Zachary PetitClass year and major: 2006; B.S. Journalism and Political Science double major

Current position and responsibilities: After spending time as a daily and weekly newspaper reporter, I got a job as the managing editor of Writer’s Digest, a national glossy magazine focused on the craft of writing. At WD, I interview and profile authors, edit and assemble the magazine front-to-back alongside the editor-in-chief, teach at writing conferences around the country, serve as executive editor of the annual Writer’s Yearbookmagazine, and everything and anything in between. We have a tiny staff, so we all do pretty much everything except refill the candy machines and bleach the toilets (which has been a great learning experience).

Aside from my day job, I’m also a freelance writer (National Geographic Kids and other publications), and am working on some longer writing projects.

Major project/achievement of the past year: I’m serving as interim editor-in-chief of Writer’s Digest, which is my journalism/writing nerd dream. And, I still haven’t been asked to refill the candy machines or bleach the toilets.

Recently, my former Butler journalism professor Marc D. Allan also pitched us a story about Pulitzer-Prize winner Gene Weingarten, and we bought it for the magazine. It made for a great piece. Marc taught me a lot about editorial writing, and I somehow conned him into being my mentor in the years since I graduated. He coached me through my reporting jobs, kept me motivated (and sane!) in a time of tumultuous industry change, and helped me make a lot of crucial career decisions.

Why did you choose a career in writing? I was never good at math. And I could never do mind-boggling things like balance a chemistry equation.

Writing is the only work I’ve ever truly loved, so I went to Butler in the hopes of figuring out a feasible way to make a career out of it.

How did Butler prepare you for your career? The professors at Butler took someone who had no idea how to write for newspapers and magazines, and basically shaped me into someone capable of doing just that. (I really only had experience with bad poetry and bad music reviews, but knew I wanted to try to write for a living.)

Nabbing an internship at National Geographic Magazine (via the Washington Learning Program) was amazing.

And, professors with years of practical journalism experience taught me some vital lessons. For instance, (former adjunct instructor) Mike Redmond gave me this advice, perhaps the most useful thing I’ve ever learned about journalism. Brand of the beer, name of the dog.It’s all in the details. They make the writing come alive.

Most memorable experience at Butler: Just being surrounded by people with the same passions. It’s truly an amazing thing, especially when you’ve never experienced it before — and it’s a great foundation if you want to do this strange thing that journalists and writers do.

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