Asking the tough questions: Dike native earns prestigious journalism fellowship at Stanford

Dike native and D-NH graduate Lisa Rossi (left) poses for a photo with her husband Michael and their two sons, Gabe and Jacob, on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Rossi, a 15-year veteran of the journalism industry, is currently studying there as part of a yearlong John S. Knight Fellowship. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Rossi) 

For a small town girl whose first bylined story on a group of local women walking over lunch was printed in none other than The Grundy Register, Lisa Rossi has most certainly made it in the news industry. With stints at The Des Moines Register, Chapel Hill and Durham magazines in North Carolina, and the University of Maryland’s American Journalism Review under her belt, Rossi, a Dike native and 1999 D-NH graduate, knows a thing or two about markets big and small, but when tasked with finding a topic for her yearlong John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University, her mind kept drifting back to her tiny hometown.


“Iowa has been endlessly inspiring to me, and I had to travel back there for my research. I just had to,” she said. “There’s sort of a blunt way of speaking and modesty that I just really admire and love.”


Much of Rossi’s project is centered on so-called “news deserts,” mostly rural areas without established daily professional media organizations and reporters. As she’s been learning, a lack of journalism doesn’t mean the locals aren’t curious about what’s happening: a visit to Dike last October inspired a blog post titled “6 things I learned about journalism — and myself — after visiting my hometown in rural Iowa,” which was published on Medium.


Rossi herself is a dyed in the wool, bleeding heart fourth estate advocate, but she realizes that most people just want to get their information and aren’t overly concerned with where it comes from, especially in the social media era. She cites the example of a car accident with no injuries as a challenge for journalists to make something from what may seem like nothing.


“What seems like a quote unquote small story, it means a lot to (people), and the challenge of a journalist or a writer is finding a deeper meaning in that small story,” she said. “How can I turn an accident into an act of journalism? In my career, I may have passed over those stories sometimes.”


Read the full story in this week's Grundy Register. Subscribe by calling (319) 824-6958 or clicking here. To follow Lisa Rossi's journey and observations throughout her fellowship, check for updates on her Medium blog here.