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This article appeared in the June 4, 2019, issue of the student newsletter.
Aria Jones didn't have a career in journalism in mind when she enrolled at Eastfield College. A couple of years later, she's stacking journalism accolades and preparing for a prestigious internship in El Paso.
"When I got here, I kind of realized that journalism could be a little more purposeful because I wasn't trying to sell (my sources) anything," Aria said, laughing. "And, so, I just fell in love with it, and I kept going with it."
Right out of high school, Aria worked in retail for six years — half of which she spent working as a merchandiser. That meant communicating through clothes: putting everything up on the wall, organizing it and making the clothes look nice.
That job played a role in pushing her to go back to school.
"Mostly I was jealous of a lot of my co-workers and former co-workers who had gone on to take merchandising jobs where they got to travel," she said, laughing. "But also, I think I just wanted to move forward in my career. I didn't really have anything on my résumé."
Things have worked out pretty well for her since.
Aria took over as editor-in-chief of the Et Cetera, Eastfield's student newspaper, last May. It started with a media writing class she took with Lori Dann.
"She's great, and she really got me involved first thing. It was really nice to talk to her when I started that class," she said. "She didn't shame me for not knowing exactly where I wanted to go in my career or not knowing a whole lot about journalism."
Aria caught on to the journalism thing pretty quickly. She started off contributing before moving on to page design. From there, she got promoted to reporter, then section editor and finally a year-long stint as the editor-in-chief.
"I was so intimidated. That is something that I've really liked about journalism. It's kind of made me break out of my shell," she said. "I didn't know how a newspaper worked at all. It can be pretty intense in there at times. Having content published with my name on it and having people read it was very scary at first. It made me very nervous."
The Et Cetera has a circulation of 3,000 and publishes at least 12 editions every academic year.
Last October, Aria received an honorable mention for Reporter of the Year at the National College Media Convention for three stories she wrote last spring.
"That was really shocking because a lot of the things that I got nominated for, I didn't even know I could win awards for," she said. "I just really liked writing those stories, so it was interesting to be nominated."
Going for the editor-in-chief position was the result of getting more involved with the paper. It also provided an opportunity for Aria to take on a leadership role, both with her staff and with student volunteers.
"Some students will spend all day in there and not get paid even a little bit," Aria said. "And then students have school and all of their other responsibilities on top of that."
Aria heard about the Buster Haas Minority Internship from her advisor, Beth Langton.
The internship program, sponsored by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors Association, "aims to increase the number of minority journalists working in newsrooms across Texas." Aria's mom is white, and her dad was black and Bahamian.
"I think the biggest thing about diversity in newsrooms is it's not just about being a minority or a woman. You need that diversity and more," she said. "It's how you get different viewpoints, different perspectives on things. I also don't want to be in a newsroom with only people who grew up in my neighborhood in Dallas and only look like me and are only my age and aren't any younger or older."
Aria didn't have to interview for the internship, but as part of the application process, she remade her résumé, wrote a new cover letter and pulled clips (old stories she's written).
"That's something that I've never done before because I've never applied for a journalism job," Aria said. "So, I'm very glad that I also got the opportunity to do that."
Ironically, Aria got the call that she'd gotten the internship while she was buying a birthday cake for her advisor.
"So, I was standing in the middle of Albertson's, and I was scared they were going to ask me something about the application," she said, laughing. "And they just said, 'No, you got it! Can you go to El Paso?'"
Aria started interning with the El Paso Times on June 3, and she'll wrap it up in August. The internship also includes a stipend.
"I know that I'll be reporting, but I'm really open to anything," Aria said. "Because, like I said, I took the editor position and took more of a leadership role, so this is a chance to go back and really focus on my reporting. So that's exciting."
It's fitting that the internship is somewhere Aria's never been before because of how much she enjoys traveling. She went on her first real international trip when she flew to Austria with DCCCD last year for the Global Citizenship Seminar.
"I'm not sure exactly where I got it from. Maybe my dad. Both my parents were musicians, and my dad used to go on tour a lot when I was younger," she said. "I think it's just always been interesting to me to be in a new situation and also learn from a new group of people."
Perhaps that's why Aria was considering transferring to NYU, along with UT and SMU, to major in Spanish and Journalism after she graduated from Eastfield in May.
"I just feel like being in a new environment can really help me grow. So, it is kind of like a trade-off," Aria said. "I might have a little bit of shock from moving across the country, but that'll also give me the opportunity to adapt, and I feel like I'll learn more that way than just staying in the same place doing the things I'm comfortable with."
If everything she's done up to this point is any indication, she'll be successful regardless of where she ends up.
"I really do want to keep creating content and reporting," she said. "I just love interviewing people."