Andrew Jenner ’00 is EMS’s 2020 Community Engagement Award recipient. Jenner has connected with local and international readers for more than 15 years on everything from city council to obscure science-y things, always committed to truth telling.
As co-founder of the free, online independent news source, The Citizen (hburgcitizen.com), Jenner’s journalistic endeavors currently serve Shenandoah Valley readers, even as he works full time in the solar industry.
Jenner’s 2018 transition from freelance journalism to a 9-5 job was “a little bit like I finally got called up to the big leagues,” he says. “I got a few hits and
now am on to something else.” His journalistic “hits” include publication with The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and the Chicago Tribune.
While freelance journalism brought Jenner the satisfaction of being published in respected outlets, he learned that “forces completely beyond my control were making what once had been a way to earn a decent living no longer tenable… That’s how I wound up in the solar industry.”
This new professional chapter now has him pursuing his journalistic passions on evenings and weekends.
The Citizen’s content is “pretty basic stuff,” Jenner wrote in the August 2, 2020, weekly email “round up” of coverage. “… and more often than not, that’s the whole point – little daily FYIs concerning things that might affect you or your neighbors in this little place we’re lucky to call home.”
Andrew “never would have guessed” he’d end up in the Valley and counts himself lucky to have lived in Kenya from ages 6-13 with his parents. “I have a bunch of fond memories of what seemed to me like big adventures through parts of the world that few people who don’t live there ever see.”
The experience “probably made me more comfortable than I would have been otherwise, being in situations where I’m different than everyone else, or in being in unfamiliar places,” he says. “It also gave me a perspective on material comforts that manifests itself nowadays in me lecturing my kids about how they have no idea how lucky they are.”
The Jenner family returned from East Africa to the United States in 1996 and settled in Harrisonburg on Andrew’s 14th birthday, where his mother
began a position with the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, and he began ninth grade at EMHS.
As a student in both high school and college, Jenner had no inkling that his future might include a career in journalism. He recalls high school English teachers
Ernie Martin and John Leonard encouraging him in his writing.
And, as he grew older, he began to tap into his personal intrigue with a well-crafted piece. “In my senior year of college,” he recalls “I remember reading a piece in The Atlantic that helped me realize how well-written content can have a real impact on people.”
After college and a year in Germany, Jenner worked for Valley newspapers while completing an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College, Towson, Md.
Read the rest of Andrew’s story, including media advice for today’s teens, at easternmennonite.org/news
Andrew will share in Chapel Oct. 16 at EMS with a video link shared on EMS chapel YouTube channel.