By Alexandra Stratton
As the publications adviser for Duncanville High school, James Rich said he was surprised and a little hesitant when one energetic and ambitious student began him pressing to write for the school paper her sophomore year.
For one, Taylor Tiamoyo Harris was young — most of his reporters were juniors and seniors.
And, Harris seemed inexperienced. She had bypassed the journalism class required to work for the paper.
But Rich said he read over some of her English class writing samples and decided to give her a chance.
“The first story she did for me won all kinds of awards,” Rich said. “We had a star athlete of the basketball team who was hit by a train. She just dug real deep and did a really deep reporting process that I didn’t usually see from kids on that level.”
As a 23-year-old Howard University graduate who already has worked for outlets such as The Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post and ABC News, Harris now says it was that first reporting experience which at showed her the power of journalism and determined it as her lifetime passion.
“I was like ‘Wow. This is what I want to do,’” she said. “I’m going to go to college, major in journalism and be a reporter.”
Now poised to participate in the Dow Jones News Fund business reporting internship and intern for Thomson Reuters in New York City during summer 2017, Harris has done all she set out to do as a high school sophomore in Duncanville, a suburb located 14 miles southwest of downtown Dallas.
Harris was accepted to Howard University and offered a full-academic scholarship before the first day of her senior year of high school. At Howard, Harris worked as a reporter for the student-run newspaper, The Hilltop, for three years before becoming editor-in-chief her senior year.
“That was my greatest achievement so far,” Harris said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done...like ever. It was very difficult but I am so prideful about my student newspaper.”
When she started as editor-in-chief, the publication’s website was down and it had maybe several hundred Twitter followers, Harris said. But under her leadership, The Hilltop developed a strong online presence and expanded its followers to five or six thousand (the paper has since then reached 11,000 followers).
Initially, Harris wanted to be a sports reporter, but that all changed after attending her first Investigative Reporters & Editors conference her junior year of college, where she gained a passion for investigative work.
“I think that all journalism is investigative journalism, but specifically people who focus on investigations are the people who truly make a change in society,” Harris said. “If that’s my goal as a journalist, that’s the best way to do it.”
Rich noticed those investigative instincts early-on, calling Harris a “self starter” who always “picked up stories on her own.”
“She’s not afraid to step on toes or ask questions,” Rich said. “She digs deep. I have never read a story of Taylor’s where it’s just a surface level story.”
During her senior year of college, Harris interned for American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop. She participated in ProPublica’s data journalism institute for several weeks after graduating from college, attended another IRE conference, interned with the Democracy Fund and most recently completed an internship with ABC’s Brian Ross Investigative Unit.
After being exposed to data journalism at ProPublica, Harris said she looks forward to the Dow Jones News Fund business reporting internship and her internship with Thomson Reuters as opportunities to expand upon those skills.
Although Harris will spend her summer in New York City and plans to remain on the East coast for the foreseeable future, her ultimate career goal entails returning to her Texas roots.
“A lot of communities get ignored by bigger news companies,” she said. “I would like to start a publication in my hometown and extend it to communities that are ignored by their local papers.”
That’s likely to happen, according to her successor at The Hilltop.
“Taylor is very resilient and unapologetic in the sense that she’s resilient no matter what obstacles come her way,” said Jazmin Goodwin, the current editor-in-chief. “She is very positive and solution oriented.”