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Jai-Leen James: journalist turned digital analyst

Jai-Leen James

Jai-Leen James is a journalist. She is an ethical, objective and effective storyteller who can craft a beautiful headline followed by a poignant lede. But her most recent role on the digital production team for the USA TODAY Network exposed her to the business side of journalism and opened her eyes to the wealth of information found in multi-channel analytics.

“Page views, audience engagement and subscribership are factors that determine a publication’s ultimate survival,” James said. “But the question many newsrooms struggle with is, ‘What is the best method to accomplish this goal?’ I'm helping answer that question by offering insight into reader segmentation, social media strategy and metrics analysis.”

James joined the USA TODAY Network in September 2019 and was admitted to the WVU Reed College of Media’s Digital Marketing Communications online master’s program the following year.

“This program has already taught me skills needed to excel in my profession,” James said. "I was recently promoted to a larger, regional role, and I believe that my implementation of the skills I've learned thus far as a DMC student contributed to that achievement."

James, a first-generation American and daughter of Jamaican immigrants, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and new media from Towson University in 2016. Upon graduation, she interned with the Baltimore Orioles, producing live in-game video and promotions, and then spent a year abroad in Cologne, Germany.

Since then, she has worked in event marketing for the New York Red Bulls major league soccer team, and as an associate sports producer for a local television station in Miami, Florida, where she had the opportunity to work in the field and interview several high-profile athletes and coaches. In her current role at the USA TODAY Network, she oversees digital strategy and implementation for more than 30 news sites, tracking metrics and traffic patterns using Google Analytics and managing audience engagement through news alerts, search engine optimization data and social posts. The online format of WVU’s master’s degree is ideal for James who has already moved twice to pursue career opportunities in her young career. And she is just getting started.

“The news connects and informs citizens of the world,” James said. “There are past, present and future stories that deserve to be heard. I want to amplify the voices of those less fortunate.”

James also wants to open more doors for young journalists, so they don’t encounter some of the struggles she has experienced, including unmanageable student debt and poor employment prospects. To this end, James is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, where she participates in student mentoring and community events like town hall forums between the media and the communities they serve.

“The world needs change, compassion and understanding. And I will contribute to that growth,” James said.

James is one of three recipients of the 2021 IMC/DMC Scholarship through the WVU Reed College of Media. Other recipients include Rita Yelda, an Integrated Marketing Communications master’s student from Browns Mills, New Jersey, and Kaitlin Scoffone, a Data Marketing Communications master’s student from Baltimore, Maryland.