Tony Dobies still remembers the first story he ever wrote at The Daily Athenaeum.
“It was the first semester of my sophomore year. It was a terrible column about the ESPN BottomLine that I regret to this day,” he said. “It was like, ‘You know it’s football season because the BottomLine is filled with things about college football,’ or something awful like that.”
During the next five years that he would go on to write for The DA, he improved quite a bit from that first column and the first interview he conducted with former WVU running back Ed Collington (he admitted to sitting in his car for two hours writing down questions “because I didn’t know what I was doing”).
He went on to win multiple West Virginia Press Association and Society of Professional Journalists awards, and got the opportunity to cover West Virginia’s Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma and the Mountaineers’ Big East championship and Final Four runs in the 2009-10 basketball season.
That growth he experienced in that time with a student newspaper showed him just how important it is to take advantage of the fact that you can work in a newspaper while you’re in school because it gives you the chance to learn first-hand what it takes to be successful in the industry that you want to work in when you’re done.
In sports, you’re working every day with other reporters who have been doing this for a lot longer than you have, and you get a unique chance to absorb information early on until you get to the point where you’re comfortable in what you’re doing and can continue to do a good job.
“This is really broad, but I learned how to report and interview people because that was really the hardest thing starting out,” he said. “After you get used to it, you realize that it’s not just running down a list of questions. You actually have to talk and carry on a conversation with these people.
“(At the beginning), I was just able to kind of chill and look at the people who have done it for a long time and just say, ‘OK, well I’ll try to mimic them the next time,’ and then I used those things I picked up in my other beats.”
After spending half a decade at The DA, Dobies finally moved on into the real world this year. But he’s not spending all of his time as a sports writer anymore.
He currently works with West Virginia University as a Communications Specialist, and his day primarily consist of writing press releases about things that are going on around WVU.
“Even if I would’ve gotten a job covering WVU football or basketball, it still wasn’t going to be like it was at The DA where I could control everything,” Dobies said. “(At The DA) I could pick what I wanted to write, give the crappy stories to everybody else (WRITER’S NOTE: like me) and could cover what I wanted to, go on these trips and hang out with the people that I like.”
He is still getting to write sports on the side, which is what he described as his “perfect situation” when he began looking for a job after he graduated. On top of his Communications job with WVU, he also works as a writer with BlueGoldNews.com, where he gets to cover the Mountaineer football and men’s basketball teams.
Although the two jobs are a little different — he has to be a bit more positive on the PR side than he usually is when he covering sports — he’s still able to use the experience that he picked up with sports writing to help him.
“I was lucky that the position that I got opened up when it did,” Dobies said. “In terms of writing, it’s not that different. I do more features. We’re “telling the University’s stories” more than anything.”