From Reno to Vanity Fair: One Reynolds School grad’s journey from local news to major publication
Every workday Reynolds School alumna and Reno native Sarah Shoen goes to her job as an editorial assistant at Vanity Fair on the 41st floor of the new World Trade Center in New York City.
“I’m mostly in charge of making sure the head editors of VanityFair.com are where they need to be. I organize meetings for them. I take notes on things that are happening around the office,” says Shoen. “It’s an exciting job because I get to interact with a lot of different people on the floor.”
Shoen graduated from the Reynolds School in 2016. She is now learning the inner workings of international magazines after a year in local TV news Reynolds School.
“Every day is so mind-blowing here. I’m still in total shock that I even have this job. There’s so much more to learn and I can’t even wait for what’s to come.”
While most of her job is administrative she’s hoping to eventually transition into more editorial tasks – but for right now she’s just really happy to be learning and meeting people. She says she wouldn’t be where she is without the Reynolds School.
“One thing the Reynolds School does the best is prepares you for the real world in a really honest way.”
She says her relationships with the teachers set her up for success when she left the school.
“One things I really liked about the J-school was there was no tolerance for anything but excellent work. Professors always push you to do your best.” says Shoen.
She recalls a time in her news writing class.
“I was not very news minded in my writing,” says Shoen. “My first pitch in his class didn’t go the way I wanted to.”
Professor Bob Felten gave her a strong critique, asking “where’s the story,” about a pitch which was more fluff than news. She explains her first instinct was to push back against his critique with a negative attitude, but in the end she accepted the criticism and stepped out of her comfort zone.
“I really think that class pushed me way further than any class before that had. It gave me a whole new appreciation for news writing.”
While still at the Reynolds School Shoen took an internship at KOLO 8, which turned into a full-time morning news production job after college.
“It was cool to be part of a local news scene in a town that I knew really well,” Shoen says about her time at KOLO 8.
But after seven or eight months she was getting burnt out on morning news and she started looking around at other options. She thought back to her time at the Reynolds School.
“My first class in college, and one of the most formative in my whole college career, was a class I took with Paul Mitchell, where I really learned how to write in a narrative way and how to write a long form piece and the value of long form journalism,” says Shoen.
So she decided to pursue magazine writing and reached out to her contacts at the Reynolds School for help. Alan Deutschman connected her with an editor at Vanity Fair, who offered her an interview.
“A lot of it was really great timing and knowing the right person.”
In March she flew out to New York to interview for a position. A couple weeks after that experience she decided she needed to be in New York if she wanted to be a magazine writer. So she packed her bags and moved her life without a job offer. She ended up landing a different job at Vanity Fair.
“I’ve been here for about a month now. It’s just such a great experience to be in a big city working in media, but I absolutely would not be here without the J-school. Without a doubt.”
She says the relationships she forged within the Reynolds School continued past graduation and professors like Felten, Vanessa Vancour, Mitchell and Alan Deutschman are still people she communicates with regularly. She thinks that’s a unique thing.
“I really believe the sense of community at the [journalism] school is unique and I don’t think there’s any place else like it.”