By Megan Lein ’15
One year ago, Grant Rodgers ’13 was editing the Simpsonian student newspaper and preparing to graduate from Simpson.
Now he’s covering some of the biggest news stories in Iowa and writing front-page stories for the Des Moines Register, the state’s biggest media company.
“I’m very lucky that they have put as much trust in me as possible,” he says of his Register editors. “But it’s a great time to be a young person in a changing business. I learn so much about other careers from the stories I wrote, and I am constantly able to improve my skill set.”
So far in his relatively new career Rodgers has been assigned to the following stories: the Younkers department store fire; a shooting in South Des Moines; and the funeral of Kathlynn Shepard, the 15-year Iowa girl who was kidnapped and murdered. He also has covered several trials, and his stories have been picked up by USA Today in addition to appear on the Register’s website and front page.
Those are the kinds of stories normally assigned to grizzled veteran reporters, not young reporters beginning their careers.
But Rodgers says he obtained so much experience as a student that he felt well-prepared when he started at the Register.
It wasn’t journalism, but location, that led Rodgers to choose Simpson when he was a high school senior in Ottumwa.
“I knew that the location of Simpson College would open up opportunities for me as I would be so close to Des Moines,” he says. “I knew I’d be able to take advantage of internship possibilities. Simpson may have a small journalism program compared to larger schools, but in return I received a very personal education.”
Rodgers credits much of his Simpson success to his adviser Brian Steffen, professor of Communication and Media Studies.
“I remember getting a ‘C” in Beginning Newswriting and Reporting with Brian,” he says. “But I enjoyed improving my stories and bringing them up to his standards. Brian recognized that I had a talent for journalism. He guided me into the career that I went into.”
On campus, Rodgers gained experience by working three years on the Simpsonian, the last year as the newspaper’s editor. He also had three different internships, including one at the Register that Steffen helped him obtain.
As a result, he gained much professional experience as a student, from writing press releases and producing YouTube videos to helping the city of Ankeny’s brand campaign to covering Occupy Des Moines for the Register.
“There is never going to be another four years when your main job is to soak up knowledge and to learn,” he says of being a student. “As a student journalist I spent my days at the Register, learning on the fly about various things. And everything I was writing about was related to what I was learning at Simpson.”
He added, “Journalism classes teach you about learning the craft, but the craft is about learning other things as well.” He feels strongly that it is important for students to appreciate all of their Simpson classes, especially the courses outside their major.
“Students, take advantage of history classes, of Intro to Communication, of philosophy and business courses,” he says. “When you are out in the workplace you are expected to be immersed in culture and history. Taking a variety of Simpson classes is the best way to gain knowledge of so many things.”
Rodgers says Simpson – with its location, Guaranteed Internship program and professors who take an active interest in students – is a great place to get a jump start on a career.
“The advice I give to any student is to intern and get as much experience as possible,” Rodgers says. “It is as valuable as your classes in getting you a job. I made my internships as important as all the work I was doing for class.”
Rodgers’ brother, Ben, a junior, is following Grant into the media field and appears to be following his brother’s advice as well: He has an internship lined up this summer at the Carroll (Iowa) Daily Times Herald, which earlier this year was named best daily newspaper in its circulation category.