Jill Darden and her son Jiles Clark put their Purpose in writing.
Jill Darden founded the Fort Worth Black News in 1997 when she was newly graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in broadcast journalism. “I was looking for a publication that I wanted to read, that talked about what was going on in our community,” Darden said. At the time, she said that news outlets either weren’t covering stories about Black people or were only interested in stories that fit a particular narrative. “People often rely on information from friends, but they look for a trusted source of information when they really want the truth,” Darden said.
The former editor of the Paschal High School newspaper found her Purpose (one of the Blue Zones Power 9 principles) early on. Over the past three decades, Darden has added virtual components, first through cable television and now online with services that include streaming news and a digital publishing company. “The business of news has changed a lot,” Darden said. “We can reach people in a variety of ways, and even people I haven’t met can see the stories. Before, it was just newspapers reaching a smaller radius.”
You could say newsprint runs in her blood. Her late mother Chris Lott published a newspaper in Wichita Falls, and in addition to helping her mother put the paper together, one of Darden’s first jobs was delivering the paper to local customers. “The paper cost thirty-five cents, and my mother paid me a dime for each paper I sold,” Darden reminisced. The shiny dimes added up in more ways than one. “I fell in love with the news, having regular customers, and the business,” Darden said.
Darden also credits her mother for a few other Power 9 habits –– the 80% Rule and adding a Plant Slant to her diet. “My mom was not a ‘traditional’ cook,” Darden said. “She baked and didn’t use a lot of salt.” At her mother’s table, “you didn’t come for fried, highly seasoned food, you came for the love.” A former Miss UTA, Darden is a big proponent of stopping eating before you’re full and consciously considering your diet. While Darden doesn’t preach to her readers, she does, as she says, “try to provide light” through the paper. “I believe in leading by example, she said. “I share what I do and information from credible sources to inspire people to be healthier.”
Further providing light, Darden’s “On the Spiritual Side” is a video series she shares on her Facebook page on Sunday evenings. Darden taps into her Belonging (another Power 9 principle) to share her personal faith. She describes the videos as short, encouraging perspectives on life. “There’s more to our existence,” Darden said. “Hope, faith, love, and things that cannot be seen. People need hope, now more than ever.”
Much as her mother inspired her, Darden’s example is one that her son Jiles Clark is following. As an entrepreneur mom, Darden’s shared a lot of her news experiences with Jiles. Now age 13, Clark wrote Never Give Up when he was 11. Inspired by an elementary school classmate who was going through a difficult time, Clark’s message of hope, persistence and faith “is timeless and applicable,” Darden said. “That book encourages me, too.” In July, Jiles delighted television show host Kelly Clarkson with his positive message, and WFAA’s Tashara Parker featured him on her I Am Up segment. Part of the proceeds of his books benefit the charity Book Angel, which provides books to children in need. Jiles, who is on his local middle school’s “Hope Squad,” just finished his second book, Be Yourself, which came out in December.
It’s no surprise Jiles is inspiring others. Just like his mother.