SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Doug Jessop wears a lot of hats.
Both literally and figuratively.
Rarely, if ever, does Jessop make himself seen without one of his signature bespoke hats. Many of the hats, which have become his signature style, have a story behind them. One of his favorite fedoras, which he has dubbed, “The George,” is adorned with this grandfather’s cufflinks.
In the metaphorical sense, Jessop is a jack-of-all-trades at ABC4 and has been throughout his broadcasting career. He’s worked in sales, marketing, production, and as an on-air talent. He even designed and planted the Good4Utah Gardens on the west side of the station.
Ask Jessop to define his favorite role at the station and he’ll boil it down quite simply.
“What it comes down to is, I’m a storyteller,” he explains.
Over the last stretch of nearly five years, Jessop has been working to tell stories that are sometimes hard to come by in the traditional news world. Oftentimes, many of the headlines on TV and digital platforms paint a gloomy and morbid picture of the world.
Jessop chooses not to focus on the bad. His mantra is easily found in the introduction to his new show, which will debut this Sunday at 10 a.m.
“Powerful, positive, and inspirational.”
The show’s format is intended to be a relaxing, welcome departure from typical news programming; a light-hearted 30-minute collection of interviews, musical performances, and a sprinkle of Jessop’s personal humor, which enthusiasts of dad jokes will surely enjoy.
“The world has never needed good news more than now,” ABC4 General Manager Richard Doutre’ Jones attests. “We live in a place where everything is doom and gloom. Everybody’s fighting with each other and people are arguing. So that’s the real allure of a program like this because it offers a respite from all the strife and weariness we see in the world.”
Finding folks, most of whom are not the usual talking heads on TV, whose stories can inspire and uplift has been one of the most satisfying parts of the job for Jessop. It hasn’t been that hard either, it seems like everyone knows each other in one way or another around here, he jokes.
“It’s what I affectionately call ‘Small Lake City,’” Jessop laughs.
He usually follows his own interests and lets his curiosity lead him to a great interviewee. While building this collection of stories, Jessop has sat down with the owner of a paranormal hotspot, an openly gay member of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, and the original Jazz Bear.
At first, Jessop’s interviews were just small, tightly edited packages no longer than two minutes. The idea to stretch out his sit-downs with people who have positive, powerful, and inspirational stories came after a chat with ABC4’s News Director, Todd Reed.
In Reed’s mind, it made far more sense to have Jessop’s Journal include a long-form interview.
“I think with the people, he wanted to interview, they’re very complex people,” Reed describes. “And how do you tell somebody’s true story in 90 seconds? And to do somebody justice, especially the type of people he attracts on that show, you got to really pay homage.”
Reed adds that what makes the entries in Jessop’s Journal so impactful, is the interviewer’s ability, not to ask provocative questions, but to build a trusted connection by making his subjects feel heard.
“He is a great listener, which lends itself to becoming a great storyteller,” Reed boasts of Jessop. “If he’s not a great listener, the people he will interview or has interviewed, they’re never going to open up.”
Folks do open up with Jessop, sometimes in ways that their closest family members aren’t even aware of.
After the death of one of his early interviewees, Romaine Wahlin Zito, Jessop attended her funeral where a few members of her family tearfully thanked him for sharing her story. They learned things about their grandmother that they had never before known thanks to her chat with the well-dressed storyteller.
“Let’s get real watching the news can be downright depressing but you watch my show, and for a half-hour, you’re just going to kind of relax and be entertained,” Jessop says. “And you might learn something, but you’re hopefully going to end up with a smile on your face, and maybe you shed a tear in between.”
Why? It’s simple, he continues.
“It’s the idea of powerful, positive, inspirational stories. Stories really truly do have power, because those are the things that people remember.”