Editor's Note — This is the first in a series of student conversations highlighted during Black History Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and hope to maintain that momentum in future careers.
his week, meet Drake Keeler, a journalism major with a minor in African American studies from Parker, Colorado. In October, Keeler began leading an online project focused on Black Lives Matter and telling Black stories on campus. He also helped launch The Daily Nebraskan Diversity and Inclusion Board to foster more inclusive coverage and a more diverse newsroom.
Why are you passionate about writing about the intersection of race and sports?
I think it’s essential that we understand that the athletes we cover are far more than just athletes, and we should capture all of that in our coverage. Race is a part of sports. Politics can be a part of sports. While the general sentiment of “stick to sports” has been mostly rejected, I feel that it’s very easy to fall into the thought process of seeing sports as completely disconnected from the rest of society and societal issues. However, race and sports, gender and sports, politics and sports, even COVID and sports — all of these things have been intertwined for a very long time, with the exception of COVID. They’re inseparable, and trying to completely separate them in our coverage would be a mistake.
What prompted you to start the Diversity and Inclusion Board at the Daily Nebraskan? What do you hope it will accomplish?
At the DN, we’ve been working on a Black Lives Matter project, which I was blessed to be put in charge of. So while a lot of it is just doing some bigger stories, we also wanted to make a long-lasting impact, something that lasts long past my years at the DN. Through this D+I Board, we’re doing that. For me, as a Black man growing up and even being here at UNL and the DN, I don’t see a whole lot of people who look like me. When we did our newsroom diversity survey in the fall, I was the only Black person at the DN. That can be an isolating feeling, so this board looks to diversify our recruitment, coverage, and make sure people from diverse backgrounds feel supported in our newsroom.
From your perspective, how can newsrooms and readers benefit from that?
Just in general, a focus on diversity is incredibly beneficial. In terms of this board and journalism specifically, it’s expanding the range of voices in our coverage, helping make sure that everyone’s stories can be heard. So often, newsroom demographics fail to represent the communities they cover, and that can lead to failures in covering marginalized communities, if they’re covering them at all.
What do you hope to accomplish with your life?
Sheesh, that’s a big question. To an extent, I’m still figuring that out, but I just want to be part of helping make long-lasting change for the better, honestly. That’s a broad statement, but I want to help open doors for Black journalists and people from diverse backgrounds in general. If I can look back at my life and feel like I helped improve the lives of those around me and those who come after me, I’d feel so blessed and happy.
What or who inspires you?
First and foremost, God inspires me to show love to everyone. Outside of that, I’d say my entire support system, honestly. My family, my girlfriend, my friends — I’ve been truly blessed to be surrounded by incredible people at every step of my life. I can’t imagine where I’d be without those around me being there to lift me up or motivate me when I’m struggling, even if they don’t realize they’re doing it.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact?
I wish I could put this in a way that doesn’t sound incredibly cheesy, but just be willing to chase after your vision, regardless of whatever doubts and fears you may have. I’m someone who is naturally pretty shy. I’ve always been one to stay in my comfort zone, and I’ve had my struggles with school and a bit of impostor syndrome. There’s no way I would’ve thought I’d be doing the work I’m doing now just a few years ago, but I built up the confidence to just go after it, and it seems to be paying off.
Anything else to add?
I’d just say again (that) I’m really blessed to be in the position I’m in, and I’m so thankful for everyone who has helped me along the way. I probably have to be better at giving myself credit, but I’d be lying if I said that this was anything close to a solo effort. I’m really looking forward to trying to keep making long-lasting change and telling stories that matter.