Jillian Fortner, pictured at the Newscene anchor desk in the City Times Media studio, started her career with CCTV in 2021. Photo courtesy of Jillian Fortner
Jillian Fortner, pictured at the Newscene anchor desk in the City Times Media studio, started her career with CCTV in 2021. Photo courtesy of Jillian Fortner

City College’s Jillian Fortner took home a student Emmy this summer. Here’s how she got started.

Now a multimedia journalist at KTVZ in Bend, Oregon, Fortner credits City Times Media for her success

Junior Achievement of San Diego welcomed Jillian Fortner’s fifth grade class the same way they welcomed hundreds of excited fifth graders each year. 

As part of the field trip, the Biztown organizers interviewed students and assigned them roles to bring the 10,000-square-foot simulated town to life, intending to give them a taste of responsible adulthood. 

Little did the program know that when they assigned Fortner her role, they’d be planting a seed that would alter the course of her life. 

“I got picked to be the anchor for the town with my best friend,” Fortner said in an interview via Zoom, “and I honestly think that trip is what made me want to do it.” 

On June 17, Fortner won a Regional Student Emmy for her work with City Times Media. 

She was nominated alongside Leena Atout from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the Student Craft-Talent category and alongside students from UNLV and Palomar College in the Student Programming-Newscast category.

It was a fitting end for Fortner. If you tuned in to City Times Media’s weekly TV news production, Newscene, in the last two years, you most likely saw her.

Recognized for her cheerful energy and avid professionalism, Fortner demonstrated how students can succeed in their field when they allow themselves the opportunity to explore what interests them.

Having her start in performing arts, Fortner became comfortable performing in front of people at an early age. She acted from elementary school through high school and attributes those early experiences as a big reason why she feels comfortable in front of the camera today.

“I honestly always credit theater to why I like this job,” Fortner said. “I feel like they’re kind of similar.”

She joined CTTV in spring 2021, primarily shadowing other students who had been working on the flagship TV news show Newscene prior to her arrival. By the end of her first semester, Fortner had an opportunity to anchor, produce segments and eventually whole shows.

“It’s been so much fun,” she said. “There’s gonna be days that are really hard and you’re gonna be frustrated, but I still come back to it, and I’m always excited to do another show, no matter how stressful it was.”

Jillian Fortner won the 2023 regional student Emmy in the Student Craft-Talent category. Photo courtesy of NATAS

Fortner was admitted into UC San Diego as a junior in 2021, where she transferred with an Associate of Arts in Communication Studies. However, she continued to enroll in the TV news production class at City College because of the experience she was accruing.

A year after transferring to UCSD, Fortner was encouraged to apply for an internship at Fox 5 by professors Nicole Vargas and Chris Acedo, who oversee Newscene. 

“I did a variety of things as an intern including: writing stories for multiple shows a day, running a teleprompter, assisting the digital team, participating in pitch meetings and getting to shadow different jobs!” Fortner wrote in a text. 

Fortner is a product of the San Diego Community College District Promise Program, which supports qualifying students by providing free community college tuition and grants to offset the cost of textbooks and supplies, according to the SDCCD website.

It was the pandemic that ultimately catalyzed Fortner’s presence at Newscene.

She began her collegiate career at Miramar College, which was closer to her home in Poway. However, when the pandemic forced all classes online, Fortner, who was already taking some online classes at City and Mesa colleges, was able to join Newscene.

“I knew about the program slightly,” she said, “but I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t commute downtown.’ 

“But then it was a remote show, so I was like, ‘Sure I have nothing else to do, so I’ll try it.’ And then I just stuck with it and now, I’ve taken (classes in the TV news production sequence) five times.”

As classes returned in person once again, Fortner began commuting to City College from Poway. She commuted to City on Monday and Wednesday and to UCSD on Tuesday and Thursday.

Fortner graduated from UCSD with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication in June and credits her younger self for being the impetus to get her through stressful times. 

“When I was younger, I would write stories and I would make YouTube videos,” she said. “So I’m just like, ‘Oh, I’m doing all this stuff my younger self would’ve loved to do.’ So I think she would think it’s cool. I do everything for my younger self.”

In June, Fortner was offered a job at KTVZ in Bend, Oregon, where she now works as a multimedia journalist. She looks forward to a bright career in journalism and hopes students become involved with City Times Media.

“I wouldn’t have gotten my internship at Fox 5 or my Emmy nomination without it,” she said. “I credit the program for that, too.”

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