One could have forgiven Stephanie Daniels for not pursuing it.
It would have been understandable if she had decided that, in between class and the more than 40 hours she spends each week working at the Apple Store, she simply didn’t have time for one more activity – particularly something as involved as serving as the editor-in-chief of a college newspaper.
But Daniels, a senior majoring in sociology at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, won’t shy away from a challenge, so she applied for and ultimately won the opportunity to direct The Current, which is publishing for its 54th year at UMSL.
Daniels is figuring out how to meet the many responsibilities that come with her new title – planning and monitoring the activities of staff members, editing and designing their stories, all in addition to her own reporting and writing.
“If I want to be as successful as I see myself, life is never going to be comfortable,” Daniels said. “You’re never going to be in a spot where you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is comfortable. I can manage this.’ I’m not saying live your life where you’re just overwhelmed, but I think that it’s always a good thing to feel like you’re right there, where you’re pushing yourself but you’re not pushing yourself over the edge.”
“She seems really good at finding ways for people to do their own thing but at the same time have their efforts benefit the organization,” he said. “She’s allowed people to make their jobs their own, but at the same time have a good amount of group cohesion and still have everyone on the same page.”
That’s not to say it doesn’t have the potential to get a little overwhelming. But it’s easier to manage doing something she’s passionate about, as journalism has been.
Daniels has always loved to write going back to third grade, when she used to fill up mini-notebooks with her poetry. It’s one of the reasons she joined the newspaper staff while a student at Ritenour High School and also why she decided to add media studies as a minor since transferring to UMSL from St. Louis Community College–Forest Park.
She was enrolled in a feature writing class taught by Krull last year, and he encouraged her to submit a story for The Current. It turned out well enough that she was asked to serve as the newspaper’s features editor when Katelyn Chostner was its editor-in-chief.
It was in the same course that Daniels penned an essay, “Neat,” which told the personal story of how she came to embrace her free-form hair – and the empowerment she found in the process.
Krull had the students write a hypothetical pitch they might use to convince a professional publication to publish their work. But Daniels didn’t just write the pitch. She sent it off to the Riverfront Times, which published the story last January. It also ran in the RFT’s sister publication, Orlando Weekly.
More recently, Daniels lent reporting assistance and shared a byline on a story Krull wrote for the Riverfront Times about three still-unsolved murders of women from the same area of south St. Louis that occurred between March 1990 and February 1991.
“I never would have thought that I would have been on the phone with a detective who was once over the major case squad going over autopsy reports,” Daniels said. “That never would have been something I thought I would have done or even could have access to, so that was really cool. It was really cool to see an investigative story take shape and all the elements that went into it, even reaching out to the family, going to addresses that we thought belonged to some of them, going and knocking on doors and leaving notes for people.”
Finding time for similar side projects will likely be more difficult with The Current set to resume its normal schedule with school in session.
She’s set some goals for how she would like the next year to go beyond the staff hitting all of its deadlines.
“I’m trying to have people understand that it doesn’t have to be strictly business,” Daniels said. “Let’s have fun together. Let’s create memories together because it’s like any student organization, any other club on campus. Part of that isn’t just getting work done. I also want to stress the fact that we have a huge opportunity to make connections with one another, personally and even professionally. We all love to write. Who knows where those paths will take us?”
She also has been working with fellow student Victoria Reed to try to launch a mentorship program with nearby high schools such as Normandy, Ritenour, Pattonville and McCluer South Berkeley. The idea would be to bring students passionate about writing to UMSL and have them shadow The Current staff members, exposing them to news production while also introducing them to the university.
Daniels is starting to think about what she will do after she leaves the university with her graduation scheduled for May.
“The perfect scenario for me would be to be a writer that meshes together sociology and journalism, and uses sociology as my compass to be able to navigate stories and to uncover the why behind it all,” she said. “Most people in society aren’t like, ‘Let me log into this scholarly journal and read this research.’ I think that’s where journalism and its creativity can come in and sort of bridge that gap, like, ‘Hey, this is an issue that is showing up in the research,’ but not only just placing a finger on the issue but going into the community and actually talking to real people to get that side of it as well.”