Danny O’Malley



When I first read the description of this course, I was excited to hit the pavement and start talking about things I wanted to cover (craft beer, geek culture, and so on). Upon realizing that it wasn’t a total free-for-all, and that we would be assigned to a specific part of the community, I felt a mixture of disappointment and curiosity. However, I recognized that immigrants and refugees often have amazing stories to tell, and at this moment in our country’s history, it’s critical that we tell them. So I dove in.

It’s been a gut-check. If you’re reading this from the U.S., you are abundantly privileged just by virtue of living here. But it never really crystallizes until you talk to someone who has been through hell before they arrived. My choice of career (marketing and public relations) relies on an immense amount of faith in the economy, society and people. Refugees have had that faith questioned via threats to their lives, not just to their job security.

Civic responsibility is about staying informed and being a part of the community. Both of those concepts have waned, it seems, in society at large over the last few years. Thanks to covering refugees and aspects of the lives they lead here, I’m much more aware of the contributions every person can make to their community, not to mention the potential that many natural-born citizens are squandering on petty things. It has been said that “people make the place.” We need to enable people of all walks of life to thrive in this world, not erect barriers and point fingers.

I grew up in Berkeley, California, so it’s hard to shake my inner hippie. Human society is at its pinnacle (or at least has the potential to reach great heights) when people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints are allowed to live truthfully and respectfully with one another. The current administration wants to paint all non-Americans as “the other” and deepen the trenches of fear and doubt and misunderstanding. We don’t need a wall. We don’t need a cap on humanitarian aid. We need to address the lack of understanding through telling stories and sharing experiences. And especially through civic action and responsible journalism.

It was easy to feel like an intrusive outsider when asking people to talk to me. Luckily I spoke with people who invited my inquisitiveness. If we were to work this beat, say, in the actual refugee camps, being an outsider would likely be a handicap. Trust is hard to gain, and it’s tough to say whether a stranger is out to help or harm until you talk to them and see their actions and motivations play out. Knowing what questions to ask and how to draw out the best in your interviewees is a complex web of research, interaction and more research. As student journalists, we’re lucky that we haven’t been assigned an “agenda” by anyone, other than the pursuit of higher learning. That wouldn’t be the case if we introduced ourselves as CNN or Fox News reporters.

I thanked every person I spoke with and usually threw in something like “at the risk of editorializing, I think you and your work are amazing, keep it up.” So, yes, it was extremely difficult to remain objective. Journalism can easily stray into hot water by showing bias and taking sides, but it would take a tremendously apathetic person not to be wowed by the feats accomplished by people who really care and who have overcome incredible odds.

I feel a little disappointed that I couldn’t do more. But I attended a volunteer orientation for the “Know Your Neighbor” program through Salt Lake City, and if I’m accepted I hope I can make a larger impact. I definitely want to take part in future charitable events with the International Rescue Committee. I’ve met some incredibly kind people there, and I’d love to have some of that rub off on me. I’ve grown a little cynical in my old age.

As a result of my reporting and covering this beat this semester, I will dedicate more of my time to serving causes I believe in. There’s a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that’s been rattling around inside my head all year: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” After meeting the amazing people involved in the cause of helping refugees and building our communities, I want to do what I can to weigh that curve.



I’m a jack of many trades. My professional resume consists of graphic design, customer service, online marketing, solar power sales and small business consultation. I’ve volunteered as a weekend radio DJ, helped plant trees and cleaned up local parks, and served craft beer at a brewery supply taproom. I’ve welded steel sculptures and whittled wooden wands. I’m a science and nature enthusiast with a budding passion for photography.

When I was 11 years old, I wrote an epic galaxy-spanning sci-fi novella, and my English teacher made me cut it down to a measly 10 pages. Despite that crushing blow to my youthful enthusiasm, I’ve continued to write creatively and pursue artistic endeavors throughout my life. (I’ve got several hundred pages of certifiable proof that I’m a huge fantasy and sci-fi geek if you need it.) I received a certificate in 3D Animation from the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in 2007. I graduated from the University of Utah in December 2017 with a B.S. in Communication.

It’s my life goal to continue helping the environment and sharing knowledge with others. We have a critical responsibility to make the planet better for future generations. My motto is “meet beautiful people, leave beautiful artifacts.”

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