By Mike Gruss

In journalism, reporters are taught to never give up: Make one more phone call. Send one more email. Tap out one more text to find the missing piece to a story.

For Stef Kight '16, that lesson jump-started her career.

A few years before she graduated, a family friend had introduced her to Jim VandeHei, the co-founder of Politico, a news site for D.C. insiders. In the spring of 2016, he was embarking on a new project, and Kight sent him an email."I don't know what your next venture is going to be," she recalled writing, "but I'd love to be a part of whatever that is."

VandeHei loved her enthusiasm. Within a year, Kight was working at Axios, an upstart outlet that brands itself as the concise but elegant newsletter for D.C.'s movers and shakers. Today, she covers one of Washington's most active beats: immigration.

That means traveling to the Mexico border, waiting out legislators at the Capitol or interviewing asylum seekers from Guatemala.

And it means doing it fast.

"There's so much news," Kight, 25, said. "We try to only write about things that have the biggest consequence. And we write about them in a brief way." She writes up to 10 stories a week, some as short as 150 words.

"Even though our stories are shorter, we're still following all the journalistic ethical practices," Kight said. "We're still putting in all the work you put in for a whole piece. We're still talking with as many sources or making as many phone calls."

Kight, who grew up in Virginia Beach, always loved to write. As a freshman, she enrolled in a broadcast journalism class. The assignment was simple: Go find a story.

Kight never stopped.

"She has a lot of determination. That's her personality - to not let go, to do the extra step," said Joyce Hoffmann, an associate professor of English who taught Kight.

Kight feels the same way about Hoffmann: "I always think of her as just pushing, pushing, pushing. Find that extra piece of information."

Kight also credits a talented corps of classmates and colleagues at the Mace & Crown, where "you wanted to do it for real, and you're encouraging each other, but also editing each other and being willing to take criticism."

Now, Kight said, she's part of an organization "trying to find a solution to the way technology is changing our fast-paced news cycle in a way that's also trustworthy. It makes me excited being a reporter and helping people better understand what they want to know about immigration."

Mike Gruss is a writer and editor in Northern Virginia.


Danielle Decker Jones, the wife of ODU men's basketball coach Jeff Jones, also works at Axios as a content and development strategist, which means cheering for the Monarchs in the office is a must.

This article appears in the winter 2020 issue of Monarch magazine. To read the issue, go to

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