Why did Eric Athas quit his role as editor of his student newspaper?
It wasn’t because he graduated; no, he had a year to go.
He wanted to do “something else.” What that was, Athas didn’t know, but he knew he wanted to be working “with people already in the profession, rather than preparing for the profession.” So he contacted a local newspaper about freelancing for them. That got him noticed by the paper’s website, who tapped him to write a blog about his school, the University of Massachusetts.
We’ll let Athas take it from here:
The idea was for it to be multimedia-based and cover everything and anything UMass. In the end, the blog honed a lot of my online skills and was an excellent precursor to the professional world. Additionally, because I was covering the very school I was attending, the blog served as a bridge from my academic life to the outside world.
I found that as a student, I had access to a lot of information a regular beat reporter/blogger never would — campus events, internal e-mails, and good old word of mouth.
Athas used the blog as a portfolio when applying for jobs, and he’s now a news producer at Washingtonpost.com. “Future employers were pleased with the fact that I was connecting with the industry while in school,” he writes.
Common advice for would-be journos is to stick to the student newspaper like glue, but Athas’s story proves that sometimes it’s better to leave the ivory tower and get into the industry faster.