Senior Column | How being in a college newsroom taught me about my community

As a freshman from Houston, Texas, I knew little about Iowa when I first arrived. Working at the DI the last four years has made it feel like home.


Photo of Katie Ann McCarver, Copy Editor.

Katie Ann McCarver, Copy Editor

When I came to the University of Iowa as a freshman, I didn’t know anyone else on campus. My mom helped me settle into the dorms before she embarked on the 16-hour drive back to Houston, Texas, and in her absence I experienced the greatest sense of loneliness I have ever felt. My surroundings were completely unfamiliar — I was a brand new Hawkeye, I knew little to nothing about the state of Iowa, and I had no connections within a hundred-mile radius.

How I saw it, I had two options — I could walk with my head down and wait for friends to find me, or I could set out to find them myself. I chose the latter, and within a week I was working as a News Reporter at The Daily Iowan alongside a dozen or so other first-year student journalists just as eager to learn about their campus community as I was.

Four years later, I have written countless stories about groundbreaking research, student life, and more at the UI; interviewed multiple university leaders and Iowa politicians; and overseen coverage of Iowa City culture and its community for long enough to understand just how special it is. I am tempted to tear up nearly every time I think about leaving in a few weeks — especially considering many of those same fresh faces from my first week at the DI, and some new ones too, have been with me through it all.

Though I initially came to the DI for its promise of practical journalistic experience, that’s not why I stayed. Despite the stress of late nights eating Buffalo Wild Wings and editing stories, rushing to write about an event across campus at the last minute, or staying up for 24 hours in the IMU to cover UI Dance Marathon, I clung to the DI throughout my college career for two reasons.

One, because it cultivated a deeper appreciation in me for my community, and because working alongside people who share your passion in a high-energy collegiate newsroom is a one-of-a-kind feeling, defined primarily by coffee, donuts, and laughing with each other without looking up from our computers.

I owe much of my belief in the importance of what we do at the DI to my editors over the years. To my freshman-year News Editors Brooklyn Draisey and Kayli Reese, I have the utmost respect for you both, and I hope you can forgive me for all those times I turned in stories hundreds of words over word count.

To Marissa Payne and Sarah Watson, the executive editors of the DI my sophomore and junior years, respectively, you are such natural teachers and I am so grateful for how you both took me under your wing — whether in regard to the higher education beat, or by entrusting me with a newly minted copy editor position that has been my joy to fill these last two years.

My sophomore year as a News Editor at the DI was easily the busiest — it was a pre-pandemic world and we were still publishing a print paper five days a week — but it was also filled with fond memories.

Alexandra Skores, my co-News Editor, is responsible for most of them. Together with an incredibly hard-working team of reporters, we covered major campus events, primary elections, the start of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, and more.

The DI won Iowa Newspaper of the Year in 2020 and in 2021, consecutively and we wrote several stories in addition to fulfilling our duties as editors. Zandra, you are a force to be reckoned with as a writer and an individual. Thanks for holding me up when I was tempted to fold under the pressure, and for exemplifying what it means to do the job because it needs to get done. I want to be you when I grow up.

Finally, thank you to my family for giving me the courage to move to Iowa in the first place, and for encouraging me relentlessly through the ups and downs of my four years here. No interview, article, or experience as a writer has been more important to me than reflecting on my mother’s loss of friends and colleagues in the Oklahoma City Bombing, and her story since then, for which I won a Hearst Journalism Award. Mama, you are the image of perseverance and grace, and I look to you for inspiration daily.

In my time at the UI, I have learned more about public/private partnerships, the emerald ash borer, and other seemingly random but relevant topics than I ever would have if not for the DI. I love this school and this city, and I attribute much of that admiration to the stories I heard about and had the opportunity to tell because of this newsroom. Thank you Daily Iowan, for not only educating me on my community, but allowing me to give back to it through storytelling.

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.


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