Class Notes Profile: Quick-starter
Success came early for sports journalist Taylor Rooks, ’14 MEDIA. While still an undergraduate, she broke athletic recruiting stories for scout.com and appeared on the Big Ten Network and CBS Sports Network. Months after graduation, she joined BTN full-time.
Rooks’ sports pedigree is impressive—her dad is former Illini star running back Thomas Rooks, ’87 LAS, and her uncles played pro football and baseball. Her time in Champaign gave her invaluable connections and opportunities, she says. And though her industry remains male-dominated—“people sometimes see you as a woman first and a journalist second,” Rooks says—she’s determined to blaze through barriers.
After all, sports reporting involves more than points and plays; athletes’ and teams’ complex storylines require diverse viewpoints. “Sometimes, you’ll hear someone talking about race or protests or domestic violence and it’s four white men in the room. There’s no variance of experience or opinion,” Rooks says. “I think my job as a journalist is to expose people to a different truth.”
By now, Rooks has interviewed everyone from Allen Iverson to Snoop Dogg. In January 2017, she launched a podcast—Timeout with Taylor Rooks—full of in-depth conversations with notable sports figures.
Her strength, she’s realizes, lies in building trust with her subjects to broach challenging topics—a skill she hopes to eventually parlay into her own broadcast show. “I know I’ll be content if I’m speaking to people, getting to know them, telling their stories,” Rooks says. “Whatever medium or platform that may be, that’s what I know I want to be doing for the [foreseeable] future.”