Anecdotes offer insights into how a person sees the world. One story isn’t a complete picture, yet it gives us enough to compose a sketch. In second grade, Danni Derrickson did something that, in retrospect, seems fitting for a future journalist. “There was a boys table and a girls table in the cafeteria,” said Derrickson. “I wanted to sit at the boys table but was told I couldn’t. I didn’t like that someone told me I couldn’t sit there so I convinced one of my friends to sit at the boys table with me.”
This questioning of authority, of challenging the status quo, is the hallmark of good journalism. Derrickson has long been intrigued by the profession but wasn’t sure if the field was right for her. “I didn’t think it was practical,” she said. Derrickson explored other options when she came to UW Tacoma including chemistry and urban studies. She returned to journalism after taking a course on gender, race and class from Dr. Ellen Moore. “The course combined my love of journalism and social justice,” said Derrickson. “I decided then that I was going to major in communication because nothing else fit me so well.”
Derrickson hasn’t looked back. During her senior year she worked for the UW Tacoma’s news office as a student writer. In winter 2018 she applied to be part of Student Voices. The program is run by the Seattle Times and provides high school and college students a chance to write about a specific topic. This year the project is focused on education and housing insecurity in Washington. Derrickson received word she’d been accepted into the program in early April. “I’ve chosen to write about racism, sexism and inequality through the lens of K-12 education,” said Derrickson. “I was taught that these weren’t issues anymore, that it was all in the past. We need to do a better job of preparing young people for the world.”
Derrickson will spend the summer following graduation writing for The Olympian. The local paper is owned by McClatchy, the same company that publishes The News Tribune. “The first few weeks will be spent shadowing other reporters but then I’ll be given the chance to write my own stories,” said Derrickson.
Talent is great, but it only goes so far. It takes hard work, practice and even a little failure to ultimately succeed. Derrickson has the chops to make it as a journalist and the drive to make it happen. She came to UW Tacoma at age 18 with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Derrickson attended Tacoma Community College as a Running Start student.
Where does this drive to succeed come from? Well, consider another anecdote. Derrickson’s family—mom, dad, four siblings—lovingly refer to her as “The Rev” which is short for reverend. “I’ve always had this firm sense of right and wrong,” she said. Derrickson would often audibly complain to her mother about one issue or another. “Finally, she looked at me and said ‘why are you talking to me, if you’re so concerned then go out and do something about it?’”
And so she has. “I want to give voice to people who often go unheard,” said Derrickson. In doing so, she’s making room at the table for others.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org