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Senior Editor of The Atlantic speaks to Lexington middle school

Jeremy Castillo Hernandez
Jenisha Watts pictured speaking at Crawford Middle School in Lexington, Kentucky.

From a very young age, Lexington native Jenisha Watts was infatuated with reading and writing and knew she wanted to pursue a career in it. In high school, she joined Bryan Station’s journalism program. Watts attended the University of Kentucky, where she continued with journalism and wrote for the Kentucky Kernel. Watts then attended Columbia as a graduate student. Watts’ very first journalism job was local to Lexington, as she was an intern at the Herald-Leader. Watts has written for many different magazines and newspapers over her career, including People, Times, ESPN, and most recently The Atlantic, where she currently writes. On October 31st, Watts spoke to middle and high school students at Crawford Middle School.  

“I was always interested [in journalism],” Watts said. “I was a senior at Bryan Station High and I decided to pursue it [as a career].”

Watts is a Senior Editor for The Atlantic and most recently published an essay on her life and how she got to where she is today. The piece is titled, I Never Called Her Momma: My childhood in a crack house

“[At The Atlantic], you get to tell different types of stories and interact with different types of people,” Watts said. “It’s a good experience.”

Watts had worked on her most recent story for almost two years. Watts’ story discusses the hardships she experienced growing up in a crack house and living with a drug-addict mother. Watts details her journey to making it to where she is today; a part of her story being an imagined meeting with Maya Angelou, one of her biggest inspirations growing up. 

“The [essay] I worked on recently for The Atlantic, it took me [a long time],” Watts said. “I worked on it for almost two years. I had to interview people in my family, interview friends. It was a long grueling process. I would say [that piece] is one of my favorites; it’s one of my hardest and most challenging.”

As a Senior Editor, Watts’ beat is more focused towards politics and ideas. Watts works to assign articles to writers, whether that be ones at The Atlantic or freelancers. The one thing Watts makes sure to look for when people have an idea of what to write about is that they have an argument to support their position.

Watts suffered many hardships throughout her life and spoke of survivor’s guilt, despite being proud of how far she has come in her career.

Watts moved to New York after she got a job at Essence magazine. From there she moved on to The Atlantic

“[I’ve been at The Atlantic] since 2020,” Watts said. “First I applied- I had to go through a lot of different rounds of interviews to get the position. It was a couple of months before I finally got the position.”

Watts has made her way through different positions at The Atlantic over her course of time working for the magazine. 

“First I started out on special projects,” Watts said. “It just evolved from there.”

Watts describes her job at The Atlantic as being different from anywhere else she has written, in that The Atlantic covers so many different topics and ideas, versus having a more set area of interest at places like ESPN or Essence.   

Watts now has a one-year-old son. She writes about how she hopes her son never has to suffer through life as she did. Watts has worked hard for where she is in life and wants to provide the most for her family, a feat she was never able to experience growing up. 

One day Watts hopes to write and publish a book further discussing her life or more of an inspirational/self-help book. While she enjoys working at The Atlantic, she aspires for more to come of her career and is looking forward to the next steps. 


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About the Contributors
Evie Smith, Editor-in-Chief
Evie Smith is a senior and the editor-in-chief for The Devils' Advocate. She enjoys reading and hanging out with her friends. Evie also enjoys binging reality shows, such as Love Island U.K. and Jersey Shore.
Jeremy Castillo Hernandez is a senior from the class of 2024. This is his fourth year as a journalism student and his third year as editor. He enjoys watching movies, leading worship, and spending time with friends and family.

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