Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Illionis, it’d be easy to think that Shapiro is a city girl at heart. But her love for the mountains runs deep, too. It all started at the age of 2 when she skied for the first time. She fell in love with the sport pretty instantly and her family’s annual ski trips were what she looked forward to most. It was this love for skiing and the mountains that initially landed her in Jackson Hole. A narrative similar to many in the valley.
A more untraditional narrative is what got Shapiro into writing and how her passion for it blossomed. Her first exposure to writing non-fiction was in high school, in Mr. Brasler’s yearbook class. Until that time, she’d never thought she had much of a knack for the written word – beyond an English paper, maybe. But this introduction to journalism changed things, though she didn’t jump into the profession immediately.
A few years after college, where she got a degree in English literature, naturally, she decided to dip her toes into international waters, by traveling to London to pursue a master’s in international law. The plan was to become a human rights attorney. She soon realized, however, that international law was difficult, if not impossible at times, to enforce and she didn’t want to spend her life frustrated by an uphill fight. A reading assignment for a class on women’s human rights sparked an idea: she didn’t have to be a human rights lawyer. She could be a human rights reporter instead. And, “by the fortune of my birth,” she said, “being an American citizen, I knew that I could write about many of the same topics and no one could stop me. And that’s not true in every county. I could still shed light on the same critical issues, but without as many barriers.”
“I thought I could travel the world and write these stories about human rights,” she continued, “and it felt like a much more fruitful way, for me, to pursue my interests.”
From there, it was a journalist’s journey.
After London, Shapiro returned to the states and began working as a freelance newspaper reporter in Jackson. This too, she loved from the start. It was fascinating, ever-changing, challenging and fun. She went on to attend the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City and then worked as an education reporter for a small daily paper in New Jersey for a few years. But the world was calling and so Shapiro then launched her freelance career, traveling throughout the developing world writing about human rights and women’s rights, public health, children’s lives and more. She traveled to India, Liberia, Eastern Congo, Libya, Indonesia and beyond.
After splitting her time between New York and Jackson for many years, Shapiro returned full time to Jackson in 2015, where she settled to raise her daughter in the mountains. She continues now to work as a freelance writer and editor.
Danielle spends most of her time using her expertise to edit and manage other freelance writers as well as to write newspaper and magazine stories, op-eds, speeches, marketing and communications materials and beyond.
When asked what her favorite part about journalism and the writing process is, Danielle, laughed. “Journalism is a wonderful excuse to travel the world and a polite way to be nosey,” she said.
She treasures meeting new people and being open ears to their lives and stories. She prides herself on her listening and interviewing skills and cherishes the ability to tell all kinds of stories, especially those that don’t usually get a lot of attention, whether because of where the subjects live, their age, their socioeconomic status or their demographic.
“Being able to give people a platform to be heard, especially when they are more often overlooked or ignored; to help convey how similar we really all are to one another, no matter where we’re from, is not only important to me, but deeply fulfilling, too” Shapiro said.
Of her current work, Shapiro said it’s difficult to pin down a favorite. What’s always been inspiring about being a writer and journalist is that every assignment is different. Writing speeches and helping people find their own voices, is a newer and exciting pursuit.
But penning op-eds or helping businesses and nonprofits share who they are in compelling ways, and guiding other writers with her editing, continues to entice her. When she gets a chance to return to her reporting roots, that’s a boon, too.
“It’s all storytelling, and that’s what I love the most,” she said.
Learn more about Danielle Shapiro, her travels and her writing at Danielle-Shapiro.com.
This story is a part of our #humansofjhchamber campaign, which focuses on the faces of our local businesses and nonprofits. Learn about their inspirations, why started in their industry and more! Find the Chamber on Instagram at @jhchamber. For information about the program, please contact Communications Manager, Andi Gollwitzer, email@example.com.