February 4, 2019 / Podcasts

Yearbook Chat with Jim gets the chance to Ask Mike

Written by Evan Blackwell, CJE

What happens when hosts of two different WYPN shows get together on the same episode? It turns into a fascinating 55 minutes of fun for the listener.

To kickoff the second season of Yearbook Chat with Jim, host Jim Jordan interviewed Walsworth’s Mike Taylor, CJE, the host of Walsworth’s Ask Mike podcast, and the entertaining discussion covered a little bit of everything – from Mike’s own story on how he got started in yearbooks to how he became the “hardest working man in the yearbook business” to his advice on creating a modern yearbook.

A failed chemistry experiment

Born and raised in the Clearwater, Florida, area, Taylor didn’t hesitate to share the “embarrassing story” he’s told over the years, when asked how he got involved with journalism as a student.

Never much of a math or science person, during his junior year in high school Taylor found himself in way over his head in chemistry class.

“I couldn’t do the labs to save my life,” Taylor said. “I failed the class.”

However, his lab reports were well-written and the teacher never gave up on him, even going so far as to sign Taylor up for the school newspaper. One thing led to another, and Taylor soon discovered that he was a writer.

“I just knew that writing and English literature was for me,” said Taylor.

Discovering the classroom

Taylor’s college years that included a couple years studying abroad in England.

“I traveled all over Europe and Scotland and Ireland during breaks. I went to Austria with a friend who got appendicitis,” Taylor said. “Remember there was no cell phone or internet or any of that kind of stuff. It was very bizarre.”

Taylor briefly worked at an ad agency before finding his true calling as a teacher. English teachers were needed near his home in Citrus County, so Taylor got his first job teaching 5th grade at Crystal River Middle School. Then in 1988, he asked the principal if he could take over the school’s yearbook.

Taylor moved to Lecanto High School in 1992 where he was yearbook adviser and broadcast teacher. He still recalls his favorite book, Lecanto’s 1999 edition with the theme “Enough Already,” which came during a year with lots of overwhelming news, including Y2K and the death of Princess Diana.

A new world

In the fall of 2000, Taylor was approached by representatives of Taylor Publishing about coming to work for the company. Mike and wife traveled to Dallas for a job interview.

“We were at a hotel on a Saturday night and we were on the 12th, 13th, 14th floor and I looked out on the traffic on Monday morning and I told my wife Julie, ‘We’re not moving here.’” Taylor said. “There’s no way I’m moving to this city.”

But he did take the job and relocate to Dallas, and it was the beginning of a decade working at Taylor. Then in 2011, Mike began to consider a return to teaching when he was recruited by Walsworth Yearbooks.

“I met Don Walsworth and I met all this passion and this family-oriented company and decided I’m doing it,” said Taylor.

Yearbook guru

Today, Taylor is constantly on the road, meeting with yearbook staffs just about every week and trying to help them improve their book.

“Next week, I’ll be in Florida. The week after that, I’ll be in Kansas City. The week after that, I’ll be in New Orleans,” said Taylor. “I go with reps and I put on these premieres, which are one day workshops, or I’ll go into a school with a rep… just basically working with them on what might work and what might not.”

Taylor said he isn’t afraid to be bold, maybe sometimes even a little rough, in his critiques with yearbook staffs, but that he is always trying to make sure something productive comes out of the session.

“I tell the kids, ‘We’ve got an hour and we need to pretend like we’re best friends for that hour, so if I hurt your feelings, you need to let me know,’” said Taylor.

Listen now

You can listen to this episode of Yearbook Chat with Jim at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or on your preferred podcast listening platform, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher. Please send any comments or questions to podcasts@walsworth.com.

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Evan Blackwell, CJE

Evan Blackwell, CJE, is the Marketing Automation Supervisor for Walsworth. He's been a writer, editor and web content specialist for Walsworth for the past 15+ years, and is the author of the Yearbook Suite's "The Art of the Interview" unit. Prior to joining Walsworth, Blackwell spent five years as an award-winning newspaper and magazine journalist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.