At the ripe age of 14, Ariel Asher is already an award-winning national journalist.
After submitting articles on space tomatoes, chickens on campus and the career of a school board trustee, the Journalism Education Association honored the Red Oak Middle School student with the 2018 Aspiring Young Journalist award.
Beth Shull judged the entry and emphasized Asher’s thoroughness in reporting on academic projects at his school.
“With topics of tomato seeds in space and chickens serving as student companions, there were many reader questions to be addressed,” Shull explained. “Ariel did an excellent job with all assignments submitted for the contest.”
The skilled reporter served as senior staff writer, editor, and anchor for RO: In the Know, the online newspaper and broadcast.
Even though he submitted written articles, his real passion is in television journalism. While anchoring for the school broadcast, he’s reported on earnest topics such as the Parkland school shooting and flu virus.
“At first I’m nervous but when the camera starts rolling and we start recording, I just start speaking,” Asher elaborated. “I think it’s my natural instinct. I get nervous at the start, but when the lights turn on, and the camera is rolling, I just go.”
He shared how his father serves as an essential inspiration, working with him on his presentation and speaking skills. Asher is one of three of his siblings to participate in the journalism program at Red Oak Middle School.
Through the world of journalism, Asher has discovered the impact of his writing style. Before introduced to reporting, he wrote short stories with the anticipation of finishing a book. He would write a few pages, then scrap the idea, most commonly writing about fantasy. In his spare time, he enjoys reading about survival and fiction to balance out the real world.
“But when I got into journalism I found I could do much more. That helped me realize I could tell other people’s stories,” Asher explained.
As a young aspiring journalist, his advice to others is to “stay truthful, be courageous, and always do what’s right. Always be inspired by others.”
His also reminds folks who have been in the field for decades to report without bias. He pointed out the problem with reporting today is that journalists present their stories with an agenda.
Asher strives for ethical journalism — and he even has a copy of the Society of Professional Journalism Code of Ethics. He explained how being truthful and always curious are two components of journalism that drive him.
When Asher arrived to class Tuesday, his parents and four siblings greeted him. He thought it was unusual but did not believe it was for the national recognition.
“I was overfilled with joy and everything, but at the same time, I didn’t know what to feel because it was shocking — it was out of all the US I won, and I gave my thanks to God for that,” Asher expressed.
Asher elaborated on the significance of the award and reflected on his younger years when he initially dreamed of being an actor. Before going to bed, he would close his eyes and imagined his life as an actor.
“And, I started to grow and mature more and realized you couldn’t just be an actor and when in eighth grade, I won this award that means so much to me and will go a long way in my life," Asher explained.
Asher has already created his high school schedule, incorporating journalism courses. He also interviewed to be a Hawk Scholar, which allows a student to graduate with an associate’s degree.
The journalism professor at Red Oak Middle School, Myia Griffith, emphasized his role in the classroom as a respected leader as he always strives for excellence.
“In terms of reporting, I think he carries himself very well with his peers as well as the adults on campus,” Griffith added. “I appreciate what he has brought to the program, knowing that he’s going to be studying journalism — he can do anything. He can go into business, political science, government, journalism and do all of those things.”
This was the second year for Griffith to mentor Asher, and she noticed his writing skills had matured immensely.
The application Asher submitted was extensive as he included a resume, letters of recommendation, the three articles, and an essay overviewing the importance of journalism at the middle school level. He also provided a self-assessment of his work, evaluating the news value of his content.
Red Oak ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Goddard elaborated on Asher’s success not only as a writer but a role model for his peers.
“When a student gets recognized at a national level for their performance, no matter the competition, it’s paramount of affirmation," Goddard said. "Ariel is an amazing writer, but even more important a great young man. He exemplifies the four talons of Red Oak ISD."
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450