Monica Hortobagyi Siniff

HortobagyiThe Adventures of Monica Hortobagyi Siniff

Monica Hortobagyi Siniff was always an adventurer.

She couldn’t get through her secondary education at a Houston area school without hopping to Europe for a semester abroad.

During her undergraduate education at Loyola University Chicago, Hortobagyi Siniff took another opportunity to run away for a semester at the John Felice Rome Center in Rome. Upon her graduation from Loyola in 2006, Hortobagyi Siniff took off once again, but this time stayed domestic, for the offices of USA Today where she now serves as an online productions manager for the newspaper’s travel section.

Hortobagyi Siniff’s desire to document the world came during her first study abroad experience in high school when she studied in Rennes, France. While there, Hortobagyi Siniff wanted to capture the moments she had and share them with her loved ones back home. She was inspired that the best way to do this was through journalism.

“Stretching your brain in ways it’s never been stretched… When you have to learn a new language and a new culture you start to think in different ways,” said Hortobagyi Siniff, 29, reflecting on what she wanted to bring home from her experiences.

“It’s a matter of having and finding my voice in writing… That comes much more easy to me in travel,” said Hortobagyi Siniff, as she talked about why she has so deeply invested herself in travel writing since her initial explorations.

Hortobagyi Siniff’s drive and skill took her from Loyola to an internship with National Geographic Traveler and then to USA Today, in Fairfax, Virginia, where she has been since 2007.

Although Hortobagyi Siniff has tried to focus her career around travel, one of her most defining journalistic moments took place in April 2007, early on during her time at USA Today. Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people on the campus of Virginia Tech University.

“Learning the balance of the demands at hand, and allowing yourself to be a human first and a journalist second,” is Hortobagyi Siniff’s method while covering the tragic story. She feels that this sort of “balance” is what propels good journalism today.

“In today’s newsroom, things are moving at a breakneck speed, and if you don’t have that ethical understanding wired into you at graduation, it’s really easy to lose your barring,” Hortobagyi Siniff said.

This “ethical journalism” that she displayed while covering Virginia Tech is what Hortobagyi Siniff attributes to her success in her career and is something she remembers being driven into her while at Loyola.

“I remember Dr. Connie Fletcher hammering into us that ‘we are people first and journalists second,’ and that has stayed with me and been so crucial when I cover stories… Compassionate teaching moments that Loyola’s education really embodies has allowed me to really have standout moments in my short years since I’ve graduated,” Hortobagyi Siniff remembers.

As Hortobagyi Siniff looks to the future, she hopes to be able to write and edit a lot more.

“I haven’t really even begun to do the writing and photography and bylined work I would like to do,” Hortobagyi Siniff said.

Although Hortobagyi Siniff has not yet succeeded in all her goals she has reached a position in which she has found her global voice and is doing something she enjoys.

She takes to heart one last piece of advice that she feels has gotten her to where she is today and views as something that should be a staple in all young journalists’ careers: “Never think of something as being beneath you because every single thing you do will serve you later.”

By Aaron Kearney