Tag Archives: Des Moines Register

Small moments outshine major milestone

I applied for graduation yesterday. You know, that major event that caps one’s college career, the newfound prestige evident in ill-fitting commencement garb.

Yet it’s in the minute details of this semester that I’ve found the most joy and fulfillment.

While writing the Arabic alphabet yesterday for an assignment, I felt confident. I knew every letter, finally. Then, I received an at-the-time-unwelcome helping of humility in the form of one realization: I didn’t know how to properly write my own name.

The ego is a peculiar thing. It simultaneously motivates and endangers us.

Every week, I write a brief 100- to 150-word preview of Drake’s and Northern Iowa’s football games. They occupy little retail in the sports section of the Des Moines Register. But they remind me that sports are about more than scores and stats. They’re about building community, and I’m grateful to be a part of that larger goal.

I walked down to the Meredith Hall basement a few days ago and experienced a number of minute but impactful moments. I remembered my initial fear — and eventual comfort — in the realm of video editing and electronic news gathering. I remembered the semester-long dismantling of my journalistic ego, captured in the following mindset: “I’m the queen of print, so why should I learn this digital rubbish?”

And I remembered that about this time a year ago, I learned my No. 1 journalistic mentor and inspiration, Rick Tapscott, was ill. I recall the time (all right — times) I panicked in his office about a source, a lede, my future (or sometimes, all the above). One of Rick’s journalistic catch phrases was, “Get the name of the dog.” Translated, it means the small details and moments matter.

For a long time, I considered him solely a journalistic mentor. When I hit “submit” on my graduation application yesterday, when I completed what’s billed as a major moment and didn’t feel a thing, I realized Rick was more than a journalistic mentor.

What he taught me transcends the 100-150 words I write about football each week. It transcends Drake University and the Des Moines Register newsroom. Before my wannabe-philosopher self launches into some winding explanation of life’s minutiae, I’ll say it the best way I know: “Get the name of the dog.”

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.

New role at The Register fulfills longtime dream

I found comfort in my morning routine: a bowl of apple-cinnamon oatmeal in the center of my placemat, a cup of ice water to the right, The Des Moines Register sports section to the left. Growing up, my place at the breakfast table provided certainty amid the ever-turbulent teenage years. Reading the Register’s sports page offered a break from the impending reality of homework and the inherently awkward nature of young-adult life.

When I realized my interest in journalism (I’d say “calling,” but I like to think I have multiple callings, including amateur ice cream expert-hood and origami-folding), working at The Register immediately became my then-faraway dream. The sports section had helped me conquer morning lethargy, and it featured my favorite city — perfect.

The further I delved into the news-Internet curriculum at Drake University, I developed a more profound appreciation for the publication and its content. I like the balance of feature and hard-news pieces, and I can’t go without the Reader’s Watchdog stories.

Tomorrow marks a new era in my longtime tie with The Register; I’ll begin working as a news assistant in the sports department.

Though I’ve completed all the required paperwork, toured the newsroom and signed my official offer letter, it doesn’t feel real yet. Because part of me still expects the sports section to occupy its perch next to the oatmeal, ready to awaken my groggy, dreaming brain.

Reflection experience optimum in the summer

With June complete, I feel an inevitable wave of reflection. Fear not, though, I won’t launch into an extended, sugary monologue about how much I love “SUMMERRRRR <3” (to quote the title of a teenage Facebook album that, thankfully, has since entered the digital graveyard).

Rather, summer provides a time to reflect on what I’ve learned. Without the chaos of exams, essays, applications (and the incessant fear that another Drake squirrel will leap at me from his fortress inside a campus trashcan), reflection is more organic and less fragmented this time of year.

Between working in the communications department at the Science Center of Iowa and freelancing for The Des Moines Register, I’ve embraced versatility and variety this summer. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about journalism and perhaps more importantly, about myself. And since I’m not yet ready to break my streak of list-style op-eds, here are three things I’ve learned this summer.

Don’t limit yourself. While I admit I first thought of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream when I wrote that tagline, I’m talking about my journalistic focus. When I began my Drake University career, I had my mind and heart set solely on a bigwig career at a fancy, metropolitan daily newspaper.

I didn’t need to learn any of that digital business. I was already en route to a print-exclusive career defined by fame and fortune!

The Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication has pushed me outside the cozy, familiar realm of ink-stained palms and red pens, though, and I’ve realized the scope of the big, beautiful media world in which I thrive.

This summer, for instance, I’m producing and editing video, running a Pinterest account, writing and managing a website — all in the PR field. A world I never imagined I’d experience.

Don’t forget what motivated you at the beginning. And while I’ve enjoyed dabbling in a new field and delving into the digital world, I haven’t forgotten what drew me to journalism in the first place: sports writing for print.

In my work freelancing at The Des Moines Register, I get the chance to re-experience what I loved about playing prep sports in Iowa: the hometown pride and the state’s rich, highly competitive athletic culture. And I admit I’ll never tire of seeing my name in print.

Write every day. I heard it again and again growing up, but I only recently realized the merit of that advice. Whether I’m crafting a quirky caption for a pin or detailing another traumatizing squirrel incident, writing daily helps me process the minutiae of life and develop my voice.

Besides, I may never again have the opportunity to write about squirrels, ice cream and “minutiae” in a connected manner.

The value of job-hopping

Real people work one job from 9-5. They drive to the office every day, probably in a reliable car with a “Drake alumni” decal (in my world, anyway).

At the beginning of the year, I had it all figured out. In May, I would begin a full-time job with standard hours and a steady paycheck. I would drive to work. That’s what real people do, and damn it, I’m nearing real-people-dom, with my graduation approaching in December.

Forever on the brink of fledgling adulthood, I wanted to meet my preconceived definition. That would prove I’m ready for the ‘real world,’ right? But the year turned out dramatically different — and I’m content.

Rather than drive to work, I ride the bus. Rather than work one job from 9-5, I work two part-time jobs and three on-and-off freelance writing and videography gigs.

Though I initially dreaded rambling off each job when asked the inevitable question, “What are you doing this summer?” I’ve come to embrace and even appreciate the array. Job-hopping proved to be exactly what I needed.

I devoted nearly all my time and energy last semester to two beloved publications, Think Mag and The Times-Delphic. Though I gained a wealth of practical experience and fondly remember my time with both, I often felt trapped in the grueling cycle of each publication.

Job-hopping, however, has allowed me to try a wide variety of skills and projects. Yet again, my pesky (but ultimately dear) friend chaos has returned and proved a beautiful part of my life.

In a ‘typical’ workday at the Science Center of Iowa, I sometimes go from producing video to editing a blog post to writing a press release to pinning periodic table puns (comedic gold, I swear). And that’s only job No. 1. After that, I might update an Excel spreadsheet at job No. 2 before heading to a local softball diamond to cover a high school game for The Des Moines Register.

Along the job-hopping way, I’ve created my own definition of real-people-dom. Rather than a realm defined by a practical car, regular paycheck and “Bulldog Pride” auto decal, real-people-dom, I’ve realized, can be whatever I make it — screeching Dart bus brakes, periodic-table jokes and homeruns included.

I hope to eventually trade my job-hopping habit for something a little closer to the aforementioned definition, but whatever I do, I know I don’t need to meet a predetermined definition of adulthood. I can create my own definition of it. Well, fledgling adulthood, anyway.