Kiara Santos takes the helm of The Triangle, Drexel’s independent student newspaper
By Sarah Hojsak
July 26, 2022
When Kiara Santos joined The Triangle as a news writer during her first year at Drexel, she was determined to work her way up to a leadership position at the independent student newspaper before she graduated.
"I told myself by my senior year I would be editor-in-chief, someday, some way," Santos said. "Somehow I was going to do it."
Now entering her senior year, the communication major has achieved her goal, but the path toward it didn’t go exactly according to plan. In 2018, The Triangle went into bankruptcy—a result of a drop-off in the ad sales that had generated most of the revenue for the paper, which does not receive funding from the University—and ceased printing.
"I could see how news was changing on campus," Santos said. "People weren’t picking up a newspaper anymore. It was kind of like the last golden year of The Triangle."
At the same time, the paper struggled to recruit new members, and as its staff members graduated, "the knowledge of how to run a newspaper was leaving, too," according to Santos.
And then COVID hit. The remaining Triangle staff met a handful of times over the last two years, but ultimately didn’t come back in full swing until the spring 2022 term. When the former editor-in-chief stepped down shortly thereafter, Santos—a veteran member of the staff who had been there through all the challenges of the last four years—was the best person to take on the role. Although she originally applied to be the arts and entertainment section editor, "I took it with open arms," said Santos. She is The Triangle’s first Afro-Latina editor-in-chief.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, when it came time to choose a college, Santos knew a traditional four-year route wasn’t for her. Like many children of immigrants, Santos was often encouraged to pursue a prestigious career like law or medicine. But, Santos said, "I always knew I wanted to do journalism. I've always told myself, even as a kid, I want to win a Pulitzer Prize one day."
For Santos, journalism is the perfect combination of her lifelong love of writing and her desire to serve her community. It’s "as high-impact writing as you can get," she said. With a clear career goal in mind, Santos knew Drexel's co-op program would give her the chance to do hands-on journalism work while she’s still a student. Though The Triangle hasn’t been active during all of her five years at Drexel, Santos has grown her skills by completing co-ops with Mighty Writers and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Santos knows the experience of becoming The Triangle's editor-in-chief will help her in her future career—it's already earned her an interview in the Philadelphia Inquirer—but until then, she is focused on immersing herself in the day-to-day experience of doing something she's passionate about while working with a talented team of staff members who have become close friends.
Many students have pitched in to help Santos not just bring The Triangle back, but build the best newspaper possible. She's grown the staff from five members to 20 and is still working to recruit more. According to Santos, working on The Triangle provides a hands-on learning experience students can't find in a classroom setting.
"If you're a reporter, you're going out in the street and you're probably going to places you've never been before and you're meeting people who have completely different backgrounds from you," she said. "And that's why I love the newspaper."
While communication majors like Santos might gravitate toward working on the paper, any major can join, and having staff with diverse skillsets such as art and business is just as important as having strong writers. Any student who cares about The Triangle's mission of independent student journalism can find a place to use their skills. "I like to tell people every single time I'm out recruiting, this is the voice of the campus," Santos said. "This is student-run, for the people by the people."
Before she graduates, Santos hopes to ensure The Triangle's stability for future students. In the past, Santos said, The Triangle was a Drexel institution, widely read across campus. "At one point we were a publication that you wanted to pick up every single day and read and see your friend’s name as the byline. And I want to bring that back."
She also hopes she can be a role model for other young Afro-Latinas who don't often see themselves represented in leadership positions. "I never thought I would make it here. Being here is my wildest dream come true." But, she said, "If I can do it, so can you."
The time and dedication Santos has put into achieving her goal has shown—and she's just getting started. "I'm a go-getter. I have a goal in mind and I'm going to go for it as hard as possible. I won't let this newspaper fail."