Senior Column | The DI was my classroom

Joining The Daily Iowan taught me more about being a journalist than any class I took at the University of Iowa.


Photo of Rachel Schilke, Senior Print Editor.

Rachel Schilke, Senior Print Editor

When I stepped into The Daily Iowan newsroom for the first time, I never could have imagined what unbelievably crazy and unexpected experiences I would have that would shape me into the journalist, leader, and person that I am today.

I am unique among of my fellow seniors, as I joined the DI as a sophomore rather than a freshman. I recall a time sitting in my Principles of Journalism class with several DI reporters, two of whom would eventually become close friends.

They seemed to know the answer to every question posed by our professor by the second day of class, especially on ethics and interviewing tactics. I would constantly ask myself, “How did they know this if we haven’t learned anything yet?”

I came to realize that sitting and listening to people talk about journalism would not do anything for me — I needed to go out and see for myself what it is like to be a journalist.

This is not to say I didn’t want to join the DI the second I stepped onto the University of Iowa campus. In fact, the DI and its eagerness to accept freshmen right off the bat is what drew me to pick the UI out of five other colleges, all with equally talented campus newspapers.

The reason I didn’t join, I told people, was because I was busy with school and connecting with new friends. The real reason? I was afraid I could not live up to the challenge. I assumed everyone I met would be so much more talented than me, and I would fail.

Sophomore year, I began to rethink why I came to the UI in the first place. The DI popped into my head, and I decided to email then-editor Marissa Payne about openings in news. The rest is history.

Here, I learned how to best interview underrepresented populations and amplify their voices. I reported on everything from profiling the first Latina woman to win Spanish awards in poetry and writing, to writing an in-depth project on the fearless Black women behind Iowa City’s abolitionist and Black Lives Matter organization, the Iowa Freedom Riders.

Reporting on the Mollie Tibbetts murder trial as a junior alongside well-seasoned, full-time media members will forever be a highlight of my journalistic career. From that experience, I became an expert at following a story to its entirety and learned how to handle an article with caution yet conviction. I learned to take mistakes and turn them into teaching moments.

I appreciate those who opened their hearts and homes to me so I could add color and purpose to projects and articles. The DI taught me that there is nothing more important than the question of “why,” along with the “what” and the “how.”

This newsroom not only educated me in my profession, but also on the meaning of true friends that support you and your love for journalism. One of the girls I met in my Principles of Journalism class became my best friend, so thank you to the DI for bringing me Josie Fischels. I will miss you, our 10-plus hours in the newsroom, and our many crazy, wild, and wonderful nights.

To the lovely news editors, Eleanor and Sabine, and my design partner in crime, Marandah, it has been a privilege to watch you grow as writers, designers, and mentors. I cannot wait to see what you accomplish.

The DI gave me more than I could ever hope for: an educational experience that I could never receive anywhere else. As I take my next steps in Washington, D.C., I will carry with me the successes and mistakes that I made at the DI to continue what I’ve wanted to do since stepping into the newsroom: learn a little bit more every single day.

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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