SMU Journalism Student Profile

By Elaina Murphy, ’19

Danielle Abril never intended to be a journalist. Abril, managing editor for business publication D CEO, wanted to study law at Southern Methodist University. With the guidance of her college advisor, she decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in journalism, a strategy to differentiate her from the political science majors swarming law school admissions offices.

By junior year, however, Abril’s plans had changed. 

“My junior year, when I was studying for the LSATs, I started to feel like, I’m not ready to leave this [journalism],” Abril said. “I convinced my parents to let me put off the LSAT.”

This was the first time Abril considered a future in journalism, but not the first time her affinity for the subject was recognized. Her freshman year, journalism professor Michele Houston asked Abril if she had ever considered a career in journalism.

“I remember thinking, ‘What is she talking about? I want to be a lawyer,’” Abril said. “But of course, she was right.”

By senior year, Abril was confident she could get a job in journalism. When the 2008 market crash coincided with graduation, however, Abril found that landing a job was harder than anticipated.  After applying for over 120 jobs, Abril finally found work at a small Dallas publication. The gig lasted a year and seven months.

“I got a job … it wasn’t a great one,” Abril said. “I was basically working for peanuts. And then, the day I signed my first lease, they furloughed.”

Without warning, Abril was jobless. She spent a few months in her parents’ apartment, using their dining room as a bedroom. After a rotation of hostess and retail jobs, Abril finally landed an interview with Neighborsgo, a subsidiary of The Dallas Morning News that published several hyper-localized papers for neighborhoods around Dallas. She knew she’d need to make an impression. She learned the publication inside out, and was hired as the editor of its smallest neighborhood publication.

“I stayed there for three years. I worked my way up to becoming editor of three of the local publications,” Abril said.

Still, Abril needed something more. She accepted a role at the Dallas Business Journal as a retail and hospitality reporter. Over time, Abril reported on restaurants and nonprofits, eventually making her way into tech reporting. She quickly became a reporting jack-of-all-trades. D Magazine took notice. Although she had no intention of leaving her job with the Dallas Business Journal, Abril was shocked when D offered her a management role.

“I thought, ‘Wait a minute. What?I decided it was the way to go,” Abril said. “I’m really happy I made the move.”

For Abril, every day at D CEO is different. Although she has her own team now, she wasn’t quite ready to give up reporting. She believes she’s created a sort of “hybrid” version of the typical managing editor role.

“I changed the job. A traditional managing editor would only be charged with making sure the publication comes together, making assignments, keeping track of the team, etc.  But I enjoyed the journalism part of my job so much that I wasn’t willing to give that up,” said Abril. “I’m still doing a lot of reporting. From one day to the next, I could be out reporting a story, or sitting at an Excel sheet trying to make the numbers make sense. You name it, I do it.”

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