Jackson Jones, 21, has lived in Murfreesboro his entire life and couldn’t imagine going to any other school than MTSU.
“My mother went here and graduated in the 80s, and my father has been around Murfreesboro his entire life, so I’m just kind of the hometown kid.”
When Jackson was a little kid he wanted to be a meteorologist. He said he’s never been uncomfortable being in front of a camera or talking in front of people. Looking up to people like News Channel 5’s Lelan Statom as his role model, Jackson said the job was appealing to him until another interest grew on him.
In high school, he was interested in theater and business. He said everything changed when he walked into the Mass Communication building at MTSU on a school visit in 2012.
“It’s hard to explain. You ever just have a moment when you’ve been somewhere, and you just know? No hesitation or explanation? That’s how it was.”
After the light bulb had gone off in his head, he knew he wanted to pursue broadcast journalism. He applied and was accepted the following year.
“I love what I get to do here on campus, and I love getting to tell stories about a lot of different people,” he said speaking of his position as a broadcast reporter for the school’s news station MT10.
Jackson’s primary concentration is human interest reporting, but he’s covered a broad range of topics in the last few years.
“I’m only getting started,” he said laughing. “I’ve always been that person that doesn’t want to settle for a desk job, and that became very apparent in my CNN internship this summer.”
BIG NEWS for a SMALL TOWN KID
Last fall, Jackson applied for every internship CNN offered. Never dreaming he would actually get it, he said he thought he’d do a local internship in Nashville.
“If you don’t do something you’re always going to live life wondering, ‘I wonder what would have happened?”
In February of this year, Jackson said he was fortunate and humbled to accept the associate producer summer internship at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. While there, he assisted the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. newscast with proofing scripts, coming up with story ideas, setting up interviews, and editing video.
“My first day was 24 hours after what happened in Orlando, and that was probably one of the craziest days of my life. You expect to ease right into your first day but no, it was like I was put into a car from Fast and Furious,” he said. “I was driving down the road having to learn things in just a few hours. It was a scary experience because I had to think about if I was emotionally ready to do stories on people dying and getting hurt.”
Jackson worked the night shift, Monday through Friday, 3:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., and in the end said he had to learn how to put his differences aside to get the news out to the public.
“I also covered the RNC Convention and the DNC Convention and both of those were incredible, so we prefer to call it ‘News Christmas,’” he said. “There was constantly stuff going on 24/7.”
Jackson said the experience and the opportunity to work with big names like Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, and Carol Costello was incredible.
“It was cool getting to work with the newscast because you feel like they would be superstars all stars that are larger than life, but they’re everyday people.”
“That’s what I had to do. I want to be that voice on the news that shows you something incredible and is going to let you know that everything is going to be okay.”
Jackson said he chose human interest because it reminds people of their humanity and the human spirit can do amazing things.
CHANGE to a GROWING CITY
“It’s gotten big,” Jackson said of his small hometown now growing rapidly. “I remember when half of the campus wasn’t here and our town didn’t have six Wal-Marts.”
Jackson said he believes it’s only going to continue to grow and get bigger.
Working with local radio station, WGNS, and covering city council meetings, he hears a lot about a plan called Murfreesboro 2035, a comprehensive plan that shows what the city is expected to look like in nearly 30 years.
He said campus attendance will double, and the city will expect gain approximately 200,000 more residents, which means more homes but more farmland taken.
“That part is a little sad,” he said. “There are a lot of beautiful landscapes here in Murfreesboro that go out to Eagleville and Rockvale. Don’t get me wrong. I love architecture and seeing what we can create with skyscrapers but I also love photography and taking pictures of nature, and I feel like we don’t need to get rid of that.”
Even with all the growth happening around Murfreesboro, one common complaint Jackson often hears is that the city is boring.
“It doesn’t have to be if you know where to go,” he said. “We have a wonderful downtown square with so many different shops and places where friends can go have fun. We have a great community full of people who will welcome you in with an open heart and a big smile.”
Jackson said one of his only concerns, other than the lack of parking on campus, is how the city can market tourism to the city.
“Murfreesboro is a busy place during the week but once the weekend comes it’s almost like a ghost town. I know some people might go up to Knoxville to see a UT game or go to Nashville to see a Vandy game and that’s fine but there’s a lot to do here too without breaking the bank.”
Jackson said no matter where he goes in his career, Murfreesboro will always be his heart and his home.
“This community is true blue,” he said. “This whole town bleeds blue, and we’re so interconnected with another it’s amazing to see who you can find.”
Jackson said MTSU represents his definition of community. He said the community is imperative to what he does because it’s how he finds his stories and how he discovers the people around him.
“Murfreesboro doesn’t have a high crime rate, and nothing really big happens here much,” he said. “If you’re able to find news here, you’re able to find news anywhere. It can be a needle in a haystack sometimes, but that’s what makes it fun.”
Jackson is leading a student project called Humans of MTSU, a documentary film modeled after the Humans of New York blog. In the middle of production now, the film will feature students and faculty from different departments.
“If you told me I would be doing this three and half years ago, I would have told you that you’re lying. I never thought I’d get to CNN, and I never thought I’d be successful with this,” he said. “I’ve always had trouble finding something that sticks and I thought this was something I would do for a while then go get a realistic desk job. It’s rewarding that this is paying off, and I’m excited to see where it goes.”
Jackson plans on graduating May of 2017 and will be the third person in his family to graduate from college.
“To me, that means I can do anything I put my mind to and I think it inspires a lot of people in my family and around me. I had a friend of mine I hadn’t seen since high school join MT10. I asked him what made him want to get involved, and he said I did. That means a lot to me. Your dream is only as big as you make your frame. Whatever you put inside that frame is what’s going to be possible.”
To keep up with Jackson’s stories, visit his website.
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