Life Beyond Reed (continued)

Photo by Ariel Zambelich

Kendall Taggart ’09

Data reporter, Center for Investigative Reporting, San Francisco

Taggart crunches numbers for a living, but she’s not an accountant, engineer, or mathematician. She's a journalist—a “data reporter” working on hard-hitting investigations for the Center for Investigative Reporting. 

The nonprofit, nonpartisan center produces watchdog journalism that is in short supply nowadays. Taggart is particularly proud of a recent exposé on the exploitative business practices of unscrupulous charities. She spent a year creating a vast database, conducting interviews, and cowriting the award-winning series

After Reed, Taggart worked as an intern and waited tables in her hometown of Cambridge, Mass., before moving to the Bay Area. She knocked on doors until she got a temp job at CIR in 2010, and she has stayed ever since. 

“Maybe it’s the Reedie in me,” she says, “but I knew I wanted to be the kind of journalist who was into researching and digging into documents and data.”

Senior Thesis/Adviser: “Torture: The Social Logics of the Exception in the War on Terror.” Prof. S. Tahir H. Naqvi [anthropology]

Why Reed: I visited Reed the first day of Renn Fayre, and I walked out of a dorm room at 8 a.m. to see six naked people painted in blue. I thought that was pretty exciting.  I also liked that Reedies had a genuine curiosity for everything interesting. No matter the hour of the day, you could have this rigorous intellectual conversation with anyone and everyone; there was never a time when you couldn’t dork out.

Childhood career aspirations: I wanted to be a cat at one point, but I don’t think that was a career goal. Maybe a spy. I liked Harriet the Spy and was always writing in notebooks. I remember sitting in my friend’s tree house, diligently noting everything the neighbors were doing.

Why journalism: I got a good hunch of what I wanted to do with my career during my sophomore year at Reed, when my idea of a perfect Friday night was sitting in the bathtub and listening to On the Media on NPR. And then on Sunday waking up and devouring the New York Times before doing anything else. Whenever I got to do both those things, I considered my weekend a success.

Why journalism matters: Government agencies and corporations and advocacy groups are constantly putting out numbers to justify their positions and their claims about what’s going in on the world. Reporters need bigger and better data skills to make sure those numbers aren’t a lie, and to hold them accountable.  

Best part of my job: It’s pretty unusual to get paid to do something that’s genuinely interesting, and that also makes democracy work better. 

Worst part of my job: Can I get back to you if I come up with something?