Home > finals > Katie Atkinson’s journey starts as college DJ, leads to senior editor at Billboard.com

Katie Atkinson’s journey starts as college DJ, leads to senior editor at Billboard.com

By Bridget Anderson

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Katie Atkinson’s job as senior editor for Billboard.com is a dream job come true. She interviews recording artists about their upcoming projects, attends private listening sessions of albums before they are released and gets to go to award ceremonies, such as The Grammy Awards and Billboard Music Awards.

So, how did she acquire a career in the highly competitive entertainment industry? Landing a job that thousands of others want too.

Atkinson gradated from Michigan State University with a journalism degree. While in college, she participated in a variety of activities that helped her land her first job. She worked for the

Source: Billboard

Source: Courtesy of  Billboard

student newspaper, did a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund sports copy editing internship and, after graduating, acquired an internship with The Detroit News. Her summer internship with The Detroit News led to a full-time job as a news copy editor.

After working for The Detroit News, Atkinson decided to move to Los Angeles after receiving a job as a copy editor for MTV News. She did not have any experience in entertainment news, but her time as a DJ for her college radio caught the attention of the editor that hired her.

“Showing an interest in music as a college student is what got me an interview,” said Atkinson in an email interview.

Through her seven years at MTV News, Atkinson worked her way up to deputy managing editor and eventually left to become an editor for Entertainment Weekly. It was here that she met an editor who left to run Billboard magazine’s website, and she was asked to join him as senior editor for Billboard.com.

Other than interviewing celebrities and going to lively events, Atkinson still has other responsibilities. A typical day for her is working 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. searching on the Internet for news stories, assigning writers articles, editing stories, writing headlines and managing Billboard’s social media accounts.

With so many duties, it’s hard to narrow down a favorite part of her job. Although, seeing live performances and experiencing once-in-a-lifetime chances are on the top of the list.

“I love this job because I’ve always loved editing, but now I get to edit stories about a topic I love. There is never a dull moment.”

Now, is there a favorite project she has worked on? Atkinson has a couple. One is a project she completed while at Entertainment Weekly called 12 Days of Christmas Covers. She chose 12 Christmas songs and let readers vote for which cover of each song they liked best.  After all was done, she created a playlist on Spotify so readers could listen to the Christmas covers. Another one of Atkinson’s favorites was a ranking of all judges from “American Idol,” “The X Factor” and “The Voice.”

But this job is not necessarily all fun and games. Atkinson has her challenges.

“My biggest challenge is keeping up with the speed of the Internet without sacrificing quality. I pride myself in moving quickly and balancing a lot of different stories at one time, but I try to really give each item I put on the website my individual attention so we don’t get sloppy. Even though my responsibilities have expanded, I’m still a neurotic copy editor at heart!”

In the interview, Atkinson also noted the major differences between editing for a company in the music industry and editing for a company outside of it.

“If you’re covering a government issue, you call a politician’s office and request time to speak. Most of the time, the politician makes himself or herself available. But celebrities are a little different. Movie studios put on press junkets, where journalists come to the star to speak to them, or reporters go to red carpets at award shows or premieres. Basically, you take access when you can get it, on the celebrity’s time. That means if you’re trying to confirm news or get a comment about something breaking, you’re reaching out to a publicist instead.”

When asked whether she had advice for anyone wanting to work in the music industry, Atkinson had a lot to offer!

“Definitely try to do anything music-related now: Work at your college radio station, go to concerts and write them up for your school newspaper or for a class, or take any classes about music that you can. And then if you want to work for a national publication, the best place to live is New York, followed by L.A., and then Nashville or Miami. You have to go where the music business is. And just make sure to get a good journalism foundation first. Even if you can’t get an entertainment reporting or editing job right out of school, work in journalism and keep applying for that dream job.”

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