News Outlets Court Virginia Tech Editor as Paper’s Prominence Grows

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By: Joe Strupp

Editor Amie Steele of the Collegiate Times student newspaper at Virginia Tech had planned to intern at a sports marketing agency this summer. But after the tragic shootings on April 16 drew national attention on the campus daily for its scoops and continued coverage, Steele is being courted by at least two news outlets for summer posts, among them ABC News.

“I had planned for a business or marketing internship,” she said late Wednesday as the paper closed down for the pre-summer break. “But I think I am going to go into journalism for the summer and see how it goes.”

ABCNews.com and the Free Lance-Star in Steele’s hometown of Fredericksburg, Va. have offered her internships, she said, noting that the interest has prompted her to re-think her summer plans, and possibly her career.

“They both contacted me, they knew what I was doing and the Free Lance-Star had done a story on me,” she said. “ABC just contacted me after doing stuff on the shootings and asked if I was interested.” She said ABC offered her spots in Washington, D.C. or New York.

A 21-year-old consumer studies major, Steele was not even editor of the paper until a few weeks before the shootings. She will head the newsroom again next year.

The paper received immediate notice the day of the shootings when it was the first Web site to post a story on shots fired at the campus, followed by Web updates that rivaled major news outlets and the first list the following day of any of the dead, to which several papers, including the New York Times, linked.

After numerous media outlets, from MSNBC to the BBC, began contacting the editor and her staff, the paper’s online traffic surged, as did outside interest. Steele said, during the past two weeks she had “gotten some off the wall messages” but added, “it has all been positive.” She said many alumni have contacted the paper to offer praise, while she was also a guest of the White House Correspondents Association dinner two weeks ago, where she led a cheer of “Let’s Go Hokies” among the A list crowd that gave her a standing ovation.

“The university has been more willing to share information with us, they used to be more closed-mouthed,” she said of the other effects. “I think they see us as more of a legitimate news source.”

More students have been wanting to join the paper, which is an independent news outlet, but is also based on campus and is the only daily paper for the university. “Most of them have wanted to be on the sports staff,” she said. “There has been a spike of people applying.”

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