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Alumna Elizabeth Jia Leveraged TFAS Network as Award-Winning Journalist and Producer

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Elizabeth Jia (IPJ 05, PPF 16) knows her way around a TV camera and has earned awards and accolades for her work both in front of and behind one. She is also an expert on tapping her local network, especially her TFAS alumni network, to shine a spotlight on sharp locals doing great work in the Washington, D.C. Metro-area.

Jia in front of the camera
Jia takes a turn in front of the camera.

For a decade, Jia was a multimedia journalist and producer at WUSA9, the local CBS affiliate television news station. She worked in a team producing stories for the 11 o’clock nightly news. For each news story, Jia created and executed the social media strategy and produced videos and additional story content. Her work helped stories reach every position on the top 10 list of most-clicked web stories for WUSA9, including the number-one spot.

Originally from Maryland, she earned her undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD). During her undergraduate work at the University of Maryland, she participated in the 2005 TFAS Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) program.

“IPJ was a pleasant surprise,” she said, on her experience learning political journalism and economics. “It helped me, going into my junior year with a political background.”

During her TFAS summer, Jia interned as a production assistant with the “Assembly Required” TV program on the DIY Network, sister station to HGTV. It was an internship opportunity she found prior to beginning her TFAS summer through her journalism school at UMD. The show dealt with pre-fabricated and mobile homes and taught her a lot about architecture, as well as pre- and post-production work for television.

It was a lot for one summer, but it was well planned-out and organized to maximize on the time.”

– Elizabeth Jia (IPJ 05, PPF 16), on her TFAS experience

After her summer with TFAS and internship at the DIY Network, Jia applied for and landed two more internships in Washington, D.C., one at Tribune Broadcasting, the Washington bureau for Tribune-owned local TV stations across the country. She shadowed reporters and photographers at the White House, edited webcasts and regularly received press briefings from White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. The highlight of that summer for Jia was attending the White House dual press conference of President George W. Bush and former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki of Iraq. Jia was standing in a sea of news cameras for that historic moment.

Jia on the White House lawn
Jia had the chance to report from the White House lawn for the NCAA Championship ceremony with then-President Barack Obama. Her coverage aired on WUSA9’s sister station WLTX in Columbia, South Carolina.

Her next internship was a political broadcasting internship with Cox Media Group, owner of local TV stations nationwide, during her final semester. At the Cox D.C. Bureau, she shadowed reporters and photographers as they navigated the offices on the Hill, focusing on lawmakers representing constituencies served by Cox-owned TV stations.

Jia had the opportunity to start in broadcast news directly after college through the Gannett Talent Development Program (TDP). The TDP recruited talented aspiring journalists directly out of college and placed them at Gannett-affiliated news outlets around the country. Jia was one of only 32 graduates accepted into the program and landed at then Gannet-owned WUSA9.

Once the program finished, Jia was a full-fledged broadcast journalist, and she worked at WUSA9 for 10 years and grew into the digital space, as social media took off as a method of delivering news content.

While working for WUSA9, Jia attended Georgetown to earn a master’s degree in journalism. For her degree program, she produced a mini-documentary on an emerging Washington, D.C. artist, Luis Peralta Del Valle, and published her writing on parenting an only child in The Washington Family Magazine. Her master’s thesis was a three-part video series on war veterans with PTSD trying to gain access to VA health benefits.

Since her TFAS summer, Jia has kept in touch with the IPJ staff and has remained an active and engaged alumna, returning for the Liberty Fund Seminar “Liberty and Responsibility in the Media,” from 2012 to 2013. During the seminar year, she participated in lectures and had a chance to take a memorable tour of the parking garage where, in 1972, Deep Throat passed secret information about the Watergate scandal to two reporters at The Washington Post.

Ever curious and ready to learn, Jia continued her involvement with TFAS further as a Public Policy Fellow from 2016 to 2017, taking advantage of more opportunities for seminars, leadership training, events and social activities.

Elizabeth Jia and blooming corpse flower
Jia gathers footage of the rare blooming of a corpse flower at the U.S. Botanic Garden near the National Mall.

The Public Policy Fellows program proved beneficial in unexpected ways, too. In her free time, Jia serves as a host for a Montgomery County, Maryland local-access television program called “Career Choices,” which highlights different career pathways through the lens of local professionals and what career choices they have made. Twice in 2017, Jia has been able to draw on her TFAS network for interviewees for the show. When she needed to interview a legal professional in the international development field, she called upon Brianne Fischer (AIPES 08, PPF 16) another Public Policy Fellow, who works for the Grameen Foundation and agreed to an interview on the show about her career.

After that episode, Jia again tapped her TFAS network and brought in Garrett Boorojian (IPJ 09) to interview about his career path, which began in his sports broadcasting internship at WUSA9 – where he and Jia met – arranged through the IPJ program. He spoke about broadcasting and about his recent career move into the small-business world, where he is now the chief development officer and managing partner for his family business, WaveCapital Partners.

“Career Choices” won the annual “Monty” award in 2016, presented by Montgomery County to recognize the best in public access TV. The award, under the “educational” category, brought well-deserved recognition to Jia and the rest of the “Career Choices” production team. Jia and her team have taped more than 40 episodes over the course of the show’s five-year run. The program is still going strong, boosted by the momentum from the Monty Award.

WUSA9 is a local TV news station but, being in D.C., it never feels strictly local.”

– Elizabeth Jia

Jia’s own career in broadcast news exposed her to many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. At WUSA9, she field-produced for the unveiling of the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon and for the inaugurations of Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Her production work for regular coverage of local nonprofit organizations once earned her an Emmy nomination. As the producer for that coverage, she interviewed, wrote scripts, shot video and edited each piece. She also guest-produced the Emmy-winning live talk show forum called “Race: An Honest Conversation.” Jia recruited the live audience, choosing a variety of people from different backgrounds to share their views.

Elizabeth Jia with a camera
As a producer, Jia needs to have a working understanding of all the equipment used to record and produce news.

After the 2017 inauguration, Jia guest-produced a lively debate on television and Facebook Live on Feb. 28, inviting young Democrats and Republicans to WUSA9 to share their perspectives on the election and the new administration. With Jia’s encouragement, two TFAS Public Policy Fellows from her cohort, David Stoffey (AIPE 15, PPF 16) and Michael Baker (ILA 10, PPF 16), made their way into the audience of the broadcast.

After 10 years as a journalist and producer at WUSA9, Jia has just taken on a new challenge as the chief content strategist at a healthcare startup. Although it is a new field for her, after gaining working knowledge on the job on topics as varied as architecture, veterans’ healthcare and politics from the local to the international, Jia is confident about this new chapter in her career.

“My current endeavors are more entrepreneurial,” she said,“but I will use all my skills I’ve honed as a journalist and producer.” 

Jia keeps up with the TFAS network and helps younger professionals who are eager for an opportunity. She has served as a mentor for aspiring journalists in the IPJ program and cheered one of her mentees on as the young woman applied for and won a coveted internship at WUSA9.

“Regardless of what people end up doing after TFAS,” Jia said, “it’s good to keep in touch.”

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