By Courtney Such, Editor-in-Chief
Jessica Taylor, Washington political reporter and ‘07 graduate, led The Paladin in informing the student body of the biggest calendar and curriculum, changes in Furman’s history. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Sanders/NPR
Jessica Taylor, lead digital reporter for NPR, is paving her way through the Washington, D.C. journalism world, but it was her experience covering Furman politics that really prepared for life after graduation.
Taylor, ‘07, was The Paladin’s editor-in-chief during one of the most controversial moments in Furman history. The faculty voted to change the traditional calendar and curriculum it used for so many years before—without student consultation.
“We [the editorial staff] all just felt such a responsibility, that this was such a critical moment … there was just a real sense that the students felt like they weren’t being heard and that a lot of decisions were being made in secret, and that they weren’t involved,” Taylor said.
The decision rid all classes meeting for 50 minutes five days per week, changed the three-term year to two terms and added the first-year seminar system.
“The overwhelming thing was that students weren’t informed about it,” Taylor said. “They maybe held one meeting talking about it, but the faculty even voted earlier than they said they were going to. It was just a really big source of frustration that they kind of just pushed through.”
Even the decision timeline was rushed. Something that was projected to take one year of discussion and voting was pushed through in just one semester. The Paladin’s coverage of the meetings and decisions were highly criticized by the faculty members in favor of the changes. And while some professors served as anonymous inside sources of the process, others threatened newspaper staff members for covering the other side.
“When I was here, The Paladin was such a critical part of campus, and I was so proud of the work we did,” Taylor said.
Taylor is pleased with how its coverage affected the Furman community, but also grateful for the lessons it taught her about being a political journalist that she still reflects on in the NPR newsroom.
“It makes your skin thicker to ask those questions, to recognize that this voice isn’t being heard and [to decide] this is what I want to cover,” she said. “You have to be able to take that criticism, too, and that kind of prepared me for that. But it also prepared me to ask the hard questions and how to put the wording.”
Taylor used these skills through the trajectory of her D.C. news career, where she has worked as campaign news editor for The Hills, writer and producer for MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd,” contributor for NBC’s News Political Unit and senior analyst for The Rothenberg Gonzales Political Report during the 2012 presidential race.