UC Journalism Alumna Profile: Taylor Dungjen, '10

Taylor Dungjen

Taylor Dungjen (Photo by Amy E. Voigt/The Blade)

By: Holly Yurchison, '13

UC Journalism alumna Taylor Dungjen probably didn’t expect to find herself interviewing gang members in Toledo just a few years after graduating from UC in May 2010, but her story series, “Battle Lines: Gangs of Toledo” which ran in April 2013 in the Toledo Blade, is one of her most notable achievements as a professional journalist.
     The series was the culmination of months spent tracking gang activity in the city. When she was denied access to an official city map of the gang territories, Dungjen and her colleague Amy E. Voigt, a staff photographer at the Toledo Blade, created their own map—produced from their research and from interviews with gang members, police and anyone else who would talk.
     "The first days were the worst,” Dungjen wrote about the experience. “It was freezing, and I couldn't find my gloves. There was snow on the ground, and nobody was interested in helping Blade photographer Amy E. Voigt and me put together a map of gang territories in Toledo. We walked around … stopping residents to ask if they knew anything about gangs in the area. Silence. We learned later that the silence was probably more about survival than not wanting to cooperate.”
     That story stories earned Dungjen the Fourth Annual Gannett Foundation Award for Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism—just one of many awards the former News Record editor-in-chief has scored so far in her journalism career. Her other notable achievements include: first place for the best blog from the Associated Press Society of Ohio and the Press Club of Cleveland; a New Media Touchstone award from the Press Club of Toledo; and a John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim fellowship by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for her reporting work. Dungjen was also named as a “Big Idea Toledoan,” by The City Paper, a Toledo alternative weekly paper, and appeared on numerous radio and television programs, speaking about the gang series.
     Prior to working at The Blade, Dungjen was the night-shift police reporter at The Morning Journal in Lorain Ohio—a job she landed before she even graduated from UC. She worked there for eight months and developed a passion for crime reporting. “It seems simple and, for some bizarre reason it’s seen as a ‘starter position,’ but there is a lot to learn in crime reporting,” she says, adding that she thinks every aspiring journalist should take a crime-reporting class in college, since many newspaper journalists will spend some part of their careers covering that beat.

Dungjen interviews Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs with Sgt. Joe Heffernan in the background

Dungjen interviews Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs with Sgt. Joe Heffernan in the background. (Photo by Jeremy Wadsworth/The Blade)

Luckily, Dungjen says she had strong journalistic training under her belt before she landed that first position. At UC, she worked for The News Record, initially as an opinion and fashion writer, and then as a news reporter and news editor. In her senior year she served as editor-in-chief. Like many News Record alumni, she recommends that all UC journalism students work for the award-winning independent student newspaper.  “It’s a chance to cut your teeth, get your hands dirty, and learn how to deal with having your stories ripped to shreds and nasty things said about your work,” she says.
     Her UC professors remember her well and have proudly cheered her on in her post-college professional career. “I watched Taylor develop from a young journalist to a seasoned pro in record time,” says Educator Associate Professor Elissa Yancey. “Her dedication to the profession, and to her stories, is awe-inspiring,”
     In the summer of her junior year at UC, Dungjen received the UC Journalism Scripps Summer Internship Scholarship, which helped her land an internship at The Oregonian in Portland, where she worked alongside Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists.  “They were my mentors,” she says. “How many students get that one-on-one time with people who are considered to be the best of the best in their chosen industry?” As she watched these writers go through the editing process, she remembers feeling better about her own writing, since even her mentors’ stories were “torn apart” by editors. Dungjen says that experience made her a better writer.
     Dungjen’s advice for journalism students on the job hunt is straightforward: “Be persistent and apply for everything,” she says, adding that students should contact editors listed on job postings to inquire more about the posted positions. She landed her position at the Toledo Blade after seeing an ad on journalismjobs.com.
     These days, Dungjen loves her crime-reporting gig and says she’ll continue to report on that beat as long as anyone will pay her to do it. “I plan to stay in crime reporting for as long as humanly possible,” she says. “I'm kind of focused on the present and digging up the stories that no one else is able to find.”