Kat Riddler, The Current’s editor-in-chief, puts focus on writing, staff camaraderie

Kat Riddler, editor-in-chief of The Current

UMSL graduate student Kat Riddler, editor-in-chief of The Current, leads weekly meetings where the student newspaper staff members discuss what’s working well and what they can further improve on. (Photo by August Jennewein)

It’s fair to say The Current runs in the family for Kat Riddler, the University of Missouri­–St. Louis student newspaper’s editor-in-chief.

“My dad was a staff writer for The Current when he was here in the ’70s,” says Riddler, a second-year graduate student in the Department of English who earned her BA from UMSL in 2014. “Then my boyfriend of five years – he worked at The Current in advertising, and then I joined the year after he left, as a copy editor.”

Having served as managing editor of the weekly publication last year, Riddler took over as editor-in-chief this past summer, furthering that family legacy. During her first six months in the role, she’s balanced the bigger-picture editorial duties with an eye for detail. She’s also continued doing a lot of writing herself.

“We’re focusing a lot on passive voice right now,” the St. Charles, Mo., native says of The Current’s student staff, which meets regularly to discuss the previous week’s paper. “That seems to be one of our biggest problems. Ryan Krull, our adviser, will come up with an example like, ‘The ship was eaten by the whale.’ What’s the action? The whale is eating the ship. It’s abstract-type things we don’t usually think about, but it definitely makes a difference.”

Riddler’s goal with those workshop-type sessions is to provide the mostly volunteer Current staff with more than strictly journalistic tips.

“I want the writers to work with editors to make them better writers – that’s going to be the skill that helps them later on in all sorts of fields,” she says. “Not everyone’s an English major, so we work on grammar, better spelling and punctuation.”

With emphases in both literature and in composition and rhetoric as she pursues an MA in English at UMSL, Riddler’s focus on building writing skills is perhaps not surprising. She’s also worked to boost the paper’s operations on other fronts, including advertising and staff morale.

The Current has received more letters to the editor and seen an uptick in ad revenue this fall, making a handful of thicker, 12-page issues possible this semester. Some of the increase is thanks to on-campus units, but the students have also sold ads to IKEA, White Castle, the Muny, ROTC – “some big names,” as Riddler puts it.

Along with the sizable hat she wears at The Current and her graduate studies at UMSL, Riddler finds time to put in about 20 hours a week as a writer for Media Magic Public Relations – plus regularly write and edit stories for NerdyBits.

“I take it one day at a time, for sure,” she says when asked if her life requires a lot of all-nighters. “I at least get a solid five hours of sleep each night.” She adds that political seasons can be rough, when she is often pushing to turn around TV commercials for candidates.

The sheer variety of written work she’s gaining experience with while pursuing her education is by her own design.

“I want to be as diverse as possible, because writing is so broad itself,” Riddler says, adding that she particularly enjoys the research involved. “I take on creative writing projects, technical writing projects, journalism, blogging and more.”

Eventually she hopes to go into publishing or public relations full time and possibly start her own firm. Another possibility is delving further into Irish studies, something she’s been exploring in a course this semester taught by Eamonn Wall, the Smurfit-Stone Corporation Professor of Irish Studies.

“I’m thinking about going to Galway someday – see if I can help with the kind of academic research going on there. Or not,” Riddler adds with a smile. “There are a lot of possibilities.”

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