Tag Archives: AP Style

Finding a forever home in the newsroom

When I left my college newspaper in May after three crazy and challenging years, I admit I entertained the idea of never returning to a newsroom.

While the combination of running a twice-weekly publication, printing a 40-page special edition and completing my senior journalism capstone (all in one semester) contributed to that idea, I worried I’d never find another newsroom in which I felt equally inspired. Where community defined the experience.

After my first week as a sports news assistant at The Des Moines Register, I’ve realized the power of the newsroom isn’t in a witty headline, a moving story or even the name at the top of each page.

For me, the newsroom is a home and a haven, a place where I feel comfortable and challenged, productive and peaceful, all at once.

My tea mug expresses how I feel about the newsroom. Also, note the newsprint detailing.

My tea mug expresses how I feel about the newsroom. Also, note the newsprint detailing.

Maybe it’s that extra cup of black tea I inevitably pour when I copy edit. Maybe it’s the thrill of finding the dreaded Oxford comma and drawing a thick, red line through it. Maybe it’s the fact that I dedicate my time to content I hope enables readers to make decisions about their lives.

In typical Taylor fashion, I’m not certain — about a lot of things. Where my career will lead, where I’ll live after graduation.

But I know I’ll always have a home in the newsroom. And the best kind of home, at that: one with an endless supply of red pens, AP Stylebooks and people who believe in me.

Late professor’s example a source of guidance in journalism and life

I’ll never forget an email I received from Richard Tapscott in April 2013.

“Taylor, your story is first-rate. But I have a few suggestions … ”

It didn’t feel any different at the time, with its typical conciseness, careful word choice and the Tapscott trademark of praise and polish served side by side. When I read the email Dec. 1, the day Rick died, though, I realized the gem hidden in it. In four brief paragraphs (none over three sentences, per Rick’s Rules), I discovered the kind of editor and reporter I aspire to be.

After a month of work that April, I had finally completed a piece of over 2,200 words about Des Moines’ booming young professionals scene for Rick’s Advanced Reporting and Writing Principles class.

In the typical Rick way, he opened the email with a quick compliment. And, again in that typical Rick way, he followed it with a long list of what I could improve.

Rick always knew exactly what his students needed to hear. He once approached me in the hallway of Meredith my freshman year and simply said, “Miss Soule, your lede in that Student Senate story was weak. I already know they met. Tell me what happened,” and walked away.

But he never let me forget one thing more important than fixing a weak lede, a gap in reporting or even the dreaded Oxford comma. He believed in me.

Yet again, I realized that extraordinary gift in a typical exchange with Rick.

When I met with him in his office one morning last spring, I vented about my trouble getting ahold of a key source despite multiple phone calls, messages and emails.

My blubbering episode probably sounded something like this: “Tapscott, I’m not going to get this story done, and I don’t think this source is going to call me, and I’m going to fail, and it’s not going to work out.” He replied in his usual succinct delivery, “It’ll all work out. It always does.”

And as always, he was right. That was the great thing about Tapscott. He believed in me even when I doubted myself.

And now, since taking over as editor-in-chief at The Times-Delphic in May, I say that exact piece of advice often, when my staff is panicking, whether about a source, a story or the day-to-day drama of working at a college newspaper. I’m not sure if any of the staff knows I got that advice from Tapscott, but I hope next year’s editor-in-chief and every EIC after keep those direct but comforting words alive in the TD newsroom.

In those routine conversations with Rick, I honed my definition of a “good” editor and reporter. The editor who values belief in her staff over the power of her red (or, for me, pink) pen. The reporter who won’t panic or complain about her latest woe.

Even more than an editor and reporter, though, Rick taught me what kind of person I aspire to be. Someone who works not for the paycheck, but to teach and encourage others. Someone who knows exactly what to say at the right time: “Taylor, journalism is an honorable and fun profession if you go into it for the right reasons.”

Thanks, Rick. Here I go.

What I’m thankful for as a journalist

I hate to open my post with the quintessential Thanksgiving line, but I have a lot for which to be thankful.

Rather than ramble about my love of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream or One Direction, though, I narrowed my reflection to journalism and specifically, what I’m thankful for in the media world.

First, I’m thankful stories change. Nearly a month ago, I embarked on a project about the alleged nationwide shortage of farm veterinarians. A lot of research and one interview later, however, I realized that wasn’t the story at all.

In fact, there wasn’t a shortage of farm vets but a surplus. There are plenty of farm vets, but they’re not in the right places. While I had to abandon my initial plan, the real story proved far more intriguing — and troubling — than the preconceived one.

So, I’m thankful stories change. I’m thankful I’m in a field where unpredictability is a mainstay. Finally, I’m thankful I had the chance to challenge and hone my ability to be flexible. To let my sources and research — not my original idea or a naive preconception — guide my reporting and writing.

I’m also thankful for The Times-Delphic staff. I know I gushed about them in a recent TD column, but they’re my anchors amid the crazy, whiplash-worthy workload of an editor-in-chief. And they deserve an extra helping of recognition.

Though I swear all 13 editors conspire to bombard me with questions at the same time, they motivate me to serve the readers in every word I write, edit and print.

Finally, I’m thankful I have the opportunity to enter and experience a variety of worlds as a journalist.

I recently entered the realm of costume play, cosplay for short. Yeah, me: “Star Wars” and comic book newbie and lifelong costume cynic.

Though I inadvertently asked a “Star Wars” cosplayer to explain his “Star Trek” outfit (the capital sin in comic con world) at my first comic book convention, I realized the richness in a new culture and ultimately, a new frame of mind.

Finally, I’m thankful I work in the world of sharing stories. When I’m embroiled in the chaotic grind of back-to-back interviews, multiple deadlines and frantic AP Stylebook searches, I often neglect the thing I’m most thankful for as a journalist: I spend every day rapt in the sometimes-hectic, sometimes-complicated — but always beautiful — human experience.

Relays theme relevant beyond special issue

The Drake Relays: For some students, the Relays guarantee a week of alcohol, a week of lost IDs and keys, a week of lost money, a week of (supposedly fun) shambles.

At The Times-Delphic, though, the Relays guarantee two weeks of junk food, two weeks of words and images, two weeks of AP Style, two weeks of (actually fun) shambles.

Every year, we produce a 42-page issue devoted to Drake’s history, culture and future. This year, the TD Relays theme was velocity, or the rate of change in a particular direction with regard to time.

Today at 5 a.m., when I left the newsroom, my second TD Relays complete, I noted a similar theme in my own life.

Every day, I move toward my goal to work as a sports reporter at a major newspaper. Some days, I even ask, “Can I just start my career today?”

Thankfully, though, time steps in and forces me to slow down and learn the trade — a trade I naively assume I already know, at times.

I have always been impatient, but velocity, thankfully, has a ready-made remedy for career-antsy college sophomores, in time. Though I am eager to start my career, I know that I need to let time teach me to report ethically and fairly, handle stubborn sources and write clearly and concisely, among many other skills I have yet to master.

As I reflect on my second TD Relays issue, I hope the theme of velocity resonates for the readers, too.