You may know Juju Chang as the coanchor of ABC’s Nightline and as a former news anchor for Good Morning America, but you’re just as likely to see the Upper West Sider shopping at Zabar’s, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or walking her Labradoodle in Central Park.
Raised in the heart of Silicon Valley, Chang is now a true-blue—Yankees blue—New Yorker. She and her husband, WNET president and CEO Neal Shapiro, and their three sons take every opportunity to celebrate city life, from the parks to the pools to the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Ocean Life. Chang and her family also enjoy getting away in very un–New York fashion, going on camping and whitewater rafting trips that help them disconnect from their busy lives while connecting with one another. That is, when Chang is not flying all over the world covering breaking news.
We briefly caught up with Chang—in between assignments, of course—to chat about juggling the news cycle with raising kids in the city and what she’d import from the Bay Area.
What Should We Do?!: We had to reschedule our interview because of breaking news. What’s it like to live inside a constantly breaking news cycle?
Juju Chang: It’s literally like my head is in a vice grip! I’m also trying to be a steady presence for my three sons, but they know that I could end up having to drop everything and go running out the door.
WSWD: Is it harder now than it ever has been?
Chang: By far. It’s everything from mass shootings—I was at the mass shooting in Las Vegas—to every sexual harassment claim that comes out to political changes at the drop of a tweet. That has all factored into a very hectic lifestyle.
WSWD: How do you ensure you have a normal life when so much is happening in the world?
Chang: I try to pace myself and realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint. For my kids, I really try hard to steal pockets of time to be together. I try to make a point of driving them to school so we can be confined in a little space together. I like to say that even though I live in Manhattan, I’m sort of a suburban mom dropping my kids off at school. And then I’ll come home in the middle of a hectic day, because I work at night. So I’ll be there in the late afternoon and spend time with them, and then go back. I try to make breakfast every morning. Sometimes I check in with them via FaceTime, which is my favorite parenting tool for moms who are traveling.
WSWD: What do you do to relax?
Chang: My coanchor, Dan Harris, wrote a book called 10% Happier. He has an app that’s all about meditation. My middle son, who has a touch of ADHD, and I will put in one ear pod each and meditate together. The other thing I do to relax is walk my dog. I got her about a year ago, and somebody asked me, “What’s your cardio equipment?” And I said, “It’s my Labradoodle; her name is Hershey.”
WSWD: I can’t believe with three kids and a demanding job, you’d add a dog to the mix. You seem to want to just pile it on.
Chang: Yes, I’m comfortable with chaos. That’s part of it. But my youngest son begged me for the dog, and I’m one of the clichéd moms who did it because my kid begged me, and now I’m the dog-obsessed mom.
WSWD: I bet he begged you, but you do all the work.
Chang: Well, yes, but I think the work is spread evenly among all the victims.
WSWD: How do you and your husband juggle everything? And does living in New York help you?
Chang: The truth is, it helps a lot. I can be in the middle of a long workday and still get home for an hour and get back. I’ve worked with colleagues who live out in the suburbs who don’t have that luxury. But the flip side to that is that they have a yard! They have great public schools. There are real trade-offs.
WSWD: What do your sons like to do in New York?
Chang: They’ve never met a waterslide they didn’t love. We’ve been to the one on Long Island, Splish Splash. In the city, half the time I raised them at the American Museum of Natural History on cold winter days, which is just down the block. I let them run around like the mammals we were visiting.
WSWD: Is there an exhibition in particular that you love?
Chang: I love the Sperm Whale and Giant Squid. It’s just so epic! And I think [it can be] used to explain your place in the world because it’s ginormous and makes you feel minuscule.
WSWD: What’s something in the city that you enjoy that Nightline viewers might find surprising?
Chang: I grew up in California, and I’ve lived in New York City for 30 years, but I actually love camping and whitewater rafting—the kind of stuff that Eddie Bauer and Patagonia would outfit. For a milestone birthday, I took my whole family for a whitewater rafting tour through the Salmon River in Idaho. To me, it’s the ultimate unplugging, reconvening with nature and all that.
WSWD: What do you miss about California?
Chang: I didn’t realize how lucky I was growing up to have 80 degrees every day! Not that it really was, but in my recollection it was. More than that, I grew up in the Bay Area, where we were not that far from skiing, the beach, and wine country. The world is your oyster. In New York, you have to try harder and travel further to get to similarly great locations.
WSWD: What would you import from the Bay Area to improve New York City?
Chang: Wine country! I love the rolling hills. I honestly love the peaks and valleys of the mountains.
WSWD: Is there anything you’d want to export from New York to the Bay Area?
Chang: The ability to get an excellent slice on any corner. You can throw a rock and get a good slice of pizza—piping hot, thin crust, cheese burning the roof of your mouth. That’s hard to find in the Bay Area.
WSWD: You and your husband could charitably be described as rabid New York Yankees fans. How big a part does the team play in your family life?
Chang: It’s ubiquitous. It is 24-7. We wake up to Yankees results; we go to bed in extra innings. We go to spring training just about every year in Tampa, Florida. We go to the Bronx and debate the different subway routes we should take there and back. We have the route to Yankee Stadium wired: the express, which local stops you want to get off at. More than anything, it’s a great bonding thing. It’s a good equalizer in New York. Anybody can strike up a conversation with anybody in the elevator. All you have to say is, “Did you see that double play?” or whatever, and suddenly you have a new friend.
WSWD: What would you do if one of your sons decided to become a Mets fan?
Chang: Disown him. Just kidding! I don’t know. You know, it’s funny, my rabbi is a Yankees fan, and his son is a Mets fan—or is it vice versa? It may be vice versa. For the longest time it was like a painful thing, but now it’s kind of a joke between them. They go to each other’s games and egg each other on.
WSWD: That’s an “only in New York” story.
Chang: Yeah, totally. It’s very funny.
Juju Chang’s Faves…in a NY Minute
The Upper West Side. It’s home. It’s chill and unapologetically low-key.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art—it’s the grande dame of New York museums. I love going with my sons. We check out the sarcophagus en route to the Temple of Dendur or the interior garden in the Asian wing, the masterpieces, and the modern masters. The visiting exhibitions are always showstoppers. It never disappoints.
Zabar’s. It’s an institution. From the Nova to the cheeses to the myriad nibbles and smells; it’s a treat for the senses.
Place for kids to eat that adults will like, too?
Koreatown. My three sons (and most kids I’ve met) love rice and grilled marinated Korean kalbi (ribs). You can grill it at the table. Kids also love rice cake soup. And the adults or hearty kids can experiment with kimchi and the spicier side dishes.
Joe’s Coffee. It’s the neighborhood place.
Central Park. Drop the mic. The Ramble. The reservoir. The bridle path around it.
Place to swim?
West Side YMCA, with the old Greco tiles and cool interiors. I trained there for a sprint triathlon.