Tag Archives: newspaper

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.

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).

The joy of dabbling

As a journalist, I enjoy dabbling. As a journalist in a small town, I dabble in rural culture. Though I’ve lived in Iowa for 20 years, I had (and have) a lot to learn about my home state’s signature trade: agriculture.

In just three weeks at The Observer in DeWitt, Iowa, I’ve dabbled in barn quilting and grain elevator rescue, staples of rural Iowa living.

Last week, I drove 30 miles of snaking back roads to a ghost town (the whole town is a church, about 10 homes and what was once a general store) to watch a family barn-quilt.

Barn quilts are bright, color-block plywood squares that adorn the face of a barn. A grandmother, her son and 8-year-old granddaughter greeted me with strong handshakes, their palms splashed with neon paint.

They walked me through the barn-quilting steps from sawing the wood to touching up uneven lines and colors. Though I’m not a barn quilt whiz (yet), I enjoyed dabbling in a new trade.

Plus, if barn quilts storm the interior design world, I’ll be ahead of the craze.

A second time last week, I had the chance to dabble in another staple of rural living: the cofferdam. I admit, when assigned to cover Delmar’s new cofferdam, I spelled the machine as “coffer dam” (a sign of my urban roots).

When I got to the Delmar Fire Station Friday, three men welcomed me, beaming at a giant red tube. The tube, they explained, helps firefighters in a grain elevator emergency by reducing the force of the corn on the trapped victim.

Though I’m a young journalist, I’ve already had many chances to dabble in unexpected trades. This job gives me chances not only to meet and talk to new people but also experience a slice of their world.

While I hope to work in a city someday, I admit I enjoy dabbling in the trades and quirks of rural living.

Plus, I now know just what to give Mom for Christmas (a custom barn quilt for our front door, obviously).

Giving The TD a new side of me

Recently, as I talked to a news-Internet professor, he said the sentence I had long avoided: “You know, Taylor, you won’t be able to write as much next year as editor-in-chief.”

While I realize the scope — and limitations — of my new job more and more every day, I had sought to delay the inevitable as long as I could. Maybe, I reasoned, if I ignored it long enough, I could devise a plot to trick both sides of my Times-Delphic identity.

Writer Taylor would simply avoid Editor Taylor, and Editor Taylor would simply avoid Writer Taylor. The two could coexist in mutual oblivion, and I could continue to write story on story as I edit the whole paper and manage the whole staff.

Since that talk, though, I have realized that I won’t be able to write every story that interests me.

Even the story about the set of identical twins on the Drake women’s golf team. Even the story about the Drake men’s basketball team’s buzzer-beating win over in-state rival UNI for the 2014 MVC title (I hope I don’t jinx the Bulldogs).

I have to rely on my staff to take over the bulk of a job I have long loved.

While I won’t be able to give The Times-Delphic as many stories in 2013-14, I hope to give guidance, instead.

It’s a give-and-take at The Times-Delphic, and it’s time I give The TD a new side of me.

What I have learned at The Times-Delphic

When I read and think about past issues of The Times-Delphic, my thoughts hardly transcend the obvious gaffes on the page: an extra period here, no hyphen there. I only have a moment, so I only think about the small.

Big-picture thoughts, good or bad, rarely receive my care. I wrongfully assume I need a few hours — even a day — to contemplate my progress. Wrongfully, too, I make excuses about self-reflection.

I need Confucian or Aristotelian wisdom to truly reflect. I need to eat Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream before I can can explore the deep or complex.

And, the excuse I toss out most of all: I don’t have time.

In this week off, though, I have taken the time to expand my thoughts to the big picture and take a look at The Times-Delphic and journalism beyond the page. Though this week is as busy as any other, I put the excuses away (Ben and Jerry miss my old, expensive excuse, no doubt) and took a look at what I have learned in two years at the TD.

The more self-assured you are, the more likely a source is to open up to you. As a gentle person, I formerly hedged around asking potential sources to speak to me.

My interview request procedure went somewhat like this: “Can I please interview you? If not, that’s OK, too. Just let me down gently, please.”

OK, I may have exaggerated that last sentence.

Now, though, I focus on the source and let him or her know how valuable his or her thoughts on X subject are to the TD and me.

Today, my interview requests are more concise, clear and, I confess, a tad frank. Though the change in tone, which has developed slowly over my two years, yet shocks me, I know sources are more eager to talk to me when I focus more on them.

This “more of you, less of me” idea has grown throughout my Times-Delphic career.

To move beyond commas, hyphens and interview requests, journalism is truly about more of you and less of me.

There are always more of you I have a duty to inform. More of you I have a duty to interest.

Most of all, there are always more of you I have a duty (and desire) to serve.

Moving out (of my comfort zone)

Ready to move out (of my comfort zone)On June 1, I move out. Out of Des Moines. Out of my hometown. Out of the dorms at Drake. Out of, temporarily, the college newspaper scene.

Out of, hopefully, my comfort zone.

As I prepare to physically move out, I face a psychological move out, too, as I prepare for not one but two new jobs. In June, I move two hours away to work as a reporter and photographer at The Observer. In August, I move to my new role as Times-Delphic editor-in-chief.

Though both moves cue momentary stress, I am eager to start for several reasons.

At The Observer, I want to move beyond the section I know and love, one that prefers baskets and aces to court documents and police reports. Though news poses new challenges and a new style, I am ready for a change of pace.

That goal translates to my Times-Delphic job, too.

At The Times-Delphic, I plan to revamp the news section and rely less on the campus calendar and more on hard news. Though I throw the vague phrase “hard news” around constantly, I have a sense of what that phrase actually means for Drake and The Times-Delphic.

I want to talk to Drake students and faculty constantly. I want to learn what bothers them. I want to report on what bothers students and faculty rather than what speaker discussed global relations last Thursday night.

I hope both jobs strengthen my sense of “hard news” and perhaps, endear me to court documents and police reports as to baskets and aces.

When I move out on June 1, I hope to do more than pile my memories in boxes upon boxes (I always over-pack). I hope to move out of my comfort zone and move out of my sports-only outlook. To move to a new realm of news, one I hope welcomes me.

Embracing newness

Yesterday, I hired several members of my 2013-14 Times-Delphic staff. My staff. The phrase stumbles off my tongue, a sign that I adjust slowly to my new role and new power.

Adjusting to my new role as editor-in-chief

Editor-in-chief. Even my own title trips off my tongue.

Even as I adjust to the newness — new staff, new tasks and new goals — I am eager to start in August. Eager to lead a small but lively editorial staff of 14. Eager to prove to myself and to the larger newspaper realm that reserved people can lead. Eager to encounter and overcome all kinds of dilemmas. Like everything else, I expect those dilemmas to feel new, even though I study and anticipate them every day as a Drake University journalism student.

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Learning to love the web

I entered my web page design course in a state of dread — even as a news-Internet student. But the glare exhausts my eyes, I moaned. But I love the smear of ink on my hands as I turn the pages, I whined. But I prefer the scratch of a pen to the click of a key, I reasoned.

Learning to love words on paper and on screen

Clearly, I made excuses for my nerves about web design. I was nervous to muddle through the medium I regularly dubbed a new language — one I refused to learn. Anchor text. Backlinks. Meta tags. Permalinks. Thanks to the class (and a helpful Internet glossary), though, I no longer fear the web. I understand that the web plays a powerful role in the field I love. And, that maybe, just maybe, I can love all words equally, whether on paper or on screen. Continue reading