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David Mastio | Twitter

David Mastio is the deputy edi­torial page editor for USA Today. He started his career as an edi­torial writer and assistant forum editor for USA Today back in 1995. Mastio also worked as a founding edi­torial page editor for The Wash­ington Examiner, deputy edi­torial page editor and senior editor for online opinion at The Wash­ington Times, edi­torial writer for the Vir­ginian-Pilot, and also served as the Detroit News’ Wash­ington cor­re­spondent. 

How did your jour­nalism career begin?

I started with USA Today as a news assistant. I was a member of the edi­torial board, so I got votes on edi­to­rials. And I was editing columns, doing research for graphics, and going to get opposing views.

So you’ve worked for several dif­ferent news outlets since then — the Vir­ginian-Pilot, the Detroit News, the Wash­ington Examiner, Wash­ington Times — do you think that’s normal for a jour­nalism career to move to dif­ferent outlets?

It’s normal for somebody to move up the food chain. It’s not normal to move back and forth between liberal media and con­ser­v­ative media, and it’s not normal to start at a national outlet and then go to some local outlets.

And so what led you to that path? How did you decide to move?

Well, when I was at USA Today the first time, I’d been there about three years and I asked my boss if I could get pro­moted to edi­torial writer and he said I needed to have reporting expe­rience. So I went to the Detroit News and worked in their Wash­ington bureau to get reporting expe­rience and then three years later, he hired me back as an edi­torial writer. And then I went to work for the Vir­ginian-Pilot because my wife got a job in Norfolk as a pros­e­cutor, and so I wanted to follow her and give her a chance to get a job that she was really inter­ested in. 

As the deputy edi­torial page editor for USA Today, what does a typical day in your life look like?

Well, the first thing is reading a fire hose of columns that come in without being solicited and trying to pick out the best of those. And then I read a bunch more columns that are from our regular writers that we’ve asked for, that they’ve pitched to us, and then try to come up with the best selection of columns for the next day’s paper that covers the news and then gives people some inter­esting topics that they might not have thought about. I am also part of the edi­torial board dis­cus­sions for the opinions of USA Today. I try to guide those dis­cus­sions to a more mod­erate path. USA Today leans left as an edi­torial board, but they’ve always been open to other views.

How did your expe­rience as a reporter help your work on edi­torial writing? 

Well, the core of good opinion writing is good reporting. You can’t do one without the other. And in fact, you probably need more reporting to do good opinion writing. You have to go a level deeper into the topic then if you’re just reporting, where you can get away with floating along the surface of an issue. 

What is your advice to young people who want to pursue a career in jour­nalism?

It’s a time of turmoil in jour­nalism. You have to be very pas­sionate and be among the very best to succeed in jour­nalism today. A key thing to keep in mind is that what you learn in college is just the start. You got to keep learning all the way through your career— learn how to be an inno­vator and adapt to new mediums.

As someone whose career has always fol­lowed pol­itics, do you think the rate of political polar­ization that we’re expe­ri­encing today is novel, like between the right and the left? Or has it always been the same throughout your career?

I think it’s much worse today than it ever has been. What’s really changed is that people used to really dis­agree vehe­mently about pol­itics. But now, pol­itics is a core part of people’s identity. I can’t remember the exact polling number, but a poll that really struck me was that Democrats object more to the idea of their children coming home with a spouse of the opposite party as opposed to a dif­ferent race; that it’s a bigger deal to come home with a Democrat if you’re Repub­lican or vice versa, than to come home with a dif­ferent race spouse, and that says some­thing really tragic to me about where our culture is going.

Who do you think is going to be the Demo­c­ratic nominee?

I think it’s going to be Pete Buttigieg. I think he’s going to emerge as the con­sensus can­didate between the mod­erate and the pro­gressive wings of the party. He’s posi­tioned himself really smartly there, and he’s a great con­trast to Trump. Where Trump is bom­bastic, Buttigieg is low-key; where Trump is ram­bling, Buttigieg is artic­ulate; where Trump is a draft-dodger, Buttigieg served his country; where Trump is not very bright, Buttigieg is obvi­ously bril­liant. 

You have lived in eight dif­ferent states, states that vary from Cal­i­fornia to Vir­ginia. What have you gained from that expe­rience of moving so much?

People every­where are the same. Amer­icans are good people. They’re open-minded, open-hearted, and willing to take you in just about any­where