Jenny Rogers of the Rhodes College Class of 2006 is stepping into a new position at The Washington Post as lifestyle editor. Beginning in September, she will lead editors, reporters, and freelance writers covering parenting, wellness, home, and KidsPost topics. Her six-year career at The Post includes working as deputy editor of the Talent Network and assistant editor of the Outlook section.
Rogers also spent time honing her journalistic skills as a gossip columnist at the Washington Examiner, a reporter for TBD.com, and an assistant managing editor at the Washington City Paper, where she managed the internship program.
She has been described as having a knack for identifying smart ideas and new voices, being a collaborative colleague, and having the skill to shepherd both topics and writers to publication.
The Toledo, OH, native was an intern at Slate magazine while pursuing a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She holds a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Rhodes. Recently, Rogers took time out of her busy schedule to answer questions from her alma mater regarding her professional and college career.
Rhodes is a reflection of the range of interests of its students and alums. What are your interests and how has your degree in art been an asset to your journalistic career?
An underrated aspect of an art education is learning to critique. I use my critiquing skills constantly as an editor. My job is to interrogate ideas, writing, and reporting; find holes; and anticipate others’ critiques. There are a lot of similarities in making art and producing journalism! I also spend a fair amount of time working with our photo and design teams, and it's nice to bring a somewhat informed opinion to the table. As far as interests go, I was always interested in reading, history, and learning more about people — all things that were a big part of my college career and my professional career.
Do you still paint?
Yes! I just painted some giant watercolors of the moon for my living room because my 4-year-old son loves the moon. They currently are awaiting frames.
What are some highlights of your career?
- A package I edited featuring the voices of ICU nurses at the height of the pandemic last winter, which ran on the front page of the print section and found a significant audience online
- A newsroom-wide project I led on former prisoners who had had their sentences commuted by President Obama, which ran as its own section
- My Washington City Paper cover story on dive bars
At Rhodes, you were a peer assistant and a member of the Social Regulations Council. Did these roles and your other extracurricular activities help to develop your leadership and teamwork skills?
I found my sorority to be an incredible way to develop leadership skills. Being a vice-president and serving the council was probably the college experience that most mirrored my experiences in the adult work world — you have to build support, listen to people, troubleshoot, and deal with budgetary and logistical realities.
What professors were most influential during your time at Rhodes?
My Search professor, Mark Muesse, helped me understand that challenging your ideas and beliefs does not make them weaker. Hamlett Dobbins in the art department made me a significantly better artist. Art history professor David McCarthy definitely made me a more rigorous thinker. I also took two classes with Dan Cullen that have kept me from looking like a fool when John Rawls pops up in conversation during a story meeting.
You worked in undergraduate admissions right after graduating from Rhodes. What led you to pursue a master’s degree in journalism?
I thought that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism but had zero experience or connections. Almost all internships at the time seemed to be limited to students, so I figured I should become a student. It was a very good experience, partly because I did not have to pay for my degree.
What advice would you give to students interested in a career in today’s news media landscape?
Try to get two to three decent clips. That’s what you’ll need to apply to your first/next job. Don’t be afraid to take a less than ideal job (as long as it pays enough to live on) and know that you will likely have to move. If you are interning, put time into developing relationships with your peer interns, with people a little further along than you, and people much further along. Those relationships are intrinsically valuable, fun, and very likely to pay dividends, too — I got my first job at The Post on the recommendation of a friend. And be yourself. There are all kinds of people and every type of personality in The Post’s newsroom. You don’t have to fit a mold.
How have you benefited from learning and working in Rhodes’ liberal arts environment?
Rhodes is a tremendous place for people who are naturally curious. To me that is the main advantage of a liberal arts college — you can feed and develop your curiosity in a way that you might not be able to in other types of educational environments, and curiosity is a huge driver of journalism. There are incredibly talented and brilliant people at Rhodes, but I never found the vibe of campus to be pretentious. It’s a very friendly place. I took a lot of lessons from that: you can be yourself, you can be friendly, and you can still be very successful in a competitive field like journalism.
In what ways do you consider yourself a lifelong learner?
I love to be surprised by new information, whether it’s something I come across on a cooking website, in a novel, in a draft of a story I’m editing, or in a conversation with a neighbor. That element of surprise is something that I look for a lot in freelancer pitches, regardless of topic.
Did Rhodes inspire you to dream big?
Rhodes made me feel confident in my ability to think and to get along with people, which made me feel like I could make it. It can feel like a leap of faith to pursue a liberal arts degree without an obvious, traditional career path, and it sort of felt like a similar leap to pursue a career in journalism, which is frankly pretty unstable much of the time.
Anything else you would like to add?
It can feel extremely scary to leave Rhodes, which is such a warm and supportive place. In general, the first few years out of college are a bit rocky for many people, personally and professionally. But there are very good things out there for people with the skills Rhodes imparts.