Jaimy Jones attended University of Houston Clear Lake, graduated in December 2015 and earned a B.A. in Communication Studies. At the age of 35, she became a Houston Chronicle intern for the Fall 2015 semester. She was hired full-time in October 2016 as a general assignment reporter and her beat includes our newest publications. Those reporters are usually working out of smaller offices out in those areas. Jones was born and raised in Houston.
Recommended: You can read Jones’ piece on being a 35-year-old intern here. (The interview below will make more sense)
Q: In your article, it says you knew you wanted to be a journalist ever since you were a child. Was there something specific that happened that made you realize that?
Jaimy: No I really don’t think there was one thing where I was like, “Wow, this is what I wanted.” There really wasn’t a moment. I’ve always liked writing and I’ve liked learning. It was really one of the only things I could picture myself doing that I would enjoy. I didn’t really know what it really meant to be a journalist on a day-to-day basis. I didn’t really know as a kid.
Q: It looks like you definitely lived life to the fullest. Can you tell me what you were doing before you became an intern?
Jaimy: Before my internship – basically all throughout school – I was working as a massage therapist, mostly on a part-time basis. But working in hotels, you can get called in. It was just a really good job to have to work around school and my internship.
Q: What gave you that push to go finally follow your childhood dream?
Jaimy: So, I was in the massage industry for such a long time and in management. Ijust kind of moved up. I was in a management position in a beautiful, historic, 1800s hotel. That was great experience. I learned a lot. But I started moving up and I realized they were considering me for my boss’ job. I was thinking, “Oh, wow. They want me for this other position with more responsibility. Can I see myself there in 5 years?” This is not my intention. I was having fun doing this and then all of sudden it was going to be this long-term thing and it really scared me – because I knew it wasn’t what I wanted. It was really this fear of being trapped. So, I had to do this now or else I was never going to do it. That’s when I enrolled in school.
Q: What year was that?
Jaimy: It was around 2010. I was turning 30 around that time. It was a big life moment. It was a push.
Photo credit: Jaimy Jones with her first Houston Chronicle byline
Q: What was it like going back to school?
Jaimy: It was good going back to school. I loved all the classes that I was taking. I loved all of my professors and all of the material. Being in class most of the time with people who were 10-15 years younger than you…it was just how it is. I accepted it. There were people in my class who were often closer to my age. As I went through the program you start to see more of the same people rooting into more of your specific courses. I made friends with people who are a little bit older. I’ve been in corporate meetings. So, sitting in a classroom when a professor wants to engage in a discussion – with some people who are young and timid – and I’m just sitting there thinking, “Well, this class is going to go nowhere if no one starts talking.” So, I would engage. I wasn’t in fear of what the professor would think of me or what other people in the class would think of me. It was a very different experience going back to school as a 30-something. Things that maybe people in their early 20s would be dealing with just wasn’t there.
Q: That’s pretty cool. So, what made you intern with the Chronicle?
Jaimy: That was an opportunity that I discovered in my last year. I had two semesters with a professor who has been an assistant news editor at the Chronicle for 30+ years. I knew what I wanted out of my education. I wasn’t just there going through the motions. When I got into his classes, he was just great. We went to the courthouse, we covered real things, and we had real assignments. I was able to engage with him on a peer-to-peer level more than maybe if I had been younger. I think he just saw that I was really motivated and really driven. He told me about the internship opportunity at the Chronicle. An internship is part of our program. We are all required to do one somewhere. When he told me about the Chronicle, you know that’s the pinnacle, that’s the internship everyone wants. It’s pretty competitive. It’s part of a larger market. So, I wasn’t sure if that would be something that I would be able to do. That professor encouraged me to apply for it. He said that he is normally involved in providing some suggestions and that he would definitely recommend me. It was all very weird how it happened. I tried to go through the official application process and I never got any responses. Then one day I got an email saying, “Hi, you’ve all been selected and there will be a meeting Tuesday!” There was never really any interview process. I think it tells you a lot of how you get ahead in the world. It’s about the impressions that you make.
Q: So, you were one of how many interns?
Jaimy: That semester I think there was at the most 20 interns. I was only one of two from my campus in Clear Lake. It’s a small campus. There are three buildings.
Q: Are you originally from Houston?
Jaimy: Yes, I’m from that Clear Lake area.
Q: Oh, wow. You get to work in your hometown!
Jaimy: Yeah! I almost picked up and moved to a few different smaller market towns, like Washington State (after graduating). I really thought I was going to have to do that. Most people think you have pick up and move to a smaller market to get started. That’s what you do. I really thought that’s what I had to do, but I waited here long enough for something to be available.
Q: Is there one part of your internship that stood out to you?
Jaimy: Almost everything. That was my first time in a newsroom. One of the things that really hit me was, I realized what a creative environment it was. For example, when I was in my internship one of the radio producers made this project and he wanted to make it into a digital training tool for the staff. We had this series called ‘The Million‘ documenting over 1 million foreign people living in Houston. He had this opportunity for everybody to work on this project where we would go to different spots around Houston…I volunteered for that. I went this British pub and ended up interviewing this British man. I got some audio from him about when he first came to the United States 20 years ago. We brought it back and we turned it into this really interesting online interactive story. It not only went on our website, but it went to NPR. They did a radio version. My snippet ended up being in the intro to the story. I hit me how the stuff that you make can just travel. Not only that but all of these different reporters coming together and how this person turned it into this tapestry of stories. It was something I have never done before. There are so many stories to tell in this city.
Q: Was there a day that you though you made a mistake in switching careers?
Jaimy: Not during my internship because I was having so much fun doing it. I felt like I learned a lot from so many people. I think that really helped me know that I made the right decision. I also think it helped me do a good job because I wasn’t putting so much pressure on it. The only time I thought that maybe I made a mistake was after my internship and after I graduated: trying to find a job. I actually ended up taking a marketing job because I just didn’t have it in me to pick up and move. After I graduated, it was a really hard time.
Q: Would you say your internship helped you land your job?
Jaimy: 110 percent. Yes. I think it was because I took advantage of every single thing. I made sure I met the right people, volunteered for extra things, and asked for different assignments. I was assigned to the Features desk during my internship. In the Chronicle building – at the time – the Features desk was way down the hallway and not even in the main newsroom. So I was kind of disappointed when I found that out. (After a couple of months), I went to my internship coordinator and I said, “I really love what I’m doing. I’m learning a lot. But I really want to get some experience in the newsroom in breaking news and hard news.” He said, “OK. As long as you can keep up assignments for features.” I thought I was going to end up cutting my work in half, but I actually ended up doubling my work. You internship is 100 percent what you make it. I was told we never really hire interns.
Q: How did you find out about your current job?
Jaimy: I had stayed in touch with the editor that originally suggested me for the internships – my former professor. I developed a friendship with him. One day he emailed me – this is when I was in marketing – and said the Chronicle had acquired this group of suburban papers and who knows there might be some job opportunities coming up. I emailed one of the editors in charge of that. When they finally did have something he got in touch with me and chose me for the job. I just stayed in touch. You have to keep those connections fresh. I also was freelancing after my internship over in Features.
Q: Are you loving your job?
Jaimy: I am loving job. It comes with it’s own set of challenges. There are times where it’s work for sure. I think it comes down to whether you look at this work as fun or if you look at it as work. That’s a major part of it.
Q: Is anything else you want to add?
Jaimy: You can make mistakes and at that level people expect you to make mistakes. So, just have fun. Meet all different people and tell their stories. Connect to people you never met. If you don’t find that fun then it’s not going to be a fun job for you. And that’s OK. That’s what the internship is there for. Also, even though I didn’t have an impressive University on my application, I was still able to succeed. It’s great if you come from a very academically impressive school, but I was surrounded by other interns who did come from that situation but were not the ones offered a job. It can be intimidating when you’re surrounded by so many other accomplished students but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you are on paper, editors want to see a hungry and willing person who will do the work.