Tag Archives: The Times-Delphic

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.

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).

Looking back at my second year as a Bulldog

It’s the end of the school year, so I have a steaming plate of spaghetti on my mind. OK, I have more than spaghetti on my mind, but I’ll get to that later.

At the end of the school year, my fellow Bulldogs and I always head to Spaghetti Works, a Des Moines staple, for one last meal. As we spin the slimy noodles and gulp ice-cold Italian sodas, we discuss the year — the highs, the lows, the mistakes, the lessons, the realizations.

I’ll give you a taste of my piece of the discussion (Don’t expect a taste of my pesto spaghetti, however).

This school year, I took on a new role as a manager. I was no longer solely responsible for my own work. As sports editor at The Times-Delphic, I had to manage a staff of 20 writers, some novice, some not.

Slowly, I realized what kind of support each writer needed. Some had never been to a tennis match. Some, I only had to say, “Hey! Write 500-600 words about men’s tennis,” to receive a well-sourced, publishable recap.

Management in the news is all about the staff and what it needs to succeed. It’s not about a title, a fancy nametag or using the “boss” voice whenever possible (I have yet to develop a “boss” voice, and that’s OK).

This school year, I also realized that I want to take my talents to a major city one day.

NBC building in ChicagoIn October, The Times-Delphic staff visited Chicago for the National College Media Convention. I was in awe as I gazed at the glowing NBC logo atop an insanely tall building. My awe didn’t stop at NBC, though.

Later that same day, I gazed up at the glowing logo at The Chicago Tribune. That was all it took to convince me that I want to live, work and write in a major city.

Lastly, I realized that I am bilingual as a J-School and English student. In a single day, I wrote an essay about revenge in the English Renaissance and a Times-Delphic story about the delay in the plans to install a key-card system in the residence halls.

The two disciplines mingled in my mind, making for two odd assignments, initially.

My revenge paper consisted entirely of one- to two-sentence paragraphs, an English no-no.

My Times-Delphic story included words like “oppositely,” a news no-no.

Luckily, my edits fixed the odd blend of English and news on the page.

Alas, my stomach is now roaring, so I am off to relish in a heap of pesto spaghetti, the company of my favorite Bulldogs and the realizations of my second year at Drake.