University of Vermont

From the ‘Cynic’ to ‘USA Today’

"I learned so much through everything you can do at the 'Cynic' -- from the writing experience, from the editing experience and from our adviser," says alumna Natalie DiBlasio. (Photo: Sally McCay)

Natalie DiBlasio’s hopes were high that after graduating from UVM she’d land a reporting job at USA Today, but she knew that to do so fresh out of undergrad would be a tall order. DiBlasio, a Pitman N.J. native, was right to hope.

Why USA Today?

In the summer of 2011, she interned for the paper. Not only did DiBlasio land the prestigious and hard-to-get internship in the heart of the national paper’s newsroom, she broke records while there. Just four days after arriving, DiBlasio scored a front-page story on the dampening effect of drought and budget cuts on firework displays around the country -- the fastest, in the memory of her editor Dennis Lyons, any intern had achieved A1 placement. The next week, she landed another front-page spot with her article on a national trend toward implementing flashing, left-turn signals to improve traffic safety -- a trend she discovered through her own reporting. By the end of the summer, DiBlasio earned 18 bylines for USA Today, six of which were printed on page one.

The internship wasn't DiBlasio's first time in a newsroom. That came three years earlier, when, by chance, she enrolled in student media adviser Chris Evans' course, "News Writing Across Media." "I had no idea I wanted to go into journalism when I came to UVM," says DiBlasio, who took the class to fulfill a requirement for her public communications major. To earn extra credit, she submitted one of her stories to UVM's student newspaper, the Vermont Cynic.

"What happens at the Cynic is if you're really good, you advance through the ranks quickly," Evans says. And that is the story of DiBlasio's tenure at the paper, where she started as a reporter, became news editor and served as editor-in-chief her senior year.

How did the experience shape her time at UVM? "It changed everything. It was, really, my education at UVM," DiBlasio says. "I learned so much through everything you can do at the Cynic -- from the writing experience, from the editing experience and from our adviser."

With DiBlasio back at the helm in the fall of 2011, the Cynic, bolstered by its leadership's experience at a national paper, was awarded a Newspaper Pacemaker, college journalism's top prize and a first for the Cynic.

It was a busy fall for DiBlasio. Along with her responsibilities at the paper and finishing the coursework for her public communications major her final semester, she was selected to continue her relationship with USA Today via its collegiate correspondent program, for which she submitted one story a week to the USA Today College website. On top of that, she freelanced for the paper on stories about Occupy Wall Street, school bullying, volunteerism and more.

And, like many college seniors, DiBlasio was entrenched in a job search, as well.

The searched ended happily in January 2012, when she was offered a position back in the USA Today newsroom in D.C., working a general assignment reporting job. And two weeks after starting in March, she was on page A1 again, this time with a story about schools' leftover snow days from the year's mild winter.

"This is the job I've been wanting for so long," DiBlasio says. "I'm so excited."