Atlanta born and raised, Jerry Askin has a clear vision of where he is headed. Not only does he have a direction in which he pursues, but he has always known what he wanted to do and began the course very early on.
Jerry loves to talk. Without hesitation, Jerry reveals that ‘talking too much’ was what kept him in trouble. As a youngster, his parents Yvette and Jerry could barely keep up with reports from teachers in which their son had gotten in trouble for talking too much.
“I remember having to serve detention for talking, talking back or just running my mouth in class. I’d get my work done early and I would just talk,” Jerry confesses.
Growing up watching Monica Kaufman with ABC affiliate WSB Channel 2 News, Jerry had always wanted to be a reporter. “Monica Kaufman was my mentor. If you live in Atlanta, you know Monica Kaufman. She’s has been there forever. I was about eight years old watching her on the news knowing that I wanted to do that,” Askin proclaims.
He attended Georgia State University in Atlanta and his fraternity was Alpha Phi Alpha.
Jerry became a big influence in students’ lives wherever he has been. “I am really big on mentorship. I like to reach out to younger kids to do what I can to help them become successful. I was a part of Big Brother Big Sister in Atlanta. I would go to the school every week or so to be there to give them guidance. A lot of these kids don’t have father figures in their homes and I just want to give them a male person in their life,” Jerry vows.
Jerry was never a student with no direction or who swayed from his goals. He stayed passionate and committed from day one. He was voted Homecoming King at Georgia State, and his chapter in Alpha Phi Alpha was “GQ Zeta Mu”.
What does the GQ stand for?
“Gentlemen of Quality,” Jerry says with a smile. Looking at this young man who gives no hesitation in answering any question and he has a clear vision for his life without having to reach for it as if it were miles away, Jerry is a gentleman of quality.
While in college, Jerry was awarded Best Reporter for Signal. “I was a writer for our newspaper and I got an award for the best beat reporter. I covered things like campus safety and stuff like that – I have always wanted to be a reporter,” he says.
Jerry did quite a bit of interning at various stations such as Channel 2 and Fox 5 - ABC and Fox stations in Atlanta.
At 22, the seasoned intern trekked to New York to work at Pix 11, the CW affiliate in New York City, for four months as a field producer/intern. “I would shadow reporters; I would field produce and go out with the other reporters and ask questions,” Jerry states.
While in New York he had the opportunity to work on a documentary about the World Trade Center under construction in the aftermath of the 911 terrorist attacks.
Jerry was offered a job working with CBS affiliate WCTV in Tallahassee. “I covered a lot of stories in Florida like the oil spill. It had just happened in 2010. There were a lot of stories about the oil and follow up stories a year later. Business owners and restaurant owners… fishermen… the ones who actually lost business because of oil in the water; from Apalachicola to Panama City, people were losing business,” Jerry confirms.
During his career in Tallahassee, he enjoyed reporting hard news, though it didn’t always bring accolades.
“I learned a lot. You learn from your mistakes - every reporter does. When you report hard news, not everyone is going to like it. Sometimes it takes adversity to help you grow and learn and to become a better reporter. You learn to make sure how you are attributing information, to make sure you are accurate with information. You learn quality - it takes trial and error. When I left there I came to Chattanooga. I was given a better opportunity and it was closer to home,” he says.
Jerry is a reporter for WTVC News Channel 9. “This is a stepping stone for me, I love Chattanooga and I love the area but I hope to get back to Atlanta in my career. I just have things to do here first,” he acknowledges.
Jerry Askin's determination promotes positive reinforcement. He knows his purpose in each step forward. It is not to step on people or push anyone out of his way - he is looking to serve people and has a heart for mentoring.
“I volunteer with Orchard Knob Middle School and helped them start a newspaper club. I just try to give back whenever I can,” he insists. He hopes to volunteer at Howard as well.
Jerry accepts and appreciates what it is that he needs to do before he reaches his ultimate goals. “I know where I see myself five or 10 years from now. I have big dreams to get back home… and I will,” Jerry upholds with confidence.
Working on the weekends, he doesn’t have a lot of time for activities but he does try to attend the early service at Olivet Baptist Church. “I would like to be more involved in the schools because my second passion is education. If I was not a reporter, I’d be a teacher, a principal or a counselor. I am involved with the Urban League of Professionals of Chattanooga and I am involved with Alpha Phi Alpha in Chattanooga,” Jerry says.
“I’m living day by day; I am not rushing my time here. This is an opportunity for me to learn and to grow and to be the best I can be; while making important contacts here, mastering the news and then eventually get back to Atlanta where it is more competitive,” Jerry affirms.
“I love hard news. I love being out in the field. I don’t have any desire in being an anchor. It doesn’t go with my personality, I want to be in the field meeting people and telling the stories of others. That’s more ‘me’,” he says.
“I have covered some crazy stories here,” Jerry says of his five months in Chattanooga. “Even this week in Dalton, when the son shot his father and mother and brother – I mean, who does that? I have covered a number of gang stories - I cannot even tell you how many. I covered a story a few months back where a guy shot his wife and her mother. I am trying to collect data to be able to interview gang mothers or gang members’ parents and just see what it’s like for them months later or what their words are to other parents to keep their children out of trouble,” Jerry says.
How does it affect him as an African American male to cover gang-related news?
“I feel like it’s my duty to step up. I think God wants me to be here. I have gotten messages on Facebook from people saying, ‘I am so glad you are here. Thank you for being a positive inspiration in our community’. Sometimes when you see other races on the news in a negative light and then you see a young man like myself that is positive - it is a good image for young people striving to find their way. I just feel like I am supposed to be here,” Jerry pauses and says, “I get kind of emotional when I am covering those stories. It touches me personally. I really put myself into the stories, it’s not about me – but I am affected. My heart is in it,” he confides.
Do you ever feel like you are hurting the African American community when you report the news on gangs?
“Yes. It is hard sometimes, covering negative stories in the black community - because I am black myself. Sometimes people offend me when they have asked, ‘Why are you out here covering this story and you're black? How are you helping us?’ - I try to just bring a change in whatever way I can. I want to bring many of the positive stories out there to light. Many people are overcoming the odds in their community. I try to pitch stories to show the positive influences that we have in our community,” Jerry insists.
Then he goes on to say, “But I do like covering the hard news. Obviously we have to cover the breaking news, it’s not a racial thing, but I know what it is like growing up in Atlanta and being here now and seeing the gang activity,” Jerry attests.
When asked if he felt that Chattanooga has more of a gang problem than Atlanta, he confirms, “No, not more. If we covered every gang shooting in Atlanta that would be all we report - it’s constant every day; but in Chattanooga - it is so small, you have to cover it. That’s what is happening. I wouldn’t say it was more at all,” Jerry says.
When talking about his passion for reporting he says, “People don’t really have a chance to tell their stories. I covered a story yesterday whose family’s house caught on fire. Everything caught fire in their apartment except one closet that stored a wedding dress and the flower girl's dress - the couple was getting married. People don’t get to tell their own story,” Jerry insists, “I like being able to talk to folks and tell the stories of others.”
“I cover various stories every day with all kinds of people,” Jerry says, “I just want to be their voice.”
Away from the news, Jerry has interests just like any other young person. “I like to talk to people, I like to write, go to restaurants, go to the movies and just hang out... and...shopping,” he says under his breath. “I like to look nice.”
With his outstanding maturity and having a good sense of who he is, Jerry does admit that he isn’t flawless, “I trip over stuff all the time and I lock myself out of the building. I lock the keys in the news car all the time. I have to call a locksmith or call the station and have them bring me a spare key. I’m just a laid back guy though; I go with the flow, just chilled… oh and single… so put that in there,” he teases as he gestures to the recorder.
Major influences for Jerry are the mentors he watched report the news in Atlanta, Monica Kaufman, George Howell and Tom Jones. “No, not that Tom Jones,” he laughs, “the one at Channel 2. They are all reporters that I have shadowed, they really inspired me and they helped me to see my reality.”