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Cynic Editor Interns at USA Today

"We have the power to do so much with what we write and what we put out there," senior Natalie DiBlasio says. It's one of the lessons a summer internship at USA Today has taught her. "Hopefully I can bring back some of that excitement to the Cynic." (Photo: Elliot deBruyn)

Fireworks, fried food from the fair, and the Casey Anthony trial. If this list conjures up memories from the summer of 2011 for anyone, it's UVM senior Natalie DiBlasio. For three months, the Pitman, N.J. native wrote and contributed to articles on these topics and others as a news intern at the national paper, USA Today.

Not only did DiBlasio land a prestigious and hard-to-get internship in the heart of the USA Today 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. All told, DiBlasio has earned 18 bylines for USA Today, six of which were printed on page one.

It wasn't DiBlasio's first time in a newsroom. That came three years ago, 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," DiBlasio says, 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 this year serves as editor-in-chief. How has the experience shaped her time at UVM? "It's changed everything. It is, really, my education at UVM," DiBlasio says. "I'm learning so much through everything you can do at the Cynic -- from the writing experience, from the editing experience, and from our adviser."

It's likely the role of intrepid reporter that has helped DiBlasio land the internships she has, which also includes a position at the local paper the Burlington Free Press during the summer of 2010. Evans recalls a time at a national student media conference when DiBlasio, realizing there were representatives from news organizations present, quickly revised her resume on the spot, printed it along with examples of her writing at the hotel's business center, and went table to table introducing herself and delivering the materials. "A lot of things went into play in getting the USA Today internship," Evans says, "and her drive is the central one."

An internship at a national paper positions DiBlasio well -- even in a time of uncertainty for the industry at large -- of finding a position at that level after she graduates this December. In the meantime, she's extended her work with USA Today by applying and being accepted as one of 14 collegiate correspondents for fall 2011. As part of that role, DiBlasio will submit one story a week for the USA Today College website. Her first, published Sept. 3, reported on the effect of Hurricane Irene on college opening weekends in Vermont.

On top of that weekly deadline is the pressure to see the Cynic through another semester. What will it mean to have an editor-in-chief with DiBlasio's experience at the helm? "I've been working with the paper for five years, and have seen it grow by leaps and bounds," Evans says. "I expect this to be another shift in the way the Cynic operates. Natalie has been a phenomenal guide already, and her vision is going to be so much wider, larger. She's always surprising me with the kind of work she does and what she achieves."