Senior Column | The DI teaches us that everyone needs an editor

I prefer to keep myself out of the news — but for my senior send-off, I’m ready to tell my own story.


Rylee Wilson, Managing Editor

Someone once told me maybe I liked journalism so much because I wanted to write, but I wasn’t ready to write about myself.

That’s probably true. I’ve written hundreds of stories in my four years at The Daily Iowan, but none of them have been about me.

So for my last DI story, and the first one about me, I want to share what being a journalist has taught me.

First, this job has developed my confidence in every way.

If anyone had told me just how much talking on the phone with people I’d never met this job would require when I started, I probably would have picked a different path. The first few times I had to cold-call a source, I would take several minutes to dial the phone, and pray they wouldn’t pick up.

Being a DI reporter has taught me everything I know about advocating for myself, speaking up, and how to send a killer, polite-but-firm, follow up email.

I’ve covered enough crazy, incredible news for an entire career in just four years here. I went from covering student government, to presidential candidates, and even to Washington, D.C., twice. And I did all these things as the youngest reporter in the room.

It’s a tough position to be in, but it taught me I can hold my own anywhere.

This job taught me to be confident, but it also taught me to persevere and to have a little trust in the universe.

There’s an old cliche that making a newspaper is a daily miracle. It’s more like a biweekly miracle at The Daily Iowan now, but every time I thought a paper would never come together and we’d just have to draw a smiley face on the blank page, we found a way to make it happen.

Every time I thought I would totally blow a deadline, and definitely get fired, someone called me back at the last minute. (If you were ever that source, seriously, thank you.)

Of course, I’ve learned so much more than I can fit in these pages. But I’ve only got so many words, so the most important lesson I’ve learned is that everyone needs an editor.

My mom says she doesn’t read all my stories, but every byline is possible because of her. She proofread my first stories when I was too nervous to send them to an editor and encouraged me to keep going every time I thought I wasn’t good enough.

None of the amazing stories I’ve been able to cover would have been possible without the support of my family. My grandma has never been to Cedar Rapids, but she bought a subscription to The Gazette when I got an internship there.

Lyle Muller, our politics coach, taught me everything I know about how to report on politics and everything else. I shouldn’t give away all his advice for free, but he taught me management 101: being an editor isn’t about making the perfect decision — it’s about making a decision and explaining it.

Sarah Watson taught me everything I know about how to be a caring, compassionate leader.

Caleb McCullough is my most trusted editor, and though he is possibly the busiest student on the entire campus, he always makes time to help me figure out what the lede should be when I’m stuck, or remember the difference between capital and capitol.

Kelsey Harrell, Rachel Schilke, Josie Fischels and Molly Milder — we call ourselves the newsroom girlbosses for a reason. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of best friends, who are equally helpful in solving journalism dilemmas and fashion emergencies.

Sabine Martin and Natalie Dunlap, in addition to being talented journalists, make me crack up every time we are in the newsroom together. If I fail my last finals and have to come back next year, it’ll be OK because I can keep hanging out with you two.

And of course, there’s so many more, but I can hear the proverbial play-off music starting, so I’ll wrap it up.

We often say that the DI is a learning lab. Part of learning is messing up — and I have messed up many times. As much as I hate to say it, I will, most likely, continue messing up for the rest of my life.

But a good editor helps you fix the mistake, learn from it, and move on. And every one I’ve worked with has helped me to do that. I hope I’ve been able to be that editor for others.

Whatever I do next, I know I owe it all to the people who have guided me — my editors on the page and in life. Though I’m donning my alumni t-shirt and deleting the DI Slack off my computer for good, I’m so lucky to have this group of editors, mentors, and friends to turn to when I need help.

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.