But he wasn’t reading just anynewspaper. As an Austin-native, he grew up buried in the pages of The Statesman.
So it was nothing short of a dream come true when he began there in 2012. Since then, his whirlwind career atThe Statesman has exposed him to many different positions—ranging from a print page designer and copy editor to an online content producer.
But his career has been an adventure that he’s truly thankful for; “I’ve only been at the Statesman for a little less than 5 years and I’ve had so many different jobs… I’m fortunate to have really great people working for me that are sharp and talented and a pleasure to work with on a daily basis.”
His appreciation for his colleagues is reciprocated; he is a highly-respected leader. As Debbie Hiott, the Editor at The Austin American-Statesman says, “He is the epitome of the newsroom leader of the future, and at such an age where his impact will be seen for decades to come.”
And he takes on every task with a compassionate, selfless attitude. He says a valuable lesson he’s learned from his career is “you go a lot further if you take care of the people you work with and don’t lose sight of each other’s feelings.”
But sometimes, Eric still cannot believe he’s a leader; “It’s kind of surreal sometimes to be 27 and to be managing people and be managing a team.” But he’s earned it, with his unwavering passion for journalism, warm personality and life-long love for the quirky city of Austin.
As any good writer should, Eric enjoys the topics he’s writing about. In his case, the energetic, colorful culture of Austin has created the opportunity for him to document some crazy moments for The Statesman.
One of his favorites was the day President Obama dropped by a local South Austin taco joint, Torchy’s Tacos. Another was the story of a mysteriously changed street sign in Downtown Austin; an investigation that aimed to uncover the culprit behind a sign that oddly changed from “Bowie Street” to “David Bowie Street” overnight.
As one of NAA’s “Top 30 Under 30” Award Recipients, Eric feels his young age has allowed him to speak the vocabulary of social media without a learning curve. And with a career that requires an active social media presence, Eric is always connected on the web. He sees the differing importance in all the varying platforms of today; as he puts it, “I think Twitter is a really great place for conversations to happen… Instagram is a cool way of sharing memories… Snapchat is really interesting in that it’s obviously a platform that lots of people are using, and the media industry is trying to leverage that.”
Even though he sees the benefit of social media, the ever-changing news media industry presents some uncertainties. He says, “Online content delivery is an integrated part of everyone’s lives now, it’s not a novelty… Who knows what medium is going to persist and survive into the future. The biggest challenge is how to be a major player in the digital news space.” But he also points out a perk of the technological changes; “there’s so much more participation and engagement from readers now.”
This perspective has helped him forge the way for The Statesman going forward. As Debbie Hiott says, “Eric’s creativity and innovation are helping the newsroom and Statesman as a whole transform into a digital-first, audience-focused organization.”
Emma Benninghoff is a student and former communications intern at News Media Alliance.