Senior Column | Finding purpose through the arts

I’m a writer to my core. But I never adhered to any form of purposeful writing until I started working as a freshman arts reporter at The Daily Iowan. Finishing my collegiate journalism career as the arts co-editor, I took a glimpse in memory’s mirror, reflecting on what I’m thankful for, and how I’ve changed.


Katie Goodale

Photo by Katie Goodale

Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Editor

I had never given much thought about why I love to write or why I became a journalist. It was simply an unnarrated decision, a path I walked down without a purpose. But the past four years at The Daily Iowan guided me in finding purpose as a writer and journalist.

Working in the arts and culture section for the past four years has been one of the most capacious privileges of my life. It made sense to apply as an arts reporter. I’m an artsy gal, period. I loved writing about theater, writing profiles on artists and writers alike, and eventually, crafting feature stories for the front of our in-print insert, 80 Hours. My experiences writing on such diverse topics molded me into someone with the ability to write anything within the realm of arts.

Writing profiles on artists such as Donté Hayes, Ekaterina Korzh, Mary Bozaan, and so many other talented Iowa City artists inspired me to try and master the art I practice: writing. Covering cultural phenomena including people howling in Iowa City and writing about a night spent at the Villisca Ax Murder House gifted me with a rush only reporters feel in a moment. Writing about theater was my journalistic foundation, and I’ll never forget the deep, bubbling joy I felt previewing and reviewing Les Misérables, the musical love of my life. Oh, and of course, the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

A characteristic I learned about myself while at the DI is that I don’t know how I feel about anything until I put it on paper. In the summer of 2018, I went on my Birthright trip to Israel and knew I wanted to write about my immersive experience. It was through the written word that I found and deepened my Jewish identity. Since then, I had a bi-weekly column about living in Tel Aviv for a summer and also wrote a long-form piece on the rise of anti-Semitism, which became a finalist in the 2020 Associated Collegate Press awards.

Most recently, I wrote a column about my dismay toward the UI’s Undergraduate Student Government voting down the creation of a Jewish constituency senator. Since then, they held a re-vote and passed the legislation.

I’d like to thank a merry few people:

Radiating a bright and bubbling energy is the DI’s beloved writing coach Jennifer Wagner. Jenn, it’s tear-jerking to think you’ve listened to my ramblings and read my stories for four years. Your eye for detail and knowledge of the written word helped me become the writer I am today. I’d also like to thank the DI’s publisher, Jason Brummond. You’ve led the DI through history. Our favorite Beatles album is Revolver, and I am thrilled we share this opinion because it means you are a true Beatles fan.

To my reporters and co-editor, Josie Fischels, thank you for working diligently this year to provide the Iowa City community with beautifully written and edited arts stories. Arts and culture journalism is imperative to our society. Without it, who would ever know the goings-on of the intricate, artistic world around them?

Charlie Peckman, Aadit Tambe, Emily (Wingdings) Wangen, and Elijah Helton, y’all already know how much I love you guys. You made my newsroom experience a delight — RIP to our Thursday night shenanigans and staying up until 6 a.m. To everyone reading this, you just had to be there. To Naomi Hofferber, thank you for being an excellent friend and editor when I needed it the most.

I’d also like to thank my classmates in my modern human origins class. Our discussions with Robert Franciscus, the professor, provided me with a reason to think more deeply about our existence. Walking into class, I often feel like I’m part of a novel because you are all such characters, brimming with depth and personalities that jump off the page.

There’s a permanence and structure that comes with writing for a student newspaper, one that I’ve come to love and cherish. I struggled with the concept of purpose, and the DI alleviated some of the mental stressors I’ve dealt with. Had I not joined, I would have never discovered my affection for illuminating other people’s lives and what impacts them through language, nor would I have ascertained elements of myself.

An unknown destination waits as I search for a writing job in this hellscape of an economy. Though the process may not entail the terror and courage it takes to make the journey from the Shire to Mordor, job searching is a trek within itself, one I’ve found difficult to overcome. But in the words of Gandalf the Grey, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.