The son of Zen Buddhist vegetarians, Jesse was born in California and grew up in the wilds of western New York. He worked as a reporter and editor for 20 years before going to work in communications for Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero in 2011. In 2018, Jesse started the local news resource Compass with friend Scott Barker.
As a journalist, Jesse was at various points the editor of Metro Pulse, Knoxville’s late alt-weekly; a copy editor and freelance music writer for The New York Times; a reporter for the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Mountain Press in Sevier County; and a regular contributor to the music magazine No Depression. He is also the author of the 2007 book Post-Pop Cinema: The Search for Meaning in New American Film. During his time with the City of Knoxville, Jesse served as Senior Director of Communications and Government Relations and was a member of Mayor Rogero’s Cabinet. He is also co-founder and co-owner of Libacious, a cocktail catering company. He lives with his wife, Casey Fox, and two children in the Oakwood-Lincoln Park neighborhood of North Knoxville.