American journalist found ‘bigger, richer’ world in Asia

Jennifer Jett (MJ 2011), the Asia digital editor for NBC News and a board member at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, never thought she’d spend 17 years — and counting — in Asia.

The Arizona native said she “wanted to be a journalist pretty much as long as I can remember.” 

“My parents were big newspaper readers and it was sort of our Sunday-morning tradition,” she recalled of her childhood in the United States. “I really, really wanted to be a political journalist covering Congress and the White House.” 

Instead she ended up moving to Beijing, where she spent three years teaching English and working for an English-language news magazine. 

Jennifer moderating a lunchtime chat at FCCHK in June 2023

Jennifer at the MJ orientation in 2010

She then received a South China Morning Post Wah Kiu Yat Po Scholarship to attend the JMSC’s master of journalism program.

Jenn said that she gained valuable multimedia skills at the JMSC, and particularly benefited from the three business journalism classes taught by Jeffrey Timmermans. During a semester winter break, she had an internship overseas at the Jakarta Globe, where she did copy-editing and reporting on Indonesian culture and politics. 

While an HKU student, Jenn also began a copy-editing internship at the Hong Kong newsroom of the International Herald Tribune, thinking it would be a temporary position. She was surprised when it turned into a full-time editing job, leading to a decade-long stint at what would later be rebranded as the International New York Times.

In 2021, Jenn moved over to NBC News, which was just beginning to build its digital news operation in Hong Kong. “It was an exciting opportunity, from my perspective, to build an Asian digital operation from the ground up,” she said. 

She works with correspondents and producers from around Asia, from Tokyo to Bangkok. But she says the backbone of her mini newsroom in Hong Kong is NBC’s internship program with the JMSC.

She has up to six interns rotating through each term – both undergraduate and graduate students – coming from different countries like China, India and Germany. 

“The interns are such a joy to work with,” Jenn said. “They have really valuable skills, particularly language skills.” 

The team has a large patch to cover, from Afghanistan to New Zealand, working with NBC’s broadcast team in Beijing and freelancers around the region.

Though it can be difficult to compete with all the political news in the U.S., there is strong audience interest in Asia, which Jenn and her colleagues try to reinforce by “telling a different story or bringing a different perspective to people.”

Jenn is also an active member at the FCC, which hosts book talks, trainings, film screenings and other events, including an all-day journalism conference. “I find it intellectually stimulating, to help organise and to hear what speakers have to say,” she said.

Life is full of surprises for the journalist who once dreamed of being a political reporter in Washington, DC.

“One year in Beijing turned into three, and one year in Hong Kong turned into 13, almost 14,” Jenn said of her time in Asia.  

“I’m glad it worked out that way because sometimes when you don’t get what you want initially, it’s for the best,” she added. 

“It changed my life so much. My world is so much bigger, so much richer.”

Jennifer sharing her internship experience in 2011