By: Javon Huynh, Print Reporter
At the Wall Street Journal, where excellence and innovation converge, one individual has shattered barriers and emerged as a rising star. Meet Isaac Taylor, the youngest African American to become an editor at the prestigious publication.
Isaac Taylor is a 2018 graduate of Georgia Southern who was born in Albany, Georgia. His journey to success has been marked by challenges and triumphs, with each obstacle fueling his determination and resilience.
Reflecting on his early days at the WSJ, Isaac candidly shares his experiences as the youngest person in the room, especially when it comes to making one’s voice heard. Isaac realized that confidence and self-assurance were vital to overcoming these challenges.
“I think that definitely having the confidence to speak up regardless of how young you are and recognize that they want you to be in the room and value what you bring to the table. I think that’s something that especially for minorities and younger people going into their industries should definitely remember,” Taylor said.
Recognizing that he was valued and invited into those rooms for a reason, he found the courage to speak up, regardless of his age. Isaac encourages other minorities and young professionals entering their industries to remember their worth and the unique perspectives they bring to the table.
Isaac's journey took an unexpected turn during his college years at Georgia Southern University. Initially drawn to computer science, he soon realized that journalism and writing were his true passions. “I didn’t start journalism until I was in my junior year,” Taylor said.
With determination in his heart, he switched back to his original calling, setting himself on a path that required catching up with peers who had been honing their skills for all four years.
“I had to catch up two years in what other people had been doing for all four was definitely challenging. A lot of late nights in Henderson library, but it was definitely worth it,” Taylor said.
The obstacles he faced as he strived to bridge the gap only fueled his thirst for success and propelled him to put in the extra work that set him apart.
Taylor recounts how the communication arts department professors pushed him and supported his achievements. “I would definitely say Dr. K and Gina were definitely huge influences,” Taylor said.
“Dr. K, I think. I guess with her being so strict and diligent in her grading process. It seemed harsh at the time, but it was definitely well deserved because a lot of times, in the industry, if you make mistakes, you will probably be let go. So, I think her having that mindset and being that strict as she was in terms of grading really prepared me.” Taylor said.
He added that another professor also strengthened his passion for journalism “Gina, she was great. I actually had her almost every semester, I don’t remember exactly, but she was my professor for my first semester in class and I think had I not had that experience I probably wouldn’t have continued in journalism. She did a lot to kind of open up my eyes to what was possible. Also, just very inspiring.” Taylor expressed.
Taylor also spoke on his favorite classes at Georgia Southern and shared insight on the direction the journalism industry may be taking. "In terms of a specific class, feature writing was really good, I really enjoyed that class and audio. That was really good. Even at the Society for Professional Journalists when I had that internship, they were looking to extend that to a podcast and now we're actually about to launch another podcast at the journal and it was definitely worth it to take the audio class because the industry is trending in that direction. Even if you are a print journalist you kind of have to do podcasting at some point."
In his current role as a platform editor for WJS Pro, the Wall Street Journal's premium subscription service catering to an exclusive audience of executives and C-suite professionals. Isaac's responsibilities are diverse and impactful. No two days are the same.
“We have about 12 different verticals meaning newsletters and websites within wsj.com. Some of those include private equity, venture capital, bankruptcy, cyber security, and so forth,” Taylor said.
Isaac's mornings are dedicated to editing and deploying newsletters, ensuring the accuracy and functionality of links, and enhancing content with visuals that engage and captivate readers. He is also the voice behind the WSJ's social media presence, primarily on Twitter and LinkedIn, where he maintains an active connection with subscribers.
Delving into data analytics, Isaac conducts content audits to discern subscriber preferences and align the publication's offerings with reader interests. Additionally, he crafts compelling stories on private equity and venture capital, providing valuable insights to his niche audience.
Keeping up with the competitive landscape is also an important part of his position. “It’s really just consuming a lot of content even from other reporters at the journal and our competitors being Bloomberg, Reuters, the New York Times, their business section and just making sure that if there’s an industry trend that’s out there that I’m aware of, and that also comes with keeping in contact with my sources and seeing, just keeping my ears to the ground,” Taylor said.
One of Isaac's remarkable talents lies in his ability in finding the “human element” of complex subjects and making them accessible and engaging for readers. Take, for instance, his story on venture capital firms investing in religion apps, predominantly under the Christian umbrella.
Isaac skillfully crafted a narrative that highlighted the financial, as well as human stakes while delving into the intricate world of investments. By linking the everyday users of these apps to the investors and the financial dynamics behind them, Isaac brought together diverse audiences and shed light on a fascinating trend.
His storytelling prowess, coupled with his dedication to creating balanced and relatable narratives, is a testament to his commitment to serving both his niche audience and a wider readership.
Beyond his day-to-day responsibilities, Isaac's involvement in the Race Massacre project stands as a testament to his commitment to impactful journalism and is one of the projects that he's most proud of.
This groundbreaking initiative aimed to uncover and shed light on a historical event often overlooked. Isaac played a crucial role in conducting extensive research and data reporting. “It was quite the Herculean task,” Taylor said, “looking at census data from 1920 to 2020 and comparing them and looking at income disparities among different racial groups.”
He and his team faced the daunting task of navigating non-digitized records, with some members traveling to Tulsa to collect vital information. The project, which took nearly a year to complete, comprised nine powerful stories supported by maps, charts, and photographs.
The project's profound impact reverberated far beyond the realm of journalism, sparking conversations, and igniting a collective introspection on the enduring effects of systemic racism. Isaac's dedication to this project exemplifies the power of investigative journalism to bring marginalized stories to the forefront and inspire societal change.
But it’s not all business at the Wall Street Journal. “It’s always fun talking to celebrities for stories, even though that’s not really the point,” said Taylor, “It’s usually as a level of authority to a story.”
There are challenges, however, when dealing with the likes of The Rock. “Reaching out to them originally can be difficult because a lot of times they have two layers of PR teams, so just getting the schedule down can take a while,” Taylor said.
Relationship building is instrumental in creating trust with these high-profile subjects and maintaining those relationships is pivotal. Taylor continually works at that by sending them regular content.
“I think it’s just good journalism practice in general. Just calling them up and saying, ‘Hey, I just saw that', or to tell them congrats," Taylor said, "It does a lot to contact people when you don’t need something from them. It goes a long way.”
As a GSU alum living and working in New York City, Taylor recalls how GSU played a pivotal role in moving to the Big Apple. “I love New York. I visited as part of GSU’s senior trip in December 2017 and immediately knew it was home. It is a place ripe with opportunity, especially for journalists,” Taylor said.
In Isaac Taylor's remarkable journey as a trailblazer in journalism, there is another crucial element that played a pivotal role in shaping his career: networking. Taylor says GSU’s reach even extends beyond Georgia and graduation.
“As for the GSU alumni presence, I meet fellow GSU alumni here in New York quite frequently. If you wear a Georgia Southern shirt, alumni will walk up to you and spark a conversation.” Taylor said.
Networking not only provided Isaac with a supportive community but also opened doors to new opportunities, ultimately leading him to his current role as an editor at the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s not so much who you know, it's who knows you, but you also want to be good at what you do, so that people have something to talk about when they bring your name up,” Taylor said.
It serves as a reminder to aspiring journalists and professionals alike that building meaningful connections can pave the way for success and open doors to unexpected paths in one's career journey.
Isaac's story underscores the significance of networking, as it not only helps in navigating the challenges of the industry but also creates a platform for growth, collaboration, and new horizons.