Young Alumni Profiles
|Aaron Edwards '12|
|Reporter at BuzzFeed (News App)|
Originally by By Alyssa C. Frey '14 & updated by Kelli Kyle '17
For Aaron Edwards ’12, assisting with the launch of the BuzzFeed News app was a chance to venture into uncharted waters and figure out how the public gets its news.
“It's fun, it's frustrating, it's challenging, and every day I go to bed feeling like I helped solve a new section of the puzzle,” Edwards said.
Edwards started with BuzzFeed News in February of 2015. His team helped build the BuzzFeed News app from scratch, coordinating layout, content, audience goals and app functionality. Currently, Edwards determines the most efficient way for the media outlet to present its content to the world – a position that has shown him what he loves about journalism.
“I've learned that I'm at my happiest at work when I'm connecting dots and solving problems for consumers of information, be it news, features, essays, or random facts about Beyoncé,” Edwards said.
Before starting with BuzzFeed News, Edwards gained some mobile journalism experience as a member of NBC’s Breaking News app team. While there, he developed different editorial strategies for distributing content and customizing news for each user. Edwards also worked as a news producer for Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome, a service that produces and curates news content for a network of more than 100 newspapers and websites.
Immediately following graduation and before beginning his job at Digital First Media, Edwards worked as a James Reston Reporting Fellow on the metro desk at The New York Times for four months. The Times gives this prestigious fellowship to four graduating seniors or graduate students each summer.
Edwards was trained both by the journalism department’s intensive curriculum and at the college’s weekly newspaper The Ithacan. He started first as a writer, then worked his way up to editor in chief his senior year. Under his reign, the paper won best non-daily news college newspaper in the country from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Edwards said his role as editor in chief allowed him to merge his already-developed reporting and writing skills with new web technologies.
“I looked for ways to keep a print newspaper relevant in a digital age,” Edwards said. “I hired more people dedicated to the Web and revamped a lot of how we produced the news on a daily basis. But before we delved into the world of interactives and online features, I encouraged and strived for a focus on the foundations that The Ithacan taught me as a younger staffer: strong reporting, concise writing, watchdog journalism, innovative story ideas and dedication to the communities we served.”
Edwards noted that while at Ithaca, the journalism faculty encouraged him and other students at the college to break the news, both in class and outside it, while maintaining ethical tenets laid out by SPJ and other esteemed news organizations.
“Ithaca's journalism program, in my view, trains independent thinkers — not cookie-cutter J-school graduates,” Edwards said. “My professors at Ithaca pushed me to challenge the norm while also staying grounded by unwavering ethical principles.”
While a student, Edwards interned at several large news organizations, including CBS News, the Associated Press London Bureau and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Edwards was also a student participant in the New York Times Student Journalism Institute and was selected as a rising senior for the Chips Quinn Scholars Program, which gives training and internships to student journalists of color.
Edwards also started the Park Association for Journalists of Color during his last semester, a group dedicated to networking and education for all students, emphasizing the issues facing students of minority ethnic or racial backgrounds.
As a young IC alumnus, Edwards encourages current and prospective journalism students to gain the fundamentals of strong reporting and writing, an understanding of the industry and its demands, a solid background in the Web and real-world experience from on-campus media outlets and internships. He also notes that students should learn to take care of themselves while in college to prepare for the industry.
“Journalism is less of a job and more of a lifestyle,” Edwards said. “Unfortunately, that lifestyle can be quite unhealthy if left unchecked. Getting enough sleep, separating work from your personal life and having an outlet to have fun is important in this business.”
However, Edwards does have hope for the future of the journalism industry and encourages students to learn all they can while at Ithaca.
“Face the reality of our business,” Edwards said. “Know that it is struggling in a lot of aspects. But also realize that some of the most exciting innovations are happening right here, right now. Now, look back at yourself. Ask yourself if this is what you really want to do. Seriously. If your answer is a quick and bold ‘Yes,’ then get off this website and get back to writing, reporting, producing, shooting video, etc. You have four years at Ithaca to prepare yourself to be a professional journalist. Don't waste them.”
Updated July 2015