Ahead of the curve: US kid embarks on good news dream
ORLANDO - If you think the news is too depressing, a 12-year-old schoolboy from Orlando, Florida may just have the answer.
Between juggling homework, orchestra rehearsals and cello lessons Max Jones has set about building an online television empire that specializes in all that is good in the world.
He has already set up Weekend News Today at www.hnheadlines.com, for which he is the senior anchor, but envisions one day presiding over a network of 15 sites.
Some might scoff at this ambition but his flagship project garners up to 5,000 hits a day and has attracted unpaid teen interns from across the globe to write and edit video and written content.
"I really think that one person can make a difference in the world, just bit by bit," Max told AFP.
"You get so many opportunities with being a journalist, and you get to see so many things that other people would not get to see. I just wanted to get out there now, and I like starting things before anybody else. I wanted to get ahead of the game."
To his friends he may seem shy, but in front of a camera he transforms, said Kim Jones, his mom.
"I find it quite intimidating to be either looking into a camera or to find a story and develop the story and then to sit down and present the story in a manner that will entertain people," she told AFP. "He does it very naturally, and I'm very proud of that."
Max dreams of becoming a broadcast journalist and is certainly ahead of curve, believing newspapers will eventually give way to online media and wanting to be in front of that transition.
The dream started when he watched a year-end retrospective on the Today show and became hooked on journalism.
In December he turned his bedroom closet into a TV studio where he spends some five hours a week -- more in the summer -- writing opinion pieces, taping video segments, gathering contributors and forging partnerships with other sites that share his good news zeal.
"My bedtime is 9 o'clock," he insisted. "If I have too much school work I put this aside because school has to come first."
Max, who is also taking online journalism courses, found a lot of his contributors on websites like craigslist and www.internship.com.
He has virtually no advertisers and is applying for non-profit status, but he generates marginal income by selling content on an online consignment shop that sells articles and pictures.
Recording his video segments at home and in a computer lab at Lake Highland Preparatory School, where he starts the seventh grade this year, Max already has the tenacity of a seasoned reporter.
After Sarah Palin's resignation this summer as governor of Alaska he wrote an opinion piece entitled, "Is this a midlife meltdown for Sarah Palin?" He called Palin's press secretary and asked for an interview but was turned down.
Max had more success with the author of a book on North Korea who he had tracked down after Asian-American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were taken captive while reporting near the Chinese border.
He became very active in the cause to free them, and after they were released during an historic visit to North Korea by former president Bill Clinton, he received a call from Ling herself thanking him for his help.
Lillian Wu, 18, began writing for Weekend News Today after connecting with Max on Facebook. The two shared a keen interest in the Ling and Lee story.
Wu, who loves to write and plans to major in English at the University of Vermont, where she starts as a freshman this year, said Max had been an inspiration.
"This is a young kid who is out there to change the world, and he cares so much about the world, and he's so young," she told AFP. "It's just inspiring. So many older people just don't even care or are really indifferent, and he's out there making his voice be heard, and yet he's only 12."