By Sydney Hauer
As a kindergartener, Digital Media Leadership major Gabby Leitner had an idea of what she wanted to do when she grew up.
“When they did the class of 2020 “I wanna be ‘blank’ when I grow up” in the newspaper, my “I want to be ‘blank’ when I grow up,” was a photographer,” said Leitner. “That’s what I said in kindergarten, and it’s kind of true.”
Originally from Dubuque, Iowa, Leitner was involved with the yearbook committee in high school, was on an audio/visual team that worked on football games and participated in golf and swimming. Her love for the media, sports, photography and design have led her to her current position as the art director of the Northern Iowan student newspaper, which she has held since the fall of 2017.
“I knew that I wanted to apply to work at the newspaper during my first visit here,” Leitner said. “We went to the bookstore, and when we were checking out, we saw they had an issue sitting out there. I took it and looked at it and I thought it was really cool.”
Upon her arrival to UNI, Leitner started work in the Piazza Dining Center, which lasted only three weeks, she said. Right after she quit, she applied for a position at the Northern Iowan as a photographer.
According to Leitner, she was looking to expand on the experience she had already gained at the yearbook and wanted to continue with things of that nature.
“I knew that was something I wanted to get involved with because I love taking photos and kind of that school event photo opportunity aspect.”
When the current art director was about to graduate, Leitner was encouraged to apply for the art director position because of her performance as a photographer and dedication to the paper.
“I think the thing that I am the proudest of is the work that I have done at the Northern Iowan,” Leitner said. “I think it’s the thing I’ve put the most effort towards, and it’s something that I am really passionate about all around. I think it’s really important and I know looking back that that will be one of my favorite memories from college.”
Leitner decided on attending UNI because of its specialized digital media department. She also visited ISU, who according to Leitner, wrote off what she wanted to do.
“I didn’t really know what the difference was between the two of them besides location, and I went and I did a visit at Iowa State, and not to trash them or anything, but they totally undermined what I wanted to do,” Leitner said. “They said like, ‘oh, we don’t really have that.’
“They said, ‘Oh well, we have journalism, but digital media is not necessarily journalism,’ and they just kind of acted like it was the same thing,” she said.
In addition to her work at the Northern Iowan, Leitner said she volunteers her time with ESPN3, a sports broadcasting program.
“We had Eric Braley come and talk to one of my classes and he used that as a recruiting tool and I thought it was interesting,” Leitner said. “At this point, I was more interested in the production aspect of it and got involved and I’ve been doing it ever since January of 2017.”
Her favorite memory about her time in the Department of Communication Studies was the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Radio Show trip to Orlando in the Spring of 2018.
“It gave me a glimpse into what the radio industry looks like. It was cool to interact with media professionals and learn. It was fun to see Orlando and talk to different people from all over.”
When she’s not out covering events for the newspaper or running cameras at sporting events, Leitner can be found at home watching a lot of Netflix and YouTube videos or taking photos for fun.
According to Leitner, after her graduation in the Spring of 2020, she hopes to work in social media marketing.
“That’s what I did for my internship [at Fareway],” Leitner said. “It was really interesting and cool to see how professionals use social media as a tool to advertise and kind of get the word out about whatever they are trying to promote. It’s kind of the future of where advertising is going, and I think it’s a good skill to learn and it’s very interesting and I’d love to do something in that.”