“You are now the party bitch of the internet. Expect us.”
That was just one of the many chilling threats the cyber hacker group Anonymous used in a worldwide public humiliation campaign against Linton Johnson, the spokesperson of the nation’s 5th largest train system, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District or BART.
In August 2011, the cyber terrorists broke into Johnson’s computer, found semi-nude pictures of him and released them to the media in an effort to force Johnson’s bosses at BART to fire their first openly-gay and first black spokesperson. Why? They wanted revenge for BART’s decision to shut off mobile phone service in order to thwart a group of anarchists hell bent on wreaking havoc on hundreds of thousands of innocent evening train commuters in downtown San Francisco following the deadly police shooting of deranged homeless man throwing knives a few weeks earlier inside a busy train station filled with passengers including a mother and her young child.
However, despite the cyber bullies’ week-long terror campaign to destroy his reputation, Johnson not only managed to keep his job, he was promoted!
“It’s public relations 101,” Johnson said. “You turn a negative situation into a positive one. If I can do it for me I can do it for anybody!”
Linton D. Johnson is a media strategist with more than 25 years of experience building industry leading communications programs through the integration of technology and brand vision. As an Emmy-Award winning journalist, he covered the 2004 Winter Olympics and served as a reporter and TV news anchor in markets including Wichita, KS., St. Louis, MO, and San Francisco, CA. In 2004, He left the nightly anchor desk at NBC Owned and Operated KNTV-TV to become BART’s Chief of Communications and Chief Spokesperson.
At BART he created BARTtv, the agency’s and the nation’s first digital newsroom in a transit agency. Johnson has deftly guided BART thru the agency’s darkest times including the 2009 New Year’s Day tragic shooting death of an unarmed black passenger by one of the agency’s white police officer, which was captured on cell phone video and was the first such incident to make international news in 2009.
“Exactly 18 years to the very day of the Oscar Grant shooting, my aunt and I were victims of police brutality ourselves,” Johnson said. “So while I knew I had a job to do for BART, I completely understood and empathized with the outrage that spawned the numerous protests and riots that broke out in the years following our shooting.”
In 2010, Johnson was named as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” by Mass Transit Magazine for his communications innovation, his successful handling of the Oscar Grant shooting and the successful resolution of two highly-contentions union negotiations.
Today Johnson serves as BART’s Chief Strategist while running several successful businesses, including mPower. Johnson’s passions include training for fitness competitions, flying planes, and traveling the world with his husband of 16 years, Jeff. The two live together in Oakland, CA with their cat Hogan.