New York Times reporter and University of Vermont alum Eric Lipton swung by the Honors College on October 26 to chat with students about preparing for a journalism career, breaking into the newspaper business, and thinking about future opportunities in the journalism field.
Lipton, a philosophy major and 1987 graduate of the University of Vermont, predated the Honors College but he spoke enthusiastically about how the college's rigorous curriculum prepares students who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism. Many of the academic opportunities he took advantage of, including writing an honors thesis, have been incorporated into the Honors College curriculum. This, he says, allows for students to get the most out of their education.
"UVM offered a place in the philosophy department where I was forced to think," Lipton said. "That's why I think it's such a good idea to have an Honors College. The honors thesis I did at the time was one of the hardest things I did in my life. Analytical thinking, storytelling and writing are all things you can learn well here if you apply yourself."
Lipton spoke briefly about how he began reporting for The Vermont Cynic during his freshman year, and used the experience he gained at UVM to land a job at The Hartford Courant, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. He's also written for The Washington Post and currently works at The New York Times, where he now works as an investigative reporter covering Congress and ethics.
Students had a lot of questions for the Washington, D.C. based reporter, wanting to know more about his thoughts on everything from covering politics and the federal government, to his book, City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center, to any advice he had to current UVM students interested in becoming journalists. Lipton encouraged students to gain as much experience as possible by writing for The Cynic as well as finding internships with local media outlets. But above all, he advised students to gain the critical thinking and analytic skills that will help them survive and thrive in the competitive industry.
"Perseverance is so important," Lipton said. "The things that distinguish people are not necessarily how smart they are, but it's their passion and their focus."