Three-time Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist says to take a story to the next level

By Marquis Holmes

Atlanta, GEORGIA — In 2015, 20-year-old DeCorrius Jones, described as a loving and “teddy bear-like” individual by his girlfriend, spurred into a violent frenzy prior to sprinting into the woods behind Sugarloaf Crossing Apartments in Lawrenceville, Ga. Jones was allegedly experimenting with acid prior to the incident and was never seen again to this day.

This eight-chapter case is only one of many investigative pieces that SPJ Georgia’s Jessica Noll takes on for NBC WXIA Atlanta to bring awareness for members of her community looking for closure.

Noll is an award-winning investigative digital journalist at 11Alive currently investigating unsolved crimes for The Gone Cold Project. Her previous work, “Trigger: The Last Word” and “The Hunt: Atlanta’s Hidden Serial Killers” both received Emmy Award-winning status this year and “Trigger: Who Shot the Officer’s Wife?” generated an Emmy in 2017.

Her crime reports have appeared on MSNBC, CNN, HLN, Fox News and Crime Online with Nancy Grace.

However, looking back on her award-winning pieces, Noll says the direct impact is the most important part of her success.

“I think in any story that I have won an award for, the proudest part is what came from that story … whether it’s as simple as giving a voice to someone or giving someone some closure from a horrific tragedy that they have experienced or something even bigger,” said Noll.

“I think the shiny piece of hardware is nice to see on the shelf to keep you motivated when you’re working, but I think what’s more motivating is what those stories represent.”

A multimedia journalist for 16 years, Noll typically writes mostly long-form narratives that transcribe investigations in-depth and also shoots videos for online or TV.

In her profession, Noll said that the biggest assumption lies in the fact that she is producing TV-related content, which is only a part of 11Alive’s mission. However, she said she works on both digital and TV journalism in the same newsroom that helps develop a collaboration between the two and the opportunity to master multi-media journalism, she said.

An advocate for multimedia journalism, Noll says her multi-media ventures taught her to “take a story to the next level” and observe everything around her in ways that a traditional print journalist wouldn’t do.

“I would listen for nat sound [natural sound] for my video and with that, you are better able to set the scene and write to your audience. Noll said that producing a video awakened her senses as a journalist.

The Cincinnati, Ohio, native graduated from Wright State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2001 and spent two years as a reporter for now-closed Times Community Newspapers, contributing to both the Centerville-Bellbrook Times and the Kettering-Oakwood Times both located in Dayton, Ohio. Noll credits this experience as her first real educational experience in journalism.

“That was a great position for me to start with because I did everything,” Noll said. “I wrote, I composed pages, I took photos before video was big.”

She later earned a Master of Arts in journalism in 2006 from Columbia College-Chicago, where she served as digital editor for Reservoir Magazine and took on various journalism courses outside of print.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to do newspaper or if I wanted to move to TV, so I thought ‘I’m just going to get everything I can,’ which is what I recommend to anyone,” Noll said. “Learn every skill you possibly can because A – its makes you more marketable, but it also gives you a better knowledge of the institute of journalism.”

After graduating, Noll returned to her hometown in 2007 and worked as a digital producer for WCPO on Channel 9 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and fielded a fairly unheard position at the time. She professionally moved into multi-media journalism six years later.

She left news journalism for a short time and worked in public relations before returning to journalism at WCPO as one of the first digital journalists prior to moving to Atlanta to work with 11Alive in 2016.

“It’s not an easy business and even when you have the passion for it, it can be a very challenging profession.”

Director of Digital Content Phillip Kish at 11Alive agrees, he said he feels that Noll is just right for the job.

“While many people say they’d like to have a set-up like Jessica’s, where she’s largely free from day-to-day news and kind of creates her own schedule, not many are disciplined enough to make it work to where it’s effective for both her and us,” Kish said.

Noll has been married to her husband Chris for 10 years. Her family includes her two dogs – Sophie, a chocolate lab and Phoebe, a Yorkshire terrier. She is a mother of two daughters who live in Ohio. She is also a grandmother of one and expecting another grandchild in September.

Noll refers to herself and her husband as “weekend warriors,” spending her downtime exploring Atlanta. She is a Cincinnati Reds fan and an avid hiker, just recently climbing Stone Mountain for the first time.

A member of SPJ Georgia, Noll finds comfort in knowing that SPJ is national and will always be there, no matter where she goes. “It’s like having one of those silent but supportive parents – They may not be there every day to cheer you on but you know they’re there and you know they’re proud,” Noll said,

You can continue to follow Noll’s investigative discussions on the Gone Cold Facebook group and Twitter.

— This story originally appeared on SPJ’s Region 3 website, 


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