Natalie DiBlasio – Breaking News Reporter, USA Today
By Kevin Miller
College is a setting where generation after generation find themselves striving for career paths and searching for meaning and a position that best suits their life goals. Some students go into higher education with a stringent course plotted in detail, while others follow the flow of their environment, adapting to each situation as it presents itself. Then again, a number of students can fall into both categories, entering with a sound strategy which changes with a chance turn of events.
USA Today’s new breaking news reporter, Natalie DiBlasio, is one of those students who found her way into journalism in one of those chance ways. For the past three and a half years, DiBlasio attended the University of Vermont, a school that lacked a formal journalism program. She graduated in December 2011 with a degree in Public Communications and also served as the editor of the University’s student-run paper, the Vermont Cynic. The paper won the Associated Collegiate Press’ Pacemaker Award—the highest national award granted to a college newspaper—in November 2011.
One would think that with such a strong showing as an editor at the student newspaper and a new career blossoming at USA Today, DiBlasio had always had a passion for journalism and planned her career path meticulously, but as she said so candidly, “I accidentally got into journalism.”
DiBlasio was attracted to Public Communications as a major after she felt that the major’s synopsis really appealed to her, but was required to take a journalism class when her first class choice was full.
“The only other class that filled that requirement was a journalism class called ‘News Writing Across Media,’ so I enrolled in it planning to drop it as soon as a space open in my preferred class. Then the professor said if you get something published through the paper, the Vermont Cynic, you can get an extra credit point on your grade.”
As academically minded as she was, DiBlasio submitted a piece for the extra credit and continued to write for the paper until she graduated this past winter. “I moved up the ranks and just loved it from that first piece. I’m really glad that the other class was full,” she said.
DiBlasio made a seamless transition into professional journalism, but it came with challenges and a lot of dedication. “It is wonderful now and it was really hard and very hectic then [in college],” she said.
On summer break between her sophomore and junior year, DiBlasio worked for The Burlington Free Press. The following summer break, she served as an intern for USA Today and transitioned into a collegiate correspondent for the paper her senior year. She juggled being a freelance writer for USA Today, working as editor at the Vermont Cynic, maintaining her daily coursework, in addition to searching for a full-time position post-college.
“It was really really worth it, they were able to give me editing guidance [and] I still was learning a lot although I was doing my writing from outside of the newsroom. I was still getting the feedback and critique I was getting in the newsroom. It was really smooth, but it wasn’t easy. A lot of sleepless nights, but it got me here.”
With a staff role on the breaking news team at USA Today, DiBlasio has not lost that academic mindset, working to build on her education and soak up whatever knowledge possible in order to strengthen her skills as a journalist.
“I feel like I just have so much to learn. I just started working a month ago, so of course I’m not bored or anything like that—everyday it changes. I feel like, right now, [my goal] is to break the news today and see what’s tomorrow. I’m pretty sure that when I’m a little more grounded I’ll have an idea of where I’d like to be next.”
Breaking news offers a mix of national and trend stories that are happening in real-time and give her a plethora of material to cover. As a general assignment reporter on the desk, she doesn’t have a direct beat and explores a wide range of topics, which appeals to her desire for a variety of constant flow of news to cover.
“My favorite thing is that it’s always changing. I can be a part of so much, the pace is always changing and my individual role is different. I like [both] the consistency and the wildness of it that I never know what to expect,” she said.
However, covering news in real-time is more demanding than her previous roles with the paper, and has tested her abilities while also bolstering her talents.
“It’s new to have the deadlines be so quick and so intense, because the breaking news desk of USA Today is just so widely-read, and online it’s just so widely-read, that it’s a new kind of deadline and new kind of pressure that I really really like. It’s a pace and energy that’s really exciting and definitely challenging,” she explained.
For now, DiBlasio is just excited to be in a strong position to report on the important news of the day to such a large audience at a highly recognized and established newspaper, but she sets her sights for the future high.
“I loved my experience as a news editor at the [Vermont] Cynic the most…having my finger on the pulse of the news was the most exciting and I think that’s my favorite position I’ve ever had. I’d love to move up to an editor position one day.”
When pitching breaking news to DiBlasio, make sure the material has national appeal. “As far as the content goes, we try to make sure that everything has a nation-wide appeal,” she said. “If it’s a really remarkable story that will impact the nation, then we’ll pick it up.”
Contact her with advancements and innovations in business or trends across professional fields as they relate on a national level. She does not cover entertainment beats, book reviews or specific regional coverage.
“Even with things happening in Washington, D.C., unless they’re politics-related. We don’t pick up stories that are exclusive to our area unless they have a bigger impact.”
DiBlasio can be found on Twitter at @ndiblasio.