Tag Archives: Times-Delphic

Embracing my inner teacher

Growing up, I heard it again and again: “Are you going to be a teacher like your mom?”

“Ha! No way!” I’d exclaim.

I would be a writer, perched behind the gigantic mahogany desk of my imagination, a pile of books framing me on either side as dust particles danced in the glow of an antique lamp. A realistic goal, clearly.

In my time at Drake University, to my surprise, I’ve adopted the teacher role — and for a long time, I didn’t want to admit it. There are five generations of female teachers on my mother’s side of the family, but I clung to the notion of, “I’m an individual, damn it! An editor. A rebel.”

In 2013, I trained to be a writing tutor at the Adult Literacy Center at Drake.

“I’m a mentor, not a teacher,” I’d clarify, channeling my inner ‘rebel.’ As my student — a native Spanish speaker — and I worked through foreign sounds and dedicated over 20 minutes to the pronunciation of a single word, at times, I discovered my inner teacher and the role I had been loath to acknowledge and engage before.

Teaching, I realized, manifests in unexpected ways, no matter my self-proclaimed ‘editor’ title. That unpredictability felt particularly real when my Teaching Writing class was assigned a real-world project.

No more hypothetical “Student 1” and “Student 2.” We would provide feedback on essays about The Great Gatsby for high school seniors in Guadalajara, Mexico, via the Internet. Talk about intimidating.

In my initial feedback to Rocio, my student, I provided vague suggestions and tiptoed around big-picture possibilities for development. To my anxiety, it was no longer my responsibility to add commas and correct pronoun/antecedent agreement; I had to become a teacher and abandon my beloved editor role.

The dramatic shift from an editorial role to a teacher role forced me to examine writing in a big-picture way.

Rather than stay in my comfort zone of editing for grammar and mechanics, I had to step back and ask myself what I hoped to achieve in the long-term. Though that shift in the way I examine writing — and think, in general — was uncomfortable, I have a better understanding of the discourse in which I work and a newfound ability to approach writing in big-picture way. Plus, I saw growth in the clarity, development and communication of Rocio’s analysis of The Great Gatsby.

I entered the project hopeful I’d see her grow as a writer. I didn’t realize how much I would grow as a respondent and teacher in a few short weeks.

As I continue to tutor my Adult Literacy Center student for a second year, I’ve adopted another unexpected teacher role. I’m teaching the new Times-Delphic editor-in-chief how to survive — and thrive — in one of the toughest jobs on campus. How to learn from the inevitable error on the page. How to balance fun and productivity in the workplace. And a whole lot more I can’t even begin to predict.

Along the way, I hope I’ll teach her how to be a better editor, writer and maybe, teacher.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Continue reading