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Aarik Danielsen

Aarik Danielsen

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  • Photo by Keith Borgmeyer

Arts & Entertainment Editor, Columbia Daily Tribune

Job description

I write, edit, and assign stories for the Tribune’s twice-weekly arts sections, which means covering everything from music and literature to visual art, theater, and dance. I also contribute the occasional non-arts feature and pitch in with editing duties when and where I’m needed. 

Professional background

After graduating with two bachelor’s degrees in music, I wrote freelance album reviews for a time. Realizing my future actually pointed toward journalism, I came to the MU School of Journalism to receive my master’s degree. I started my job at the Tribune a month after graduation. After hours, I do a fair amount of freelance art and culture writing, with bylines at Image Journal, Entropy, Plough, and other publications. I also write a column, The (Dis)content, each week for Fathom magazine. Two years ago, I started teaching writing fundamentals to journalism majors at MU. 

Hometown

Mesa, Arizona.

Years lived in Columbia

Thirteen.

Quote you live by

Samuel Johnson said that “A man writes better than he lives.” That doesn’t sound terribly inspirational at face value, but it reminds me that all writing is aspirational. I write pictures of what creativity, empathy, love, and connection look like — then learn what it means to live up to my own words. 

Favorite community activity

For about two years, two friends and I curated and co-hosted a house concert series. We’ve had to hit pause because of the pandemic, and I’m not sure when or if we’ll resume. But I had such a wonderful time working on this with friends and seeing each concert come to life. I would grin like a fool throughout each show. 

Favorite recent project

Last fall, I wrote the story of a local Vietnam veteran who applied the PTSD coping skills he’d learned to caring for his now-late wife as she struggled with dementia. The amount of vulnerability and access he allowed in our conversations was such an honor. I was deeply humbled by the story of this man’s tested-but-true love for his wife and challenged to consider how my love for my own wife has expressed itself in times of difficulty and suffering.

A Columbia businessperson you admire and why

I always like what David Elman is up to over at Fretboard Coffee. Not only has he found a way to seamlessly combine two of my favorite things — music and coffee — but, from the outside looking in, I get the sense he tries to treat people the right way.

Why you are passionate about your job

I am asked on a daily basis to exercise my natural curiosity and to form deeper connections to my community. The chance to learn someone’s story and then share it with others is a privilege and responsibility I’ll never get over. 

If you weren’t doing this for a living, you would

I would probably be teaching poetry or history in some other college town in the Midwest or Pacific Northwest. 

What people should know about your profession

Journalists are people, too. Across this divide between audience and news-gatherers — which is real, but also based heavily on perception — this truth often gets lost. Every journalist I’ve ever met cares deeply about their community and wants to make it a better, more well-informed place. We want the same things our neighbors do and are here to encourage, not oppose, progress and a sense of community. 

The next challenge facing your industry

Finding new, compelling ways to convey everything I said above. As we labor to help people sift fact from fiction, information from misinformation, we have to harmonize our journalistic ethics with our sense of humanity. This should be natural, but for a variety of reasons, it presents its challenges. 

How you want to impact the Columbia community

I want every source I come across to feel known and heard by me, and I want to help stretch that feeling across as many corners of our city as possible. 

Greatest strength

Empathetic listening and earnest communication. 

Greatest weakness

That same empathy I hope animates my work often weighs me down as I see various segments of the community talk past each other or fail to consider the common good.

What you do for fun

Read, run, and hike various portions of the MKT Trail. During baseball season, I watch as many San Francisco Giants games as I can. Before, during, and after baseball season, I nerd out over statistical analysis of the game.

Family

I have been married to Brooke for more than 16 years, and we have a 7-year-old son who is in first grade. 

Favorite place in Columbia

In addition to the MKT Trail, I talk about, write about, and visit the Columbia Public Library quite often. I love being surrounded by books and book people. 

Accomplishment you are most proud of

Some dear friends of mine have written one or more books, and I’ve yet to start one (though I hope to someday). Sometimes I’ve fretted over what that says about me as a writer. For my birthday in December, my wife had something like 90 out of my 3,000-plus Tribune bylines printed and bound together in a hardback edition. “This is your book,” she said. I’m proud of her more than myself, but that wonderful gift reminded me that I’ve been able to sound out a consistent voice over the long haul here. That means more to me than any fleeting kind of recognition. 

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