Murfreesboro resident Jason Reynolds, who wrote for The Tennessee Star, The Murfreesboro Post, and the Shelbyville Times-Gazette and passed away Friday at the age of 46, used his talents and his faith to perform many difficult jobs.
Author of whimsical children’s books about life in Tennessee nearly 100 years from now.
Last but not least, Reynolds was a devout Christian who spoke to mass audiences about the power of Christ’s love and forgiveness.
Reynolds joined The Tennessee Star as a freelance reporter in August 2017, while also working as a reporter for The Murfreesboro Post. His last article for The Star was published on March 4.
Reynolds had only recently accepted a position as editor of The Shelbyville Times Gazette.
State Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna) on Saturday said “good journalism is a conduit for effective change.”
“The First Amendment lost a crown jewel with Jason Reynolds,” Sparks said.
Reynolds’ close friend J.C. Bowman told The Star that Reynolds was a quiet listener but a talented storyteller.
“He was really striving to be balanced as he told a story. Many times he covered issues from a conservative perspective,” said Bowman, who is the executive director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association.
“I think conservative voices have been silenced with him going. I don’t know that he necessarily would call it conservatism, but he made sure the conservative viewpoint was certainly out there.”
Reynolds previously wrote full-time for The Murfreesboro Post. The Main Street Media of Tennessee, which publishes 12 community newspapers, owned the Murfreesboro newspaper.
The Main Street Media of Tennessee owner Dave Gould said Sunday that Reynolds won several Tennessee Press Association Awards each year.
“On a personal level, we are just devastated by this,” Gould said.
Gould said that Reynolds produced several stories for him every week.
“When COVID started a year ago and then-President Trump was doing press conferences, we wanted someone to keep an eye on that every day. I threw that out to our reporters. Jason volunteered. Jason started really covering his press conferences. Then Governor Lee started [his own] press conferences. Jason covered those. And then the health commissioner started press conferences,” Gould said.
“In addition to everything he was doing locally, he was covering for us the high-level Corona coverage in terms of what the government was talking about, and they were stories we could then distribute to all of our newspapers around Middle Tennessee. That spoke to his work ethic, how much he cared about news and how much he cared about everything he was doing. It had a very positive impact upon the company. We couldn’t have asked for anything more than what he did for us.”
Star News Digital Media CEO and Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Leahy said Reynolds’ death “stunned and saddened him.”
“He was one of the best local journalists in the country. His excellent reporting played an important role in the growth and success of The Tennessee Star,” Leahy said.
“In addition to his impeccable journalistic integrity, Jason was kind, affable, reliable, easy to work with, and unfailingly professional.”
‘A Strong Place for Faith’
Reynolds, according to his website, lived in Middle Tennessee with his wife, son, three cats, two rescue dogs, and 12 backyard chickens.
“He had a love affair with chickens. He raised chickens and it was something he got into,” Bowman said.
“I had lunch with him in February in Murfreesboro. I had chicken. He did not.”
Reynolds, according to his LinkedIn page, earned an MBA from Bryan College and a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
Reynolds further made use of his skillset and wrote a series of children’s books about the adventures of a late 21st century Chattanooga hot dog salesman named Bob. Bob confronted bounty hunters and battled alien assassins.
Bowman said Reynolds hoped to use his position as editor of The Shelbyville Times Gazette to expand the number of local stories and use the paper “to bring his Christian witness.”
“He felt like there was a strong place for faith in communities,” Bowman said.
“He was hoping to put his imprint into that newspaper.”
According to his website, Reynolds produced a blog and podcast series called Followers of the Cross where he interviewed Christian authors, musicians, and actors.
In a blog post from March 2020, shortly after COVID-19 arrived in the United States, Reynolds said the church “needs to get its priorities in order.”
“Love God, love people, serve. I denounce the heresy of prosperity theology that says God wants to make all His people rich. I’m not saying it’s bad to be rich; it’s not, necessarily,” Reynolds wrote.
“But the places where the Church is growing is not in places where Christians are becoming rich — they are rich in faith even as they die.”
Star News Digital Media CTO and Executive Editor Christina Botteri called Reynolds “thoughtful, generous, and talented.”
“Jason Reynolds was a crackerjack journalist whose sharp wit and crisp reporting was paired with a deep love for God, his family, his community, and the country,” Botteri said.
“I am shocked by his sudden passing and the loss his family has suffered.”
Reynolds, in his March 2020 blog post, said “there are bad journalists out there, but there are many, many great journalists who also happen to be exceptional people.”
“I have struggled off and on wanting to be a reporter. I pursued a couple of other options, but nothing ever worked out — other than reporting and writing books,” Reynolds wrote.
“I now believe this is what God designed me to do. God gives everyone certain gifts as part of His plan for our lives.”
Reynolds concluded that blog by quoting Jeremiah 24:7:
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”
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Updated: March 15, 10:45am