, reporting on a wide variety of stories in virtually every medium for more than three decades. He has written dozens of magazine and newspaper articles, a play, and two books, including the bestselling memoir Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the novel A River Out Of Eden.[1] He has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Wired, The Columbia Journalism Review, Metropolis, and The Washington Post.

Hockenberry has appeared as a presenter or moderator at many design and idea conferences around the world including the TED conference, the World Science Festival in New York and in Brisbane, the Mayo Clinic’s Transform Symposium and the Aspen Comedy Festival. He has been a Distinguished Fellow at the MIT Media Lab and serves on the White House Fellows Committee.

He is a prominent figure in the disability rights movement; Hockenberry sustained a spinal cord injury in a car crash at the age of 19, which left him with paraplegia from the chest down.


Early life

Hockenberry was born in Dayton, Ohio,[2] and grew up in upstate New York and Michigan. He graduated in 1974 from East Grand Rapids High School in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.[3] In 1976, he was paralyzed while hitchhiking on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.[4] The driver of the car fell asleep and crashed, killing herself. Hockenberry's spinal cord was damaged, and he remains paralyzed without sensation or voluntary movement from the mid-chest down. At the time he was a mathematics major at the University of Chicago,[5] but after his spinal cord injury, he transferred to the University of Oregon in 1980 and studied harpsichord and piano.[6]

Journalism career

Hockenberry started his career as a volunteer for the National Public Radio affiliate KLCC in Eugene, Oregon.[7] In 1981, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he was a newscaster.[8] From 1989 to 1990 he hosted a two-hour nightly news show called HEAT with John Hockenberry. During his 15 years with NPR, he covered many areas of the world, including an assignment as a Middle East correspondent, reporting on the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and 1992. Beginning in November 1991 he served as the first host of NPR's Talk of the Nation.[9]

After leaving NPR in 1992,[10] Hockenberry also worked for ABC News series Day One from 1993 to 1995, covering the civil war in Somalia and the early days of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, before joining Dateline NBC as a correspondent in 1996.

In 1995, Hockenberry published his memoir Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs and Declarations of Independence. In 1996 he appeared off-Broadway in his one-man autobiographical play, Spoke Man.[11] From 1996 to 1997 he hosted Edgewise, an eclectic news magazine program that aired on MSNBC.[12]

In 1999, he hosted Hockenberry, a show which aired on MSNBC for 6 months.[13] He also reported on the Kosovo War in 1999. His weekly radio commentaries aired on the nationally broadcast public radio program The Infinite Mind from 1998 to 2008. He also served as host on The DNA Files for the series airing in 1998, 2001, and 2007. He began developing The Takeaway in 2007 and has hosted since its 2008 premiere.[14]

Hockenberry has narrated several nonfiction projects on healthcare, including Nova series Survivor M.D.: Hearts & Minds, Who Cares: Chronic Illness in America,[15] Remaking American Medicine.[16] He also narrated the eugenics documentary War Against the Weak.

He has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, I.D., Wired,[17] The Columbia Journalism Review, Details, and The Washington Post. He published his first novel, A River Out of Eden, in 2002, and he has written about "The Blogs of War" in Wired magazine. In May 2006, he began writing his own blog, "The Blogenberry".[18] On April 2, 2008, he hosted the premiere of the series Nanotechnology: The Power of Small, discussing the impact of nanotechnology as concerns the general public.[19]

Hockenberry has appeared as presenter and moderator at numerous design and idea conferences around the nation including the Aspen Design Summit, The TED conference, the World Science Festival, and the Aspen Comedy Festival. He also regularly speaks on media, journalism, and disability issues. He was one of the founding inductees to the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame in 2005.

Media criticism

In 2005 he wrote a scathing review of the Academy Award-winning film Million Dollar Baby called "And the Loser Is..."[20] The review was submitted to a disability website with the title "Million Dollar Bigot" as an exclusive feature. The essay was discussed in news articles globally, and Hockenberry was interviewed about it on FAIR's weekly news show Counterspin.[21] A short documentary film was made, also called Million Dollar Bigot, completed on July 13, 2005, featuring Hockenberry as well as many other disability activists.[22]

Hockenberry wrote in the January 2008 Technology Review magazine that on the Sunday after the September 11 attacks he was pitching stories on the origins of al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism.[23] He wrote that then-NBC programming chief Jeff Zucker, who came into a meeting Hockenberry was having with Dateline executive producer David Corvo, said Dateline should instead focus on the firefighters and perhaps ride along with them à la COPS, a Fox reality series. According to Hockenberry, Zucker said "that he had no time for any subtitled interviews with jihadists raging about Palestine." Hockenberry has further claimed that General Electric, NBC's parent company, discouraged him from talking to the Bin Laden family about their estranged family member. Hockenberry says that he asked GE, which does business with the Bin Laden family company, to help him get in contact with them. Instead, a PR executive called Hockenberry's hotel room in Saudi Arabia and read him a statement about how GE didn't see its "valuable business relationship" with the Bin Laden Group as having anything to do with Dateline. In another instance, Hockenberry claimed a story he did about a Weather Underground member would not appear on the Sunday edition of Dateline unless the 1960s family drama American Dreams, which followed Dateline in the schedule at the time, did a show about "protesters or something."[24]

Personal life

Hockenberry currently lives in Brooklyn and in Massachusetts with his wife, Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, whom he married in 1995.[25] They have five children, including two sets of twins: Zoe, Olivia, Regan, Zachary, and Ajax.



  1. Richards, Linda L. (June 2001). Interview: John Hockenberry. January Magazine
  2. Hockenberry, John (April 18, 2007). Lessons from Jack Hockenberry. Metropolis
  3. Martinez, Shandra (November 07, 2010). East Grand Rapids High graduate and award-winning journalist John Hockenberry speaks at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
  4. Price, Nelson (September 14, 1995). John Hockenberry's jobs with NPR have allowed him to see the world on wheels. Indianapolis Star
  5. Cawley, Janet (February 28, 1993). Globetrotting in a wheelchair: No challenge can stop ABC's Hockenberry. Chicago Tribune
  6. Lipton, Michael A. (June 6, 1994). Man in the Driver's Seat. People
  7. Roberts, Roxanne (July 23, 1992). Correspondent on Wheels; NPR's John Hockenberry, Moving to ABC. Washington Post
  8. Murray, Michael D. (1999). Encyclopedia of Television News, pp. 98-99. Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 978-1-57356-108-2
  9. Cooke, Anne Marie; Reisner, Neil H. (December 1991). The Last Minority. American Journalism Review
  10. Cox, Ana Marie (May 1999). John Hockenberry. Mother Jones, pp. 40-43.
  11. Mandell, Jonathan (March 3, 1996). ON A ROLL? / It may be hip to be 'crip' on stage and film, but try getting a wheel in the door. Newsday
  12. Heffernan, Virginia (August 1997). Anatomy of a cancellation: how MSNBC's Edgewise went over the edge.
  13. Kurtz, Howard (July 8, 1999). MSNBC Drops 'Hockenberry' Talk Show; Award-Winning Journalist to Return to 'Dateline NBC' Full Time After Only Six Months. Washington Post
  14. Simon, Clea (October 11, 2007). Public radio's new morning show set to go. Boston Globe
  15. Who Cares: Chronic Illness in America via PBS
  16. Remaking American Medicine: Biography of Series Host
  17. Hockenberry, John (August 2001.) The Next Brainiacs. Wired
  18. Van Til, Reinder; Olson Gordon L. (2007). Thin ice: coming of age in Grand Rapids. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 978-0-8028-2478-3
  19. Press release (March 10, 2008). New Nanotechnology Television Series Does "Sweat the Small Stuff." Nanotechnology Now (via
  20. Hockenberry, John (2005). "And the Loser Is..." via Not Dead Yet. .
  21. Jackson, Janine; Randall, Steve (March 4, 2005). John Hockenberry on Million Dollar Baby, Dahr Jamail on Iraq. Counterspin
  22. Detweiler, Craig (2008). Into the dark: seeing the sacred in the top films of the 21st century. Baker Academic, ISBN 978-0-8010-3592-0
  23. Hockenberry, John (January/February 2008). You Don't Understand Our Audience: What I learned about network television at Dateline NBC. Technology Review
  24. Gough, Paul J. (January 2, 2008). Former "Dateline" reporter blasts NBC. Hollywood Reporter
  25. Staff report (October 22, 1995). WEDDINGS; Alison Craiglow, John Hockenberry. New York Times
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