You wouldn’t think Jaden Jefferson was 14 the way he talks about his passion for journalism and storytelling.
The Toledo, Ohio resident has gone viral for his political reporting, including an interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren nearly three years ago. While he’s only been at it for a few years, the advice he gives to those looking to break into the field mirrors that of a seasoned reporter.
“You want to give it your all and you want to make sure you're in it for the right reasons as well because some people may go into it just to be on TV, but you have to have the right reasons,” said Jefferson, who posts daily stories on social media ranging from traffic updates and event coverage to one on one interviews with public officials.
“That could be helping your community or that could be it's just something you love doing but it has to be for the right reasons,” he said.
For Jefferson, journalism was a natural fit, having always had a passion for writing and the ability to “talk on camera forever,” he said. A lot of his other reporting skills are self-taught from attending news conferences and community events in addition to learning from local journalists.
“Through that experience, I’ve been able to build my own brand and tell stories in new ways,” he said. “Ask me a couple years ago how to produce a package about something, I wouldn't know where to start but now, after watching so many news packages and hearing from so many mentors and reporters in my area, I can do that easily.”
Someone he credits with putting him on his path is Kristian Brown, a local reporter of 13 ABC. He was doing an Instagram-live video at a community event in 2019 when he noticed that Brown and her station were among the viewers. Not too long after that Brown reached out to do a story on him and his work.
“I think she played an integral role in inspiring me to continue with this because I don’t know if I would have stayed with it if I hadn't gotten that exposure, just locally,” he explained. “I definitely credit her for getting my story out there and a lot of people saw that story and started following my work and so much has happened since then.”
After he finishes his homework assignments, his schedule is dictated by the news. These days, he’s been trying to fill a gap in stories about local elected officials. Every Sunday, he interviews the officials in an effort to help his audience feel closer to them.
“A lot of people just elect their leaders and that’s it,” he said. “They don’t hear from them, they don't understand what’s happening, what they're doing, so I feel like this is a great way to bridge that gap.”
In addition to that project, Jefferson creates a five minute news block to update his audience on the week’s top stories and to introduce them to a feel-good story every weekend.
“I’d say they’ve been very successful in the fact that people are more informed and they also feel a bit happier with the feel good stories,” he said.
He’s never thought about switching careers, he said, but the field “can be thankless.”
“You may feel like you're not contributing enough or that you're not enough,” he said. “And I feel as if people really appreciate the work that you're doing (as a journalist). It's hard to see that a lot of times because you see the negative Facebook comments, the negative Twitter comments. But as an avid viewer of local news, I may not be able to thank all the reporters everyday but they’re work is important and crucial.”
“Little do they realize how big of an impact they make on everyone’s day,just waking up to positive personalities in the morning after a bad day, those things make a difference in life,” he added
He sees journalism continuing to take a more digital shift in the future and he’s ready for it, having already established himself on various platforms. When it comes to his legacy, he said wants to be remembered as “someone who wanted to help the community.”
“I enjoy going out and telling stories of all types of people from all different backgrounds and that’s really what journalism is: just telling people’s stories,” he said.