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    Live from Times Square: Lawrence K. Jackson ’13 Alumni Profile

    January 10, 2018

    Lawrence JacksonIn October, MTV re-launched its iconic afternoon show Total Request Live, an hour of music videos, live performances, and interviews filmed before a studio audience overlooking Times Square. Among the cast of five hosts: entertainment journalist Lawrence K. Jackson ’13.

    “This was the dream,” says Jackson of the career he wanted while a broadcast journalism major at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “I’m doing exactly what I hoped for.”    

    Jackson joined Viacom—MTV’s parent company—from Revolt TV, started by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. He joined that startup network four years ago, landing an audition after tweeting a highlight reel of his work in response to a casting call for photo extras. Joining the company in its infancy, he welcomed the opportunity to pitch and produce segments, experience he’s found invaluable in his current position at MTV.

    Highlights included an hour-long special with NBA star Kevin Durant filmed at his home in Oklahoma that was picked up by ESPN; snagging a red-carpet interview with Oprah at the premiere of Selma; and interviewing presidential candidate Donald Trump on a red carpet the night he secured enough primary votes to clinch the Republic nomination. “I asked him why a young black millennial would ever vote for Trump,” Jackson recalls.

    The TRL reboot is MTV’s attempt to expand its brand among the millennial generation that grew up streaming music on smart phones and documenting daily life on social media. The show has been updated accordingly. Several of the hosts are social media stars and content from the show is posted to YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter as it’s happening.

    Jackson prides himself on landing the gig based on his personality and skillset as an interviewer, although he is keen on expanding his social media presence.

    He credits the Newhouse School for teaching him many of the professional skills he uses today. Alongside Jackson’s involvement with the student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, which provided him with a network of mentors and peers, he hosted a radio show on WERW.

    “I called it ‘Rebellion Radio,’” says Jackson, explaining that he was “rebelling” against the assumption that he’d be playing only one genre of music. “I played everything,” he says. “It was a good preparation for what I’m doing now.”

    Jackson completed his SU education with the assistance of an Our Time Has Come Scholarship. “When I received the letter, it was especially meaningful receiving the Angela Y. Robinson Scholarship, because I knew exactly who she was,” says Jackson. “I used to study the alumni plaques on the Newhouse Wall of Fame and she was one of the few black faces.”

    Jackson hopes someday to be on that wall himself and have the ability to pay it forward with a Lawrence K. Jackson Scholarship.

    Currently, he’s enthusiastic to be a face that young people watching MTV can relate to. “I get to just be me,” he says. “Sometimes we talk music. Sometimes we talk politics. Sometimes it’s pop culture.”    

    You can catch him weekdays on TRL or on a campus near you. In 2018, Jackson will hit the road speaking to students across the country, hopefully including a stop on the Hill.—Renée Gearhart Levy