An interview he scored with Elizabeth Warren this week drew wide attention; viewers admired the sharpness of his questions and the sincerity with which she answered them.
It is not unheard of for reporters to find themselves at the center of attention after landing a high-profile interview or uncovering a big story. But Jaden’s age makes him unique — he is surely one of the youngest reporters covering the 2020 election, and at least as poised.
In his time with Warren, he posed serious questions, asking her what she thought was Trump’s worst policy — she said the family separations at the border — and what she was doing to create equal opportunities for people of color.
“Every time I think about economic issues I stop and say, ‘But let’s also see how it intersects with race,’” Warren said, before explaining how race-based policies created a biased housing market, including redlining — refusing to give a loan because the applicant lives in a perceived high-risk neighborhood.
The spot earned Jaden interviews on CNN, MSNBC, Univision, Fox News and NowThis, plus the accolades of his adult peers. He now has more than 21,000 followers on Twitter. Local press in Toledo dubbed him a “national star.”
“Jaden has a lesson for all of us reporters: Keep your questions short and simple. He killed it,” CNN’s MJ Lee wrote on Twitter.
Jaden, who lives with his family in Toledo, got the interview with Warren while she was in town because he came prepared. He showed up at her rally with a list of questions, ready for the opportunity for a one-on-one, should one come.
With the help of her press secretary, it did.
Since then, Jaden also sat down with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), another presidential hopeful. At one point, Jaden asked Ryan why he granted the interview request.
“I’m a politician so I’m going to talk to any reporter I can find,” Ryan said in a moment of candor.
The 2020 front line is relatively new territory for Jaden, who has spent most of his broadcasts — which can be found on his YouTube channel, Jaden Reports NOW, styled as TV news segments — focusing on local issues.
He said he began by covering basketball at his private, K-12 school, Maumee Valley Country Day School, and has since branched out to covering a variety of local issues: weather, crime, potholes, missing children, development projects, and a particular point of pride, a nurse’s strike at a hospital.
“It was a really good story and there were a lot of twists and turns and breaking developments — a lot of good things to cover,” Jaden told The Washington Post.
He has gotten some attention in town, after the local ABC affiliate invited him to help cover a food drive, he said.
The rising sixth-grader says he has every intention of making journalism a career when he is an adult, saying he strongly believes in its mission to keep people informed.
“There’s a lot of things that happen on a daily basis that a lot of people would not know about unless there was a journalist to tell the story,” he said.
He hopes to interview other front-runners — Kamala D. Harris, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Joe Biden — saying it’s clear to him that immigration is one of the central issues in the campaign.
He declined to comment on which candidate had impressed him the most, saying it wasn’t his place to weigh in.
He was quick to list off a roster of favorite television reporters, hosts and anchors, among them: George Stephanopoulos, Cecilia Vega, Robin Roberts, Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie.
He said he thinks his age is mostly an advantage when he’s out on the beat.
“A lot of people just give me an interview just because I’m a kid — that interview that they won’t give to adults in the media,” he said.
But they should be wary of underestimating him.
“I get to asking the tough questions,” he said.
Jaden was raised in a household where the news was on every morning, said his mother, Lynnell Jefferson, 49. Jefferson, a former employee of Buckeye Cable Systems, says she believes her son has also been influenced by the race- and gender-based discrimination lawsuit she filed against the company, which is ongoing.
“He’s seen how injustices [play out], and that’s reason thing why he likes to look at politics and resorts to talking about racism,” she said.
Jaden said he isn’t wary of entering a field that, more often than not, is suddenly the target of political attacks.
“When people hear something negative about a candidate, they tend to not believe it because they believe their candidate so much they’d be willing to downplay media reports,” he said. “Of course people are always going to say fake news, but I like what I do and I’m going to keep doing it."