In First Grade, He Couldn’t Speak English. Now He’s an ABC News Correspondent

By Brian Flood 

QuinonesWWYDWhat Would You Do? returns to ABC tomorrow night for a four-week run. ABC News correspondent John Quiñones and his crew once again set up ethically and morally challenging situations in which everyday (and unsuspecting) people are recorded on camera and then put in position to either act or not act, leaving TV viewers to wonder: “What would you do?”

We caught up with Quiñones about what to expect from this winter run of the show.

Quiñones: The timing of WWYD’s return could not be better. The political atmosphere in this country has become so divisive – particularly when it comes to issues of race, sexuality and religion. The reactions you will see from everyday heroes on the show will provide a much needed breath of fresh air. Your faith in humanity will once again be restored. We will also take the show out of the New York area to places like Portland, Oregon. It’s a reminder that when it comes to issues like marijuana, gun laws, and homelessness, geography matters. Different locations elicit different reactions.


TVNewser: You started your ABC News career as a correspondent for World news Tonight with Peter Jennings. What did you learn from Jennings as a young reporter?

Quiñones: Peter Jennings was an incredible role model for me. I was both awed by him and intimidated by him. Let’s face it, he was like, the James Bond of network news. But, he was very kind to me – especially during my early struggles as a rookie correspondent covering Latin America. I’ll never forget the day the president of Nicaragua canceled a big interview with me, at the last minute. I thought I would be yelled at when I called Peter in New York with the bad news. Instead he told me, “Listen John, there will be many times in your career when politicians and people in power don’t deliver what they promise you. But, don’t worry so much about talking to the ‘movers and shakers’ of the world…talk to the moved and the shaken.” His message was simple: my best stories would be those in which I gave a voice to people who have none. To this day, those have been the stories that have won all the awards, the stories I’ve been most proud of.

TVNewser: You’re very active on social media. Why do you think engaging with fans and viewers is important?

Quiñones: WWYD is the kind of show that sparks great discussions on social media. I love hearing what fans of the show – many of them young and social-media savvy – have to say as our scenarios unfold on the air. And, after the broadcast, many of our segments go viral online. In fact, one segment we filmed in Harlem about interracial relationships has, so far, received more than 50 million hits on the internet. People all over the world are watching. They’re also giving us fresh new ideas on what new scenarios we might film – and where to film them.

TVNewser: You’ve lived all over the country and your job brings you across the globe. What’s your favorite American city and why?

Quiñones: I love the mountains and the beach… and the incredible energy of New York City (where I now live) but, my favorite city has to be my hometown of San Antonio, Texas. I grew up in poverty in the barrios on the west side of town there. But, it’s also the place where this kid, who couldn’t speak a word of English when he entered the first grade, learned to dream big dreams. The city, its gorgeous riverwalk, and the surrounding Texas Hill Country are beautiful. Its people are the kindest and most humble. Not to mention the Tex-Mex food, which is the best in the world!

TVNewser: What’s your favorite meal? Specific restaurant and order, please.

Quiñones: Favorite meal: the grilled Sea bass at Tao, New York!