Have you ever Wikipedia-ed your birth year? I promise you, no matter what you do, you will feel like an underachiever when you see all the people your age who have pages. But you might also get a bit lucky, and find a really interesting person who doesn't mind at all that you stalked them down across the Internet. This is the story of how I met Max Jones, and what we talked about.
The name Max Jones might ring a bell. Or several. Maybe you remember all his campaign work in 2009, when he became an essential part of the team working to bring captured journalists Lisa Ling and Euna Lee home from North Korea (2009 = he was 13). Maybe you've heard about his documentary Seoul Sisters, when he unmasks the serious refugee crisis facing both North and South Korea. (He went to Korea and followed them himself.) It might even be that you've read or heard about Felice News, his all-positive ("Happy") news outlet. Take a moment and realize this: He's 15. Or rather, 16, since it was his birthday. See? Wikipedia, showing you how much better you could be since forever.
I had actually heard about Max in an interview with Lisa Ling in 2009 (yup, remembered it) and so when I was staring at his page, and the pieces started falling into place of exactly who this kid was, and how much he had done, two thoughts went through my mind: One, I really, really want to be friends with him. Two, I have GOT to interview him, because now I've got questions. I don't think I've ever acted so fast -- I was almost faster than Google. But Max almost stopped my speedy train of progress without even realizing it. This guy hasn't got his contact information posted ANYWHERE. Think about all the places your email address is. Profiles, websites, blogs? His? Nowhere. I eventually ended up tweeting him (P.S. @mjonesTO) and he decided that I probably wasn't an Internet psycho, and so I interviewed him. That first conversation, I only had five questions for him. We talked for three hours. For days after that I kept having flashbacks to our conversation, thinking about how incredibly well Max proves the point that anyone can do anything if they're passionate enough, no matter their age. When I asked him about being the youngest person on his team or reporters, he told me that it's all a matter of respect. If you do your job well, and treat everyone with the respect they deserve, age truly is only a number.
He had a dream, and he's making it happen: Felice News (cool story behind that: "felice" means "happy" in Italian). While he's a serious reporter, who wants to be known for bringing under-covered, important stories to light, he's also a teenage boy. He plays sports, hangs out with his friends, and loves NCIS (both versions). He also has an incredible perception of how important the issues he is covering really are. You should hear him talk about women's rights and the portrayal of females in the media. Tavi Gevinson would approve. In 16 years, he's traveled the world, met the president of the United States, met the pop star of the United States (Lady Gaga -- I can't decide which is cooler) and covered the Olympics in London. I can't wait to see what's next.
P.S. I took one questions from some of my followers on Twitter, and here it is. You really wanted to know: 20/20 or 60 Minutes? Max says: 60 Minutes, all the way.