On a slow news day in 2006, TV news reporter Cara Jones ’98 was sent to the scene of a fatal car accident on a Boston freeway. By the time she arrived, the wreckage had been cleared and the flow of traffic had resumed. Her editor told her to head to the victim’s home.
Jones did, hoping all the while that no one would be home or that she had the wrong address.
But it was the right address, and the teenage daughter of the victim — who did not know that her mother had died — was sitting alone on the porch. The girl had read about the accident online, and the appearance of a news reporter heightened her fear. She begged for information from Jones, who realized that she was making the situation even worse.
“It was a wake-up call that this is not what I want to be doing with my life,” says Jones. In her 10 years in the TV news business Jones had been called names, chased off properties, and had doors slammed in her face. She had had enough.
With about six months left on her contract working for a local TV station in Boston, she honored that commitment but began to shift her focus from the bad to the good by reporting a series of inspirational stories — about a blind and autistic musical savant, a 6-year-old girl who was paralyzed by a stray bullet but forgave her shooter, and an American veteran of the Iraq war who lost both arms but subsequently took up painting and opened an art gallery.
A winner of three Emmy awards as a TV reporter, Jones was planting the seeds for an organization she founded last year — Storytellers for Good, which creates videos of compelling stories of people making a positive difference. Nonprofits can use the videos as fundraising tools and to recruit more volunteers.
Jones came up with the idea for Storytellers for Good after taking a year off to travel abroad. She draws on her journalism skills and experience she gained during a yearlong stint at the Philanthropy Project, a nonprofit group that uses media to promote the work of nonprofits and foundations.
Based in San Francisco, Storytellers for Good has created several videos, including one for A Good Idea, an organization that performs random acts of kindness (such as giving out coffee) and does charitable works, including distributing coats to homeless people and raising funds for a homeless-youth shelter. The video helped A Good Idea win a $25,000 grant.
Storytellers for Good also produced a video for The $93 Club, an organization that started when a woman in line at a grocery store paid for the purchases of a stranger who had lost her wallet. The woman repaid her with a check that included an additional $93, which the good Samaritan donated to a local food bank. Then she shared the news on her Facebook page, inspiring others to send money. To date some $70,000 has been donated to the same food bank.
Jones, who also teaches yoga and works as a life coach, held a launch event in March to kick off a fundraising campaign that will provide free video-storytelling services to five San Francisco Bay Area nonprofits. The first organization to benefit is Each One Reach One, a writing and mentoring program for incarcerated youth. The video will trace one young man’s journey through that program.