Aerin JohnsonApril 12, 2022
Aerin “Ariel” Johnson is the current lead morning show producer at 5News in Fayetteville, AR. She started practicing journalism at the age of 8 and never really gave it up. She was the Executive Producer of TMN Television (now KTRM Studios) during her time at Truman State, along with doubling majoring in Communication and English. In her free time, she spends time nerding out on DND, fantasy books and TV, comics, historical dramas, spooky stuff, and all things true crime.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I was the Executive Producer of TMN Television (now KTRM Studios) for my last two years of school. Before that I was a Producer for the station, I was the multimedia editor, and originally your average reporter! I was also a consultant at the Writing Center and was a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Phi Omega, and Lambda Pi Eta (the Communication Honors Society).
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I chose not to go to grad school after college, but is something I continue to consider since I like learning!
What was your first job after graduation?
My first job after graduation was with City Year as a Student Success Coach and Americorps member! I got to work as tutor and classroom assistant for English and Ethnic. I really enjoyed getting to work with the kids and I got to move out to San Jose, CA for a year to do it. I not only helped out at the school, but I was my City Year work site’s photographer for some pretty big events (no matter the job, I always seemed to have a camera with me).
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
I’m currently the Lead Morning Producer at 5News in Fayetteville, AR. I create, lead, and produce packages anywhere from small interview segments to our 2 and a half hour morning shows. I get the opportunity to learn and work with our anchors to create relevant content for our audience, along with looking ahead at weather and making sure people are well prepared for their day. Not to mention all the fun, goofy pieces we get to put together. I also work with our morning show reporter on stories and scripts, making sure they have everything they need and helping out where I can.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
News can be a lot, and when you’ve got a lot to do, it can be very easy to lose focus. I spent a lot of time at Truman learning about making sure you know what has news value and what doesn’t. I’m one of the first people to see the news, so it’s really important that I take the time to go through and make sure that what I’m putting out there matters to my audience. Not only that, I have to make sure that what I’m putting out there is accurate and I’m being ethical. My COMM classes really helped learn where to go when I’m unsure of things, and having that basis in ethics really helps me to think whether or not a story should go out, or if one piece of information given is needed.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
Honestly, that’s really hard! I enjoyed most of my classes, but if I had to pick one I struggled with a lot, it was probably Rhetoric and Civic Life. It was interesting, I just struggled a lot with some of the logic, but now I find it extremely helpful, especially if I’m going through press releases or stories from one of our partners and I need to understand, okay, is this fact or not.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
Probably all my work at TMN Television. When I took over as a leader for the station, we had just lost quite a few members to graduation and personal problems. Despite lack of staff, technology issues, and other problems that would come up, my team and I managed to keep the TV station alive and well through the end of my college years. I did a lot of things to make sure it stayed running and wore a lot of different hats, but nothing made me prouder than when my last show came around and we had 10 members at the station, as opposed the beginning of the year when it was just me and my assistant producer. I take a lot of pride that even when it was just the two of us, we were still able to put out shows biweekly, and managed to put those on with a barebones staff.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
Truman gives you opportunities to do things that you want to do. I was able to just sign up to work for student media my first day of classes. I was able to work with my professors and do projects for the things that I cared about. I got to run blogs on mental health, create a documentary on one of my special interests. Not to mention all the classes I got to take on some of my favorite, more random subjects.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
A lot of people say it, but I’ll say it again. Join student media. Do it! It can be a lot of fun and you’d be surprised at some of the opportunities you’d get. I got to learn to do a lot of live broadcasts and streams of some really cool events and learned more about how to cover them. It also gave me an opportunity to write and express some creativity that way as well.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
Take chances! You never know where they might lead and always be willing to learn. Nothing ever stays the same in the broadcast industry.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
Diner 54 . . . and all the Mexican food . . . and my friends . . .
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
“Come for the COMM classes. Stay because you don’t want to walk 10 minutes back to campus.” — Just kidding. Here’s the real one.
“Learning the real world skills to communicate in real time.”
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
For communication, I’d love to do a class on creating content on and for YouTube. It’d probably be called “Creativity and Social Media.”
I’d really like to try and make a class about spooky things, like ghost stories, myths, legends, and serial killers. How they come into the public’s knowledge and why do they fascinate us? This would just be an opportunity to give way too much information about these random subjects. The more educational title would probably be “Horror, Real and Fictional, and the Public Conscious.”
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
I think this pretty much covers it! But it is important to know, make friends with your professors! They’re pretty cool.
If you would like to learn more of Aerin’s story, you can follow her on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter.