INTERVIEW: 11Alive anchor Ron Jones’s unorthodox career path

Ron Jones joined 11Alive in 2016. 11ALIVE

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Ron Jones joined 11Alive in 2016. 11ALIVE

He has started as 5 and 6 p.m. anchor on top of 11 p.m.

Ron Jones, who was recently promoted at 11Alive and is anchoring all evening newscasts, took an unusual path to where he is now compared to most of his peers.

The Oakland native spent nine years in the Army, leaving the service as a sergeant. He then joined the Oakland police department in 1986, figuring that would make a solid career.

But he always had a yen for video production and landed in training, personnel and recruiting, then public information. He began hosting a low-budget cable access show called “OPD on TV.” “It was probably seen by five people,” he said. “My family members. That’s about it. I interviewed cops.”

Sherry Hu, a Bay Area CBS broadcast journalist, actually saw the show and began mentoring him.

“She taught me how to do a stand up and encouraged me to get into the TV news business,” he said. “She encouraged me to make VHS tapes of myself and shop them around,” he said.

With her encouragement, he attended the first UNITY journalism conference in Atlanta for minority journalists seeking a career move. While at least one recruiter at the job fair scoffed at his resumé, a Roanoke, Virginia, TV station liked him and gave him a shot.

He felt decidedly out of place, given he had no college degree and was far older than others with his level of experience ― or lack thereof. He was also married with two kids. “It took some adjustments, a lot of crashing and burning,” he said. “I made a lot of mistakes. This was a mid-sized market. I struggled. But I was so passionate about storytelling and enjoyed it so much.”

When he was given the weekend anchor job, he prepped by arriving early, grabbing old scripts from the garbage and reading the news in an empty studio multiple times. “I did fake live shots in my living room using a VHS camera,” he said. “I’d read CNN news off the computer just to catch up with everyone else.”

Two years of hard work and he was able to get back to California, landing a job at a Sacramento station. He took a two-year break in the early 2000s to take care of his ailing parents, but eventually returned to Sacramento, where he was a fixture on the CBS affiliate until 2016. By then, he and his wife Tammy were empty nesters and wanted a change of scenery..

Jones sent out feelers and a Tegna recruiter found him on LinkedIn. 11Alive was interested. He timed his trip to interview in Atlanta with a college trip to drop off his daughter in Virginia Beach. Jennifer Rigby, the 11Alive news director, soon offered him a job as a weekend anchor and reporter.

“It was the best TV decision I’ve ever made,” Jones said.

In 2019, he was given the 11 p.m. newscast. And now he’s handling 5 and 6 p.m. duties.

He said he hopes for 11Alive to be his final job before retirement. “I don’t plan to go anywhere else, no other markets,” he said. “11Alive is our home. Atlanta is our home. I’m still able to use my skills as a shooter and editor and anchor.”

Even with the extra anchoring, Jones still plans to do some reporting. As a former cop, he has a special interest in crime and law enforcement.

Jones replaces veteran anchor Jeff Hullinger, who moves to weekends. “We get along real well,” Jones said. “He’s such a professional. Whatever position they place him in, he’ll come in and do his work. I see him as a mentor and look up to him.”