Over the past 31 years, John Malan has become a broadcast legend in Milwaukee. His live remotes interacting with people out in the community are classic. "I've always loved doing them," said John. "It gives me the chance to shake hands with people and find out their thoughts on the weather, news, sports -- just about anything. It's great meeting folks."
John's been with TODAY'S TMJ4 for seventeen years - since February of 1994. He came across town after working 14 years as WISN-TV's Chief Meteorologist. But did John ever think he'd build such a successful career as a broadcast meteorologist?
After graduating from Northeastern Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in geography and science, and then from Northern Illinois University with a master's degree in meteorology, John became a part-time teacher. "I taught earth science courses at Triton Junior College right outside Chicago," John explained. "A friend casually mentioned one day that a part-time weather producer job was open at WLS-TV. I thought, 'What the heck, I'll try.'" "You could say that I took the place by storm. For one thing, the management there never thought they would have interest in someone with a master's degree for the job they offered. But I worked real hard to put together really accurate forecasts and great looking maps. That level of knowledge usually wasn't expected from the behind-the-scenes guy. A couple of times, I even nailed some long-term forecasts, which really helped the on-air weathermen to look good on the air."
During those days when producers were deeply involved in putting together the forecast, John made a lasting impression on WLS management. They even created a full-time position for him, which eventually led to a job producing weather segments for "Good Morning America" at the WLS-TV studios in Chicago.
After doing so much behind-the-scenes forecasting, John toyed with the idea of getting in front of the camera. "I would have to say it was John Coleman who encouraged me to get started on the air. We put together an audition tape and sent it out around the country." Three offers came in: St. Louis, San Francisco and Milwaukee. "My wife said to me, 'Let's stay closer to home,' and, well, we've been in Milwaukee ever since." John and his wife Marian are both Chicago natives. "I always thought that one day I would end up back in Chicago," said John. "But, I just keep doing my thing here in Milwaukee and enjoying it. It's never occurred to me to move."
One could say fate got John started in the broadcast business. His interest in science, however, goes back to growing up in a very nature-loving family. "I've been interested in geography and nature since I can remember. My parents, four sisters and I always did things that involved exploring nature, like traveling and exploring state parks. My wife Marian and our three kids were the same way. We'd much rather spend a vacation canoeing on a lake or visiting the Grand Canyon than going to a theme park. Everything about nature is just so fascinating and phenomenal."
While John developed a mature appreciation of nature as a kid, he was never fixated on the sciences. "I never owned a science kit growing up, or thought about making tornadoes in a jar. Stuff like that was the farthest thing from my mind. I spent most of my time on the baseball field."
In fact, John wasn't thinking about going to college after high school. He intended to play professional baseball the rest of his life. "I played one week of minor league baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm team, the Muskegon Pepsi's. Then it was all over in one play. I broke my ankle sliding into third. They sent me home for the summer to recuperate. But it wasn't long after I was home that I was drafted and sent to Vietnam."
John spent two years in Vietnam, driving tanks and crewing helicopters. He came home with a Purple Heart for being shot through the leg, with tales of being caught in a typhoon, and with lasting memories of friends and fellow soldiers. "It was so good to get home to my family," said John.
After his three years at WLS-TV and Good Morning America in Chicago, John moved to Milwaukee and worked first at Channel 12 for fourteen years from 1980 to 1994. He not only worked on the 5, 6 and 10pm newscasts each night Monday through Friday, but also was frequently asked to do the major parade telecasts including the Christmas Parade, City of Festivals parade, and the Great Circus parade. He hosted the Children’s Miracle Network telethon for seven years from 1987 through 1993. He also volunteered to do live events and be the spokesperson for the Gifts from the Hearts program and Food for Families. John was awarded the American Meteorological Society’s Television Seal of Approval in February of 1981.
He crossed town arriving at TODAY'S TMJ4 in 1994 and started on the 10pm newscast again in February of 1995 and continues on the 5, 6 and 10pm through today. He has been doing the 10pm weather in Milwaukee for over thirty years! While at Channel 4 he has volunteered for the Greater Milwaukee Volunteer Task Force campaign and volunteers to help lead Charity Walks for Alzheimer’s and the Kidney foundation. John also works with aspiring meteorologists through an intern program with UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison, where he trains students in proper chroma-key techniques and how to tell the story of the weather forecast. His former interns on the air right now in the state of Wisconsin alone are Michael Fish and Luke Sampe in Milwaukee, Charles Koch in Madison, Brian Niznansky in Green Bay and Michelle Poedel in La Crosse.
His science background helped him shoot and produce a Tornado Special back in the late 1970’s at WLS-TV for Weatherman John Coleman that helped inspire the northern Illinois fireman’s association to spearhead a fund raiser for the first NWS Doppler radar site at Joliet in Illinois. His special on the New Madrid earthquake fault in Missouri in the late 1980’s talked about the little known biggest earthquake zone in the United States. He also chased tornadoes across Oklahoma and Texas, and covered the devastating aftermath of the strongest tornado on record that blew through the southern suburbs of Oklahoma City in 1999.
John has always believed in quick and accurate live severe weather coverage, and was present for most of the extreme weather in the past thirty-one years in Milwaukee. On his first day on the job in April of 1980 a tornado touched down at a trailer court in Beaver Dam. He reported on the science of that tornado in the field which was a very rare anti-cyclonic tornado! He covered the incredibly cold month of January in 1982 when temperatures hit 25 to 26 below zero and wind chills to eighty below zero. He was on air for the Barneveld Tornado, West Bend and Wales Tornado of 1984, the devastating floods of August in 1986, the unbearably hot summer of 1988, the freakish late May snowfall of May 10th in 1990, the Oakfield F5 tornado in 1996, the major floods of 1998 and 2010, and every severe weather threat to Milwaukee in between.
Family continues to be the focus of John's life, although he and his wife, Marian, are now "empty nesters." His oldest daughter, Jessica, completed her forestry degree and currently lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with her husband, Shane. Jessica also completed forest fire training and helped fight the brutal fires near San Bernardino in California during the summer of 2003. His second oldest daughter, Jorie, received her degree from UW-La Crosse and went to work for a travel company specializing in adventure and education trips for college students. Jorie spent one summer as a guide and counselor in Costa Rica, and then completed her graduate training at the North Carolina School of the Arts, one of the most prestigious art schools in the U.S. After working behind the scenes on Broadway doing hair, make-up and prosthetics for the past four years, she went on a one year tour doing the make-up for the Broadway show ”SHREK”. She was the main character’s make-up artist. She now sets her sights on television and film make-up. John's youngest child, Johnny, received his degree from UW-Oshkosh and played soccer for the Oshkosh Titans. He was a starting member of the only undefeated team there, although they lost in the National Championship game to the eventual winners at the NCAA Final 4 tournament in New Jersey. He works in the medical delivery and set-up field currently and has also recently moved to Wilmington in North Carolina.
When asked how often John gets to see his children he says, "We still get together for all major family holidays and traditions, which we instilled in them from when they were very young.