It all began with a robot.
Aiesha Little’s high school did not have a newspaper or a yearbook, so she tried math- and science-related extracurricular activities. But after a particularly memorable experience at a tech camp she attended outside school, she left the event knowing math and science were not for her.
“We were supposed to put together a robot at the end of the camp; it was supposed to work. My robot didn’t work. And that’s where I decided that I wanted to do writing of some sort — no math, no science — writing,” Little said.
Following that epiphany, Little took the initiative to pursue journalism outside high school. She attended journalism camps and prepared herself for her dream career in newspapers. At Central Michigan University, she majored in journalism, interning with the local paper and then The Detroit News. Little thrived on the fast-paced environment, the different stories and people she covered, and the thrill of always learning more about a variety of topics. She poured herself into newspapers, believing it was the perfect job for her.
“And then I got my first full-time job at the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal. About three months in, I realized it was not going to work for me,” Little said.
Little returned to school, enrolling at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, for a master’s degree in English literature. It was in the heart of Cincinnati that she found her true calling.
“In my first semester (at Xavier), I found an internship opening at Cincinnati Magazine,” Little said. “I found the style was quite different from newspapers, more conversational, and I really enjoyed that a lot more.”
The internship was unpaid, so Little worked two other jobs in order to make ends meet. When a paid opportunity to work in the special sections of the magazine opened, she took it. Little was hired as a part-time editorial assistant, and she knew she had found her niche.
“I did my first feature story and loved it,” she said. “I loved the artwork, going into more detail and putting more description in my stories, and really spending more time with people to get to the heart of the story. I was completely hooked.”
Little quit her third job to work at the magazine in the morning, work at Xavier in the afternoon and attend class at night.
That busy student is now the associate editor at Cincinnati Magazine, and she is still no stranger to a bustling schedule. Little, who joined SPJ in 1998, is chairwoman of the SPJ Generation J Committee; was an SPJ Diversity Leadership Fellow in 2007; started the SPJ Speed Networking chapter events; volunteers on the SPJ Diversity Committee and helps with the Cincinnati chapter; assists the local non-profit, Melodic Connections, with its public relations and marketing; and still finds time to satisfy her love for jazz music.
“I think that when you’re a young journalist, you have an idea of what you want to do, and anything other than that will be a complete compromise and you’re selling out — that’s really not how life works,” Little said. “It’s finding your happiness wherever you can find it. And sometimes (it’s) having to let go of the ideal, and being OK with that, and not feeling like you failed.”
Little tells students and young journalists to think about all the different aspects of their work and lives that make them happy, encouraging them to understand that if they don’t get that “one thing,” they’re not destroyed. Her glass-half-full outlook extends to the state of the industry and magazines’ place in it.
“For magazines specifically, there has always been what the industry calls ‘wantedness.’ You enjoy getting a magazine in the mail on a monthly basis, you keep it for more than a month, you set it down and you come back to it,” she said. “With the way tech is affecting our industry, I don’t know how ‘wantedness’ will play into the future of magazine publishing, but I think a lot of industry leaders have opened their eyes and see this isn’t going away, we need to adapt.”
As for Little’s role in the changing times, she will continue to write her way into the heart of people and issues, to be flexible and to keep moving in the direction that led her to happiness.
Tagged under: Generation J