From the Montana mountains to Memphis, Leah Jordan trekkes to find her own path in journalism

Leah Jordan did not grow up like many journalists talking “into their hairbrush and do newscasts when they were a kid,” she said.

Entering Georgia State University without any idea of what she wanted to pursue, journalism presented itself as an option.

Photo above: News consumers are seeing a new face in Memphis, Tenn. Leah Jordan is a new investigative reporter for its FOX affiliate news station. Supplied photo

By Hannah Lester, SizingUpTheSouth.com reporter, Auburn University

“I stumbled upon the student newspaper, and pretty much I found a home of friends and that was kind of our little hangout,” Leah Jordan said. She is now a seasoned broadcast journalist and an investigative reporter for WHBQ-TV in Memphis, Tenn.

“We had a weekly newspaper and it just became a passion for all of us to tell these stories, organize it, take photos, have a compelling product for people around the campus to read,” she said.

Leah Jordan, investigative journalist, WHBQ-TV, Memphis, Tenn.

Enrolling in Georgia State University’s College of Communication, Jordan found that her journalism major was one of the most popular by undergrads in the college. Yet, she said she realized that becoming active in the Society of Professional Journalists might propel her academic career forward as well.

After speaking with the advisor for the GSU independent student newspaper, The Signal, Jordan decided that it might be time to restart the SPJ Georgia State student chapter. While Georgia State University had previously had a chapter, it had become inactive.

“I just decided, well maybe this is something that people will appreciate and like, and we started setting up events. It just kind of became something a little bit deeper for the journalism scene at Georgia State,” she said.

The Signal is the independent student newspaper of Georgia State University. Jordan held the position as copy editor for three years for the newspaper.

Studying journalism occupied a large portion of her life while at GSU. Jordan worked for three years as a copy editor for the The Signal and held the position as the SPJ GSU chapter president. These responsibilities provided her a social group, she said. In addition, Jordan added another major, Spanish, to her college curriculum and held a part-time job as a server at a local Atlanta restaurant.

“I created the best relationship with people, friends — true friends, while I was doing all of those things and still somehow managed to prioritize school somewhere in there.”

Leah Jordan, Investigative Journalist, WHBQ-TV, Memphis, Tenn.

Her senior year, Jordan was selected one of 10 students statewide to report for the Georgia News Lab. The lab is a collaborative investigative reporting initiative between top Georgia universities and two major news organizations in Atlanta, WSB-TV Channel 2 and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jordan and a colleague led an investigation into a local county commissioner misusing taxpayer dollars. Their work was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

She also interned at the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and The Atlantan Magazine.

From her start as a student journalist from Georgia State, Leah Jordan has evolved within the journalism industry taking her own path to reach her goals as a professional broadcast journalist.

Next, she pursued an internship and started working for WSB-TV. Jordan said her experience as a student journalist, however, was within the print or online news industry and not within broadcast journalism.

“I went in for the interview, was super nervous but, I got it and just kind of fell in love with the aspect of not only telling people stories but getting creative with it and being able to add sound, video, really being able to, I guess, use all of those aspects,” she said.

This internship changed her entire life plan. Jordan said she started pursuing broadcasting rather than print journalism.

“That’s where I kind of fell in love with journalism even more and was knowing that ‘wow some people get to do this every single day.’”

Leah Jordan
Jordan’s first job was in Billings, Mont. at KULR-TV. Flickr photo

Graduating in May of 2015, Jordan landed her first job in Billings, Mont., as a general reporter for KULR-TV. Even though she was working in a market that provided majestic scenery that included the Yellowstone River and the Beartooth Mountains, Jordan new home was 30 hours away from home. Jordan won the E.B. Craney Award for “Best Television Writer,” for excellence in local Montana news.

Later, she returned back to the South and became a weekend anchor/reporter for WAFF-TV 48 News in Huntsville, Ala. Jordan said she decided her focus would not only be anchoring but also producing longer segments and investigative work. While at WAFF-TV, Jordan key reports included:

  • Former Robert Bentley’s resignation amid a sex scandal
  • A local service dog scam that victimized nearly a dozen vulnerable people
  • The 2017 Senate election between Republican candidate Roy Moore and Democratic candidate Doug Jones, which resulted in a historic upset.

Her reporting in Alabama earned her an Associated Press Award for “Best TV Coverage of a Planned Event.”

In January 2019, Jordan took a slight northwest jump toward the Mississippi River and joined the WHBQ-TV team as an investigative reporter in Memphis, Tenn.

“There’s definitely more of an expectation for holding public officials accountable in this position,” she said. “ … I have a responsibility to keep pushing, and keep, I guess, not accept no for an answer from elected officials.”

Leah Jordan
Leah Jordan, a GSU journalism alumna and former SPJ GSU president, is an investigative reporter at FOX 13 in Memphis, Tenn. where she takes on the daily effort to uncover the truth. FOX 13 Photo

As an investigative reporter, Jordan has more time to work on each story. Digging deeper into complicated issues requires daily effort to uncover the truth, she said. Jordan is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

“There’s something really rewarding about being able to spend a little bit of extra time on stories as an investigative reporter and that is something that not many general assignment reporters get,” Jordan said.

Sharon Dunten, SizingUpTheSouth.com, editor, also contributed to this article

Hannah Lester is the 2019 SPJ Region 3 spring intern and reporter for SizingUpTheSouth.com. She will be graduating from Auburn University this spring with a major in journalism. hannah.lester.spj@gmail.com