In the Spotlight: John Metaxas

TNH: Briefly tell us who you are and what you do.
JM: I am a news anchor and reporter at WCBS Newsradio 880 and WCBS-TV, Channel 2,*nbsp; in New York, where I cover stories that range from politics to the recent landing of the U.S. Airways jetliner in the Hudson River. I*#8217;ve been in the news business for more than 20 years, having anchored and reported financial news at CNN and CNBC, and covered a presidential campaign for ABC News.*nbsp; Over that time I*#8217;ve interviewed such world figures as Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates. I got my start at Columbia University*#8217;s college radio station, WKCR-FM, when I was an undergraduate. I am also admitted to the bar in New York and have practiced law. I have had many beats as a reporter, but as a native New Yorker, I especially enjoy covering the city in which I grew up.

TNH: Not everyone gets to grow up on the upper east side of Manhattan. What was that like?
JM: The essayist E.B. White once wrote:
*#8220;There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter–the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.*#8221;
That quote has always resonated with me when I think about growing up in Manhattan, because many changes were happening on the East Side at that time. I remember many of the old ethnic influences that were still evident there in the 1960s and 70s *#8211; the German restaurants on 86th Street, the Hungarian pastry and food shops on Second Avenue and the vestiges of a Czechoslovakian presence further downtown in the East 70*#8217;s. My mother tells me there was one block that was made up predominantly of Greek immigrants when she was growing up there. Obviously, the neighborhood has changed as new people have moved in, as White wrote, to pursue their personal quests here. I have felt that I was a part of all three of White*#8217;s New Yorks, as a native, now as a commuter, and as someone who has worked in an industry filled with people who have come here from elsewhere. It*#8217;s been exhilarating to see the city from so many different perspectives, and now to travel to every corner of the five boroughs every day reporting on the great story of New York.
TNH: Has your life path been influenced by your Ancient and/or Modern Greek heritage?
JM: I was raised to be proud of my Hellenic heritage and to appreciate the links between Greece and the United States. At an early age I was made aware of the admiration our Founding Fathers had for the Athenian democratic ideals, and the inspiration Greece took from the American Revolution in throwing off 400 years of Ottoman occupation.*nbsp; Later, as a student at Columbia, I studied the core curriculum, which began with the writings of Homer, Herodotus, Plato and the other great minds of ancient Greece. Through that I came to an even greater appreciation of the role our Hellenic heritage had in shaping western civilization.*nbsp; Throughout my childhood, my parents stressed the importance of education. My great grandfather, Panaghis Vergotis, was one of the founders of the modern Greek educational system, having been a proponent of the use of demotic Greek in literature in the 19th Century.*nbsp; As part of this effort he translated Dante*#8217;s Inferno into modern demotic Greek.*nbsp; Parenthetically, my grandmother in Greece had to sell some of his books during World War II to put food on the table. A respect for our history and for the importance of education has been passed down the generations in our family.
TNH: Tell us about the role the Greek Orthodox church has played in your life?
JM: The Greek Orthodox church continues to play the role of our spiritual home and the glue that keeps our community together. Growing up, my mother always told me that I could go to a Greek church anywhere in the world and I would be at home. My children are learning this lesson as well.
TNH: What has been your greatest achievement so far?
JM: My greatest achievement, which I share with my wife, Irene, has been to be a parent of two teenagers, who — I might add, thanks mostly to Irene*#8217;s efforts – each completed nine years of afternoon Greek School while attending regular school during the day.
TNH: What*#8217;s the greatest lesson youve ever learned?
JM: As President Kennedy once said, and I am paraphrasing, the secret to life is energy. So I just keep pushing forward.
TNH: Do you have a role model?
JM: My role models are my parents who are part of what we now call the greatest generation, who lived through the war and the depression and made a better future for us. We can only hope to do the same for our children.
TNH: What*#8217;s your ultimate goal in life?
JM: As I get older, my goals get simpler *#8211; to do good work and enjoy time with my family.
TNH: If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
JM: We always have the capacity to change for the better, no matter what age. I*#8217;m not sure I have anything specific I would change other than to try to do everything better in the future than I do it now.
TNH: What*#8217;s your most enjoyable pastime?
JM: I enjoy watching the Mets, though this year not so much.
TNH: What else would you like to tell our readers?
JM: I*#8217;m flattered to be asked to comment for the Ethnikos Kyrikas, especially because my father, Takis Metaxas, worked for this newspaper when he first came to America. I suspect many of your readers will recognize a part of themselves in my experiences. As Greek Americans, many of us share a common upbringing, perhaps even more so than other ethnic groups.