Alumni employed by Congresswoman Hayes
Tamonda Griffiths—News Writer
The first African-American Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, has hired alumni Jason Newton to work as her communication director in Washington, D.C.
Prior to joining Hayes’ team, Newton worked as a broadcast journalist in New Haven, Lafayette, La., and West Palm Beach, Fla.
However, before he graduated in 2007, Newton started his collegiate career at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury.
“When I started at Naugatuck Valley it was a – essentially I just, you know, knew I needed to go to college, wasn’t sure what I wanted to study,” said Newton. “While I was at Naugatuck Valley that’s [where] I decided journalism was something that I would enjoy.”
Always fascinated by current events in both his town and the world at large, Newton said his interests were focused on government, and telling stories.
“Journalism became like an easy fit for me,” he said. In total, he said it took him about six years to graduate with his undergraduate degree.
“It was tough,” said Newton. “It was a lot of schedule juggling I had to do. You had to prioritize your time. I had to take a semester or two off here and there to make money to end up paying for the courses I needed to take.”
Newton said although his college experience was not completed in the traditional time frame, it was “worth it.”
“[College] taught me lessons I was going to need to know outside of college,” said Newton, “and I just think it helped me become a more well-rounded person.”
The lessons he learned, Newton said, were those of time management, budgeting and maturity.
He had to learn to turn down to partying to designate time to schoolwork, he said.
He also had to learn how to save money to enroll into classes, as well as pay the bills. He also had to get used to dressing as a professional.
Journalism professor Frank Harris III said he remembers the first time he met Newton.
“When he first came into my office and told me he wanted to be a broadcast journalist, I kind of– he had a grill on his teeth,” said Harris.
Harris said he never discouraged Newton’s goal, but instead listened and decided to “not judge a book by its cover.” The aspect of journalism that stuck with him beyond graduation was ethics, he said.
He was tested early on in his career as a journalist but would think back to the ethical questions and scenarios presented by journalism Professor Jerry Dunklee during his ethics class.
“Dunklee used to always says ‘If your mother tells you she loves you, better check it out. Better get two sources,’” said Newton.
Newton eventually went on to graduate school at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he earned his master’s degree in mass communications and media studies.
He worked for several years in Louisiana before and while studying for his graduate degree.
His experience working full-time as an undergraduate helped him balance the responsibilities.
What drew him to work for Hayes were their similar backgrounds– both of them are from Naugatuck Valley, are Southern alumnus and former residents of the same district in Connecticut–and the platform she ran on during the 2018 elections.
Before working for Hayes, Newton started as press secretary for Congressman Matt Cartwright in Pennsylvania.
He said he had been looking to get out of journalism and try something new.
“I got to the point where I kind of hit a wall as far as reporting goes,” said Newton, “I’d been doing [it] for about 10 years.”
Newton said one of the biggest things he finds himself learning every day in his current role is multitasking.
“As a reporter, I thought I was pretty good at multitasking,” said Newton. “As communication’s director, working for a member of Congress, it’s like multitasking on steroids.”
Harris said the last time he had ran into Newton was somewhere in downtown New Haven before his move to Washington, D.C.
“If he’s doing something, you always figure he’s gonna do it right, he’s gonna put everything into it,” said Harris, “and he’s, again one of those guys that you can say you’re proud to have had him as a student.”