Alumnus finds success as Buzzfeed LGBT editor


Kristina Burton

It’s increasingly difficult to scroll through Facebook or Twitter feeds without stumbling on a link from

Saeed Jones, a 2008 alumnus, is currently the editor of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered section of Buzzfeed.

“I was on the speech team all four years,” Jones said. “That was a big deal because I was constantly writing speeches, performing, traveling and doing research. So much of preparing for competition in forensics is interacting with human stories and learning about what people are going through.”

Jones said his experiences with the forensics team inspired him to start writing on his own, which he hadn’t been doing when he first started at WKU.

“I did some slam poetry in Bowling Green and really loved that because it was another aspect of performing and telling stories and using words to express myself,” Jones said. “Then, I decided to take some creative writing classes to get better at it.”

Dr. Tom Hunley, an associate professor in the English department, served as Jones’ thesis advisor and was a huge influence on his decision to pursue creative writing.

Hunley shared a story about a trip to Atlanta for a conference that Jones attended.

“There was a book fair and Saeed was the ultimate salesman,” Hunley said. “He would strike up conversation with people walking by, and before you knew it they were handing him money. He’s done a good job networking as a poet, and the combination of his talent as a writer and him being outgoing and knowing how to talk to people is a formula of success for him.”

Jones is responsible for finding stories that speak to the LGBT community.

“There’s quite a mix of content, so we do a little bit of everything,” Jones said.

Jones said he has recently edited stories about anti-marriage equality laws in Singapore, Coming Out Week and a character on Glee coming out.

“My job is to make sure that we’re putting out great content no matter what it is,” Jones said. “It’s a real blend.”

Jones said the journey from WKU to Buzzfeed was quite an adventure.

Jones attended graduate school at Rutgers University, where he studied creative writing. After graduating, Jones started teaching 9th and 10th grade English at a charter school.

“It was the most challenging experience of my life,” Jones said.“Teaching is an all-consuming job. You’re not dealing in abstract — you’re dealing with children, so you feel responsible for their happiness, growth and success.”

At the end of the first school year, Jones’ mother passed away, which left him shaken.

“I took a year off work to write freelance and travel,” he said.

Twitter became an important part in helping Jones deal with his mother’s death.

“Mom passing away was my first really big loss and I was overwhelmed and grief stricken—there’s no road map for how to grieve,” Jones said. “I started tweeting about my experiences with grief and people responded and shared their own stories.

I saw over and over the ability on social media to make genuine connections with people, which goes against what people often think.”

Jones then made the decision to try and travel full time, which he wrote about for Ebony magazine and tweeted about often.

“A friend I’d made on Twitter, who was a really great journalist … had been hired by Buzzfeed not too long before,” Jones said. “He direct messaged me with a job listing at Buzzfeed, but at the time I was on the other side of the world. I kept traveling for a month and then decided it was a great idea and opportunity.”

Jones started his 40-hour journey back to the states just over a year ago and started the interview process soon after. He’ll have been with Buzzfeed for a year at the end of January 2014.

Jones said he couldn’t have imagined when he was checking out of Southwest Hall and finishing graduation at WKU in 2008 that he’d be where he is today.

When he started as editor of Buzzfeed LGBT, it was only Jones and one other reporter. He says that number has grown to 5-6 different editors and reporters in less than a year.

“This reflects how advances have been made and the fact that there are so many things to cover,” Jones said.

Jones is looking for Buzzfeed LGBT to keep growing to match the breadth of experiences. He said there are a lot of stories and issues surrounding the LGBT community that don’t get covered often.

“People are used to just reading about gay white men, whether in pop culture or in terms of focus,” Jones said. “We are very committed to queer women, bisexual and transgendered people, all of those stories and breaking them out. That’s always my hope for Buzzfeed.”

Jones also has high hopes for his future as a writer outside of Buzzfeed.

“I have a poetry collection coming out in a few years, and I’m working on a memoir right now that the narrative should end somewhere around my time at WKU,” Jones said. “I want to keep writing and telling stories and keep dreaming big.”

Jones said this is all really exciting, but he’s still only 27-years-old.

“I see no reason to get comfortable or think this is it and play it easy,” Jones said. “I clearly have to keep growing.”