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So you want to write for a national audience

December 3, 2013
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Katy Cardin

Katy Cardin, the just-departed news editor at The Vermont Cynic, has spent the semester writing with the USA Today collegiate correspondent program, which gives undergraduates the opportunity to write for a national publication and get advice from USA Today journalists. While it’s not necessarily easy to get into the program, collegiate correspondents tend to gush a bit about their experience, so it’s worth taking a shot.

We here at the J-Blog—and, I mean, literally, all of us—caught up with Katy and asked her to tell us more about the program.

How did you get the position?

For the first round of the application process, I had to submit my resume, a cover letter and some sample clips. I didn’t tell any of my friends or family except for Devin Karambelas, the Cynic’s managing editor, because I didn’t want to jinx myself. Superstition at its finest. When I got accepted into the second round, I had to write an original piece based on a recent article in USA Today—within 48 hours. I wrote about the ways students can get into trouble for posting inappropriate things on social media sites. Apparently they liked it, because I was accepted into the program after that.

What do you do as a collegiate correspondent?

My job basically is to think of topics that are important to college students across the nation and report on them. I have to come up with my topic a few days before my deadline, and I write one story a week. I actually have less than a week to write the stories, too: It’s more like two to three days.

I have to find specialists in the areas that I’m writing about and interview them, as well as get in touch with students all across the country, which can be difficult to do in such a short amount of time. When I submit my stories, I include hyperlinks in them as well so they can be somewhat interactive. I also do conference calls with the editors and guests at USA Today once in a while, which is a really interesting experience that not a lot of people get.

What’s the experience like?

It has been a really rewarding experience so far. I feel honored to be a part of this program, as the editors told us that they had a pretty large pool of applicants to choose from. It makes me feel like my writing is getting better and better each year and with each experience. It’s also great to be in touch with the other correspondents who are all passionate journalists and be able to help them and ask them for help with my stories if I need it. I can’t wait to continue with the rest of the program.

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