Jackie Allison, professional journalist, and TeenTix alumna, is a prime example of a TeenTix success story. Currently 25 and working for the Skagit Valley Herald - a daily news source serving the Skagit Valley - Jackie participated in Young Critics Workshops waaaaaaaaay back in 2011 as a junior in high school (YCW is a program from a former incarnation of the Press Corps - now we call similar events Press Corps Intensives)! She was also a Teentix pass user and had hers through 4 years of high school. When we talked, I asked if any art she attended stuck out from that point in her life. It’s been a while, but she specifically remembers the shows she wrote reviews for (a good reminder that critically engaging with the art we see can expand and enrich our experience as audience members). She recalled a show at TeenTix Partner On the Boards: “Oh, I do remember this one moment. I remember someone, they were stretching a red string across the stage. And I remember I wrote that in my review, like that was one of the moments I wrote about.” At time, Jackie wasn't exactly sure what the show meant, but that was probably the point! TeenTix did a little digging and we found that very review from 2011. You can read it here.
Now Jackie writes less about metaphors in movement and more of your typical, local reporter-fare. At the Skagit Valley Herald, her “beat” is business and agriculture - but they don’t have a particular arts writer, and since her editors know her interests, sometimes Jackie gets those stories too. Her favorite story, to date, is a weird and wonderful jaunt into the wormhole of maritime law. You can read the whole piece here, but in short, complicated laws mandate the kinds of ships allowed to sail in US fishing waters. A beautiful new ship was under construction, but elements of the design didn’t meet the intense government standards and a company in Anacortes had to spend YEARS getting a waiver from Congress to save their company. The fallout took a toll on the community and Jackie got the document all of it! (Don’t worry, they got the waiver and this story has a happy ending.) When asked why this story stuck out in particular to her, Jackie said, “I kind of got a behind-the-scenes look at what was going on and I built a lot of relationships with the business owners. They trusted me and at one point were really only wanting to talk to me over like, even the Seattle Times! Then I got to go on the actual ship, like this giant fishing ship for a day when it did fishing trials in February so that [kind of] really amazing national news [with] many different aspects to it. The feeling of being trusted and having a relationship, building a relationship with sources, which I think is what journalism is all about.”
Connecting with the community and forming relationships is a theme in Jackie’s “list of the best things about journalism.” The other major player in her love for this work is the constant opportunity for growth and learning. She says she enjoys learning about “just a wide variety of subjects is really amazing and I wouldn’t necessarily learn about those things if I wasn’t a journalist. For example I’ve covered environmental issues, oil refineries, maritime industry, now I’m covering agriculture, aspects of the government, how to access public records, so that’s a really rewarding part of it. And connecting with people in the community, getting to know a community.” She feels deeply that it’s important to get to know different communities. Jackie’s favorite thing to write about is “weird random stuff...What other people do, that kind of broadens my horizons.”
So, how has a TeenTix education helped Jackie become the journalist-superhero she is today? She says that the biggest thing she learned from her time with the Press Corps was, quite simply, “Just learning to write better - I remember in the Young Critics Workshop they talked about ‘how do you write something that people actually want to read’ which is really different than the kind of writing you do at school which is very academic. [they learned about] writing something in a way that’s colloquial, that people understand, and I use that in my job a lot. Even though I’m writing about complicated things I’m still trying to make it understandable.” One especially awesome thing she remembers is an event called “Stranger Day” where professional writers from The Stranger would come into class, split everyone into small groups, and give the young writers personal critiques! (Lindy West was Jackie’s mentor and that’s LITERALLY THE COOLEST THING EVEEEEEEEEEEEER)
Finally, Jackie’s advice for young writers is this, “As far as young journalists, feel confident, just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re not competent or doesn’t mean you can’t find good stories. There’s stories in the news about high schoolers who do investigative work and that’s super cool! Sometimes as a young journalist you get doubted and I’m not gonna say disrespected but there’s definitely been moments, maybe not now but when I was in college where people were like ‘oh you’re not legit’ so be confident and say yes to all assignments, even if it’s something like ‘go talk to some lady at the county fair’ (which Jackie is doing right now). It’s not all about huge gigantic stories. Sometimes there’s a story in a small interaction with someone in the community - it can be really meaningful to be part of those. Be willing to take risks, put yourself in new situations, talk to people where you feel like an outsider, that’s something that’s really shaped me as a person.”
After talking to Jackie, it's easy to see how important young writers are, and why they need all the support they can get! Thanks for taking your TeenTix training out into the world and making it a smarter place, Jackie!
Want to help make free arts journalism programs through the Press Corps available to any interested teen? DONATE TODAY!