Journalist Recognition Series: Ashley M. Williams
By Wayne Smith III
In today’s media landscape, journalists are expected to dabble in multiple mediums. In the four short years since her graduation, Ashley M. Williams has developed a formula to innovatively cover journalistic stories, social media and entrepreneurship with the exact same accuracy.
“I have always been a curious person,” said the University of Southern California grad. “I loved the idea of finding an untold story then sharing it with others to make them more aware, knowledgeable, and even change agents.”
Williams studied Broadcast Journalism and rarely missed an opportunity to get more experience outside of the classroom, contributing to on campus TV stations and publications. She has received multiple accolades for these endeavors including the 2011 NABJ Student Journalist of the Year award.
Ashley went on to work for an array of news publications and outlets including; WBAL Radio, Africa.com, The Today Show, the Grio, and MSNBC’s Politics Nation with Al Sharpton. One of Ashley’s longest tenures was under the employment of USA Today. There, she hosted and produced her own show entitled Long Story, Short.
“My favorite stories have been ones in which I have investigated something that needed attention or to be eradicated due to it negatively impacting a very large group”.
She’s covered everything from eating disorders to human trafficking. Most importantly, to her, she’s covered the lack of minorities in technology, an area where she’s devoted a great deal of time.
“If you would have told me in college that I would be interested in developing a technology product at this time in my life, I would have laughed at you and denied it.”
Williams recently founded a social media site that she calls RIZZARR. Unlike other social media sites, RIZZARR promises to become a community that downplays the negative gossip, body shaming and bullying in exchange for inspiration, encouragement and positivity. The site includes messaging, forums and the ability for the user to add friends to their network.
“On RIZZARR, young people can talk about tough issues affecting their personal lives in a manner they know will have limited social implications.” RIZZARR also promises to allow students to post their own creations providing they aren’t derogatory or degrading in nature.
In March 2014, RIZZARR came in second place in the Harvard Lean Startup competition, which solidified Ashley’s confidence in the network. Before choosing to work on the implementation of RIZZARR full time, Ashley found it challenging to juggle the website and her day job. However, she attributes her productivity to staying organized and the help and persistence of a supportive staff.
Ashley has many mentors she would like to thank including the “family” she has found in the National Association of Black Journalists.
“Being a part of NABJ has helped my career tremendously and the leaders within in it continuously inspire me to never give up on what I believe and the power that journalism can have on our world. I am forever indebted to NABJ”. Even though RIZZARR is her top priority, “l always keep my eyes open for great journalism opportunities.”
Currently the beta stage is in need of testing and review. You can sign up for a free account by visiting Rizzarr.com.