Monthly Archives: July 2013

Expanding my perception of productivity

“Mean Girls” blared as my friends laughed in harmony, reciting Regina George’s lines and inhaling Sour Patch Kids. Meanwhile, my fingers hovered above my keyboard, pounding feverishly to silence their advice: “Taylor, it’s Friday night. Take a break from work, and watch the movie.”

I’ve long restricted my perception of productivity to two arenas of my life: my education and my work. In the spring of 2012, I realized my limited perception of productivity was sapping my life of valuable relationships and — my ultimate foe — relaxation.

While I admit I yet refuse relaxing at times, I’m slowly expanding my perception of productivity to include down time, family time and friend time.

Napping, playing pick-up sticks with my sister and watching “Mean Girls” (again) hardly advance my journalism goals, but they enrich and balance my life.

Productivity, I’ve discovered, is a broad term for any experience that contributes to personal growth.

Family time, for example, reveals that my achievements are the result of others’ lifelong belief in my abilities. That belief merits my gratitude. Under the hypnotizing spell of to-do lists and due dates, however, I neglect to thank my family.

Friend time reminds me to laugh, joke and enjoy my Drake University years. Work and play are equally fundamental to goal-achievement.

Even napping is a catalyst for self-development, as it reminds me again and again of my invincibility. Taking care of my body is a key step in taking care of my latest to-do list.

I’m moving toward balance in my life, one Regina George quote at a time.

Covering rural government hones follow-up questioning skills

I walked into Charlotte City Hall (which doubles as the police station), expecting a table encircled by suit-clad bigwigs.

A long hallway later, though, I walked into a cubicle-like space complete with mismatched chairs, a noisy (and I suspect, antique) air conditioning unit and the council — all clad in loungewear.

Rural government, I quickly discovered, is neither glamorous nor formal, and covering it requires a high level of follow-up questioning.

In covering two council meetings and a school board meeting for The Observer, I’ve learned the power of follow-up questioning and consequently, poise.

Rural council members refer to residents by first name or nickname only, so motions go something like this: “Motion to demolish Old Man Johnson’s house on that gravel road west of town.”

I felt like an interrogator asking question upon question about Old Man Johnson and the home.

Albeit confusing at moments, rural government has also taught me the value of poise. A solid question won’t receive a solid response until I show a potential source I’m invested in what he or she knows.

On the whole, moving to DeWitt has helped me hone my follow-up questioning and source-hunting skills.

I know whom to contact (and not to contact) for information at Drake, and potential sources likewise know I’m Times-Delphic editor-in-chief. Source-hunting has grown routine.

However, moving to a new town has honed my source-hunting skills. I exchanged, “Hello. It’s Taylor, again,” for, “Hello, I’m Taylor. It’s nice to meet you,” in my quest for information.

Now more than ever, I feel at ease approaching people I’ve never met and confidently asking questions.

Landing my dream interview

The unexpected joys of intern life

Me and American professional tennis player Madison Keys

One word describes my time in The Observer newsroom this summer: unexpected.

When I unpacked my AP Stylebook, notepad, click erasers and voice recorder into my blindingly teal desk June 3, I never expected to hunt mushrooms or paint barn quilts — at work.

Most of all, though, I never expected to meet and interview a professional tennis player in DeWitt, Iowa.

I’ve loved tennis since I picked up a racket at 15, and I usually gush about Swiss icon Roger Federer just 10-15 minutes into a chat with someone new. When my managing editor assigned me a feature piece about 18-year-old American pro Madison Keys, who has family in town, I was elated.

As I watched Keys play in the third round of Wimbledon on my laptop, I couldn’t believe I’d meet her in a few days.

As she pounded groundstrokes over the net, I scribbled pages of notes about her — her career record (84-48), her favorite player growing up (Belgium’s Kim Clijsters), her world ranking (No. 52, as of July 7).

Finally, I wrote the kind of questions I before had only dreamed of writing — questions about net play, the demands of the Women’s Tennis Association tour, match superstitions and slice shots.

Despite my meticulous preparation, I walked to Keys’ aunt’s house slowly on Friday, at once timid and eager.

Her warm smile instantly eased any qualms I had, and I couldn’t stop smiling as we delved into the world of aces, rankings, rackets and Grand Slams.

Writing about Madison Keys cemented my goal to work as a tennis writer someday. While I’ll never reach her level in my own game or lace my sneakers at Wimbledon, I get a thrill when I write about tennis.

When I write about tennis, my MacBook Pro is my own Centre Court at Wimbledon — and I always win.

Learning what it takes to be editor-in-chief

I’ve yet to hold the Aug. 29 Times-Delphic. To cautiously glance at the cover. To let the ink etch splotchy tattoos on my palms.

To hold the paper I’ve long loved and gaze at my name atop the masthead.

Already, though, I’ve discovered a lot about what it takes to be editor-in-chief.

I’ve long loved organization and preparation.

Like my own daily Space Shot (a ride that propels Adventureland visitors 200 feet in the air), drawing a fat line through the tasks on my to-do list is a thrill. My lime Sharpie’s signature squeak completes the adrenaline surge.

Even as I follow my summer TD calendar religiously, even as I develop a new feedback system, even as I hone the Sunday layout plan, I can’t plan for everything — and it pains me to admit it.

In the news, surprises are the norm, and I’m (slowly) beginning to grasp their impact on my job.

I’ve also discovered I can’t do it all on my own — another fact it pains me to admit. My staff is a dedicated, unusual, loud, AP Style-loving bunch, and it’s time I show more regard for their talents by trusting them.

As an editor, I admit I hover at times, but for me, trust is a slow process.

Finally, I’ve discovered I must not forget but change what drew me to journalism in the first place: writing.

I know I won’t have time to write as many news stories for the TD as I did this past year.

Instead, I plan use my writing to connect with my readers on a more personal level and ideally, show that I’m approachable and open — by writing a column at least once a month revealing and detailing the TD’s goals, plans and motivations.

When I enter the EIC world Aug. 29, I enter it alongside a few loyal pals: my beloved ink stains, my lime Sharpie and most of all, a staff that accepts my quirks (even my hovering habit).