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Jessica Jonzen's why

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Jessica Jonzen's why

Jessica Jonzen | BA English, 2004 | Acting Editor, Edition

“My why… is to bring people's stories and experiences out into the world so that others might take something from them.”

jess jonzen my why
Why did you choose Royal Holloway for your degree?

When I was about 14, my stepfather took a diversion as we drove home one weekend to show us where his brother had gone to university. It was Royal Holloway. As we drove around the perimeter of the Founder’s Building, I was awe-struck and promised myself that it was where I'd go to university myself. When it came to visiting other universities four years later to make my final choice, nowhere inspired me in the way that Royal Holloway had. The fact that the English degree there is so well respected sealed the deal. 

What was it about the subject that interested you?

It's a subject I’ve loved since primary school and as I was set on becoming a journalist, I knew that a copper-bottomed classical degree would serve me well. The course at Royal Holloway was rich and varied and my mind was expanded in ways I couldn't have imagined. From Old English to Freud via Shakespeare, the Romantic Poets and the Great American Novel, the course offered it all. What I love about English is the fact that it is the bedrock of British culture, linking seemingly disparate subjects. It’s our link with both the past and the future, as storytellers pass their experiences, ideas and creations down through the generations. It teaches you to be open-minded, to analyse and to critique. And best of all, it insists that you read dozens and dozens of books.

As a student, what did you hope to achieve in the future?

I hoped that I would become a journalist and earn the privilege of building a career out of telling people's stories. I find people endlessly fascinating. Everyone has an interesting story to tell - even if they don't realise it. Something which can seem very boring to you can be extraordinary to someone else. I couldn't imagine anything more appealing than the idea of meeting people and being trusted with telling their stories for a living.

Where has your career taken you since university/what are you doing now?

Having done stints of work experience at various newspapers, magazines and television companies during my university holidays, I was able to secure an extended internship on the features desk at The Daily Telegraph.

After four months I left to study for my NCTJ diploma (a qualification from the National Council for the Training of Journalists where I learned shorthand, media law, the workings of government and how to write news articles and long-form features). Afterwards, I applied to The Sunday Times for a place of their trainee scheme and was offered a place on News Review - the news features section of the paper. I worked my way up to Assistant Editor of the section before leaving to go freelance.

During that time I wrote features and interviews for everyone from The Lady and The Times to parenting magazines and Net-a-Porter. The position of maternity cover for their Deputy Editor came up and I applied and stayed there for seven months before moving to Matches Fashion and Deputy Editor.

Since moving out of London, I continue to freelance for Matches Fashion and The Sunday Times Magazine and even had a podcast with a fellow Royal Holloway alumna, Charlotte Edmonds. I then discovered a magazine based quite near to me in Buckinghamshire which needed a Deputy Editor part-time and got the job. The role is endlessly creative and fits in perfectly with my other work and also with the demands of caring for my two young children. 

What difference do you think you are making?

Publishing a thought-provoking or insightful article or interview is personally very satisfying but it's easy for journalists to feel that their work gets subsumed in a sea of other people's work. Sometimes, however, I receive an email or a comment which tells me that my article has made a difference to that reader's day, and maybe even to their outlook. From interviewing bereaved parents to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation to injured soldiers returning from Afghanistan, the act of putting people's stories out in the public domain can be a catalyst for change. Even a lighter piece such as a fashion or travel article can inspire a reader to invest in themselves in some way, and that's important too. 

Have you achieved what you wanted to by this point or made the impact you hoped to make?

I don't think I ever had a goal to be holding a particular title by a certain age; I just wanted to have my work published. However, I have held senior editorial positions at The Sunday Times, Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion and am currently Acting Editor on a regional luxury lifestyle magazine called Edition, so I feel very satisfied by what I have achieved so far and I feel excited by what's to come. It's a great privilege to being writing and editing Higher magazine for the second year running; it feels as though things have come full circle.

How do you feel going to Royal Holloway helped you to find your ‘why’?

My time at Royal Holloway was absolutely essential in helping me to find my purpose. I arrived with the notion that I wanted to be a journalist and I left feeling confident that I could become a journalist. Studying for a rigorous and challenging degree refined my writing and my ability to analyse and argue a point of view. Socially, Royal Holloway was also the place where I met a group of friends who have become lifelong supporters, cheerleaders and confidantes and they have helped me enormously, too.

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