From Farming to Politics, Heitz Finds Her Calling
When Dianna Heitz, 29, starts her workday at 6 a.m. she never knows what to expect. As Politico‘s assistant managing online editor, Heitz’s daily routine is at the mercy of Washington, D.C. politics.
“I could wake up and nothing seems to be going on that day. Then, all of the sudden, Obama calls a press conference or we find out a major bill is about to passed,” Hetiz said. “It becomes that much more exciting.”
Heitz is responsible for running Politico’s website and managing the web producers. Politico is an Internet startup, founded in 2007 that is dedicated to covering the politics of Capitol Hill, presidential campaigns and the business of Washington lobbying.
Heitz has had several different titles and duties during her time at Politico. In just four years with the organization, she has worked her way up from web producer to assistant managing editor. Initially she thought she just wanted to be a reporter, but eventually found that she liked running the website even more.
“It’s one of the benefits of being at a start-up. You can choose your own adventure,” Heitz said. “Every time I wanted to do something new, my boss and I came up with a way for me to do it.”
Heitz always had an interest in the communications field, but when she began writing for Loyola’s student newspaper, the Loyola Phoenix, she discovered her true passion was journalism.
“It was great to be around a group of individuals who had the same goal of getting the paper out and making it the best paper it could be,” Heitz said. “That’s where I really got the journalism bug.”
One class at Loyola made an unexpected impact on Heitz: public speaking.
“It was a required class at the time, and I was completely dreading it,” she said. “But it turned out to be one of the best classes I’ve ever taken.”
Heitz, who described herself as more reserved and quiet at the time, said the class made her step out of her comfort zone.
“I had to put together thoughtful, coherent ideas on the spot in front of a group of people,” Heitz said. “A lot of what I do now involves those exact same abilities.”
In December 2005, Heitz graduated from Loyola with a degree in communications. A few months later she began working at Reuters as a news assistant for the Chicago bureau. She covered commodities and had the somewhat unusual task of writing a lot about things like soybeans, corn and hogs. Part of her job at Reuters was to call hog farmers in the morning to find out their prices.
“I’d hop on the ‘L’ at 4:45 in the morning, get to work at 6 a.m. and start talking on the phone with farmers for a few hours,” Heitz said. “It was definitely a transition from covering hogs, cattle, corn and soybeans to covering Washington D.C. politics.”
After working at Reuters for about a year, Heitz wanted to expand her journalism skills and capabilities. She enrolled at Northwestern University‘s Medill School of Journalism, where she received her master’s degree in journalism – a move that led to her job at Politico.
Through all her career experiences, Heitz acknowledged that trying new things and being open minded opened many new possibilities. The best advice she has for young people in the communication field is to be open as many opportunities as possible.
“I came to Politico thinking I wanted to only be a reporter,” she said. “If I didn’t try new things, I never would have had the chance to be running the website and I wouldn’t have realized how much I love it.”