10 Questions With Onward State Managing Editor Matt DiSanto
Now that the Class of 2020, including former Onward State managing editor Anthony Colucci, has moved on to greener pastures, there’s a new sheriff in town.
In a recent all-staff Zoom meeting, former Onward State social media manager Matt DiSanto was appointed as the blog’s 16th managing editor. Before he gets too preoccupied running the world’s most-followed student media outlet, DiSanto sat down with us to discuss his upbringing, his newfound love of Penn State, and how he spends his free time.
OS: Tell the folks at home a little about yourself.
Matt DiSanto: I’m now a junior majoring in digital and print journalism with a minor in digital media trends and analytics. I’m from Collegeville, Pennsylvania, which is about 40 minutes west of Philadelphia (or, as the kids say, “just outside of Philly”).
I joined Onward State a few weeks into my freshman year and haven’t really looked back since. When I’m not doing blog-related work, you can find me playing video games with friends, drumming, eating at Snap Pizza, or watching some of my favorite shows, like Seinfeld, Community, and Arrested Development.
OS: Why did you pick Penn State?
MD: I was notorious among my friends and family for not feeling strongly about any colleges for a long while throughout high school. I toured a lot of smaller schools like Villanova, Dickinson, and Bucknell, as well as Maryland and Temple, but never felt a click…until I toured Penn State. I still can’t really put my finger on why I loved my first visit, but it’s probably got something to do with how passionate Nittany Lions are. Students and alumni love Penn State and bring that energy with them wherever they go.
I didn’t grow up a Penn State fan at all. My two uncles studied there in the 80s (and witnessed a few national titles) but didn’t become rah-rah Penn State fans. I was never a part of a Penn State family like most of my friends and classmates, but I knew I wanted to become a part of something bigger than myself. Eventually, it clicked. Why not join the most passionate fan base on Earth?
OS: How did you find out about Onward State?
MD: I wish I had a miraculous, dramatic story about how I stumbled onto this fateful website, but I don’t. I probably saw a post of ours on Twitter one day after I’d gotten accepted and followed to get that #content in my feed. Once I moved in to start my college career, I saw Onward State was accepting applications and knew I needed to send one in. After a few days and a really sweaty interview (a story for another day), I joined staff and the rest was history.
OS: Do you have a favorite Onward State article?
MD: Oof, that’s tough to narrow down. I’m going to cheat and give you three. The first is Ali Richards’ detailed experience of “showering” in the Bryce Jordan Center during THON. I repost that post every year during THON and it literally never fails to make me laugh. Speaking of THON, Alex Bauer’s live blog of attempting to drink 46 cups of coffee during the dance marathon’s 46 hours a few years back is god-tier content that deserves a spot in the (currently) non-existent Onward State Hall of Fame.
Last is Onward State’s investigation into whether or not on-campus toilets sound like the Nittany Lion’s roar (also written by Ali!). It’s completely silly, whacky, and borderline gross, but it features the fun-loving spirit of Onward State that I love so dearly. That article literally made me choose Onward State, but I’ll get into that later…
OS: What are some of your goals for the blog this year?
MD: It’s been pretty tough setting goals for the website without knowing whether or not I’ll get to see the staff in person at all this year. I think Onward State is at its best when we’re avoiding the low-hanging fruit and talking about the ~weirder~ stuff, like interviewing students named Bryce Jordan, creating parts of Penn State in Animal Crossing, or documenting one of our staffer’s journey through standing for 46 hours (and eating 15 hot dogs) at THON.
I believe Onward State is at its best when our posts encompass the entire Penn State experience. I want to make sure we’re always working to tell the Penn State story and generate honest conversation among the Penn State community.
OS: Why did you apply for managing editor?
MD: Even when I denied it for months, I knew managing editor was always in the cards. In my tight-knit group of friends, I knew no one else wanted to step up for the job, and Onward State didn’t have many folks in the class above me. Once Anthony graduated, I knew I was realistically the only option.
Obligation aside, I think leadership always suited me in some ways. I love everything Onward State does and want to work tirelessly to keep the blog going and hopefully inspire that same passion in others. I’ve got enormous shoes to fill, but I know I have the team to take Onward State to bigger and better places over the next two years.
OS: What have you learned from former managing editor Anthony Colucci?
MD: Words can hardly describe how much Anthony’s taught me over the past two years. In my second semester, I succeeded him as Onward State’s social media manager while he became our news editor to help him prepare to be managing editor. He quickly took me under my wing and taught me countless lessons, gave me an immense amount of constructive criticism, and helped me learn to trust myself, be confident, and carry myself well.
I initially had a tough time transitioning to social media manager, a job that I’d eventually keep for three(ish) straight semesters. In the guide he’d written for me, Anthony wrote two sentences that stuck with me: “You’re in this job because we think you’re the best person for it.” and “Don’t be sorry, be better.” Those words of wisdom gave me confidence when I needed it most and helped me get to where I am today. I think about ’em a lot.
OS: When you aren’t busy blogging, what do you enjoy doing?
MD: When I’m not mentally occupied, I’m drumming. Back in high school (and really since the fourth grade), I always had music on the brain. I was one of the only students who participated in all six music ensembles at my high school (marching band, jazz band, concert band, indoor percussion ensemble, wind ensemble, and string symphony) and quickly found a love for music by spending every waking moment taking part in it.
Now that I’m home and have the luxury of a drum kit in my basement, I log at least an hour of drumming every day. Once my high-fidelity music earplugs are in and my noise-canceling headphones are on, I love playing along to Dave Matthews Band, the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, among others.
When I’m not drumming, I love gardening, watching baseball with my brother, Andrew, and playing video games. My favorites include the Fallout and Halo games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and BioShock.
OS: What’s your favorite part about Onward State?
MD: It’s fun as hell. There’s something about Onward State and its legacy that welcomes exploration, silliness, and never taking yourself too seriously — all while providing great coverage and content to our readers.
When I was a wide-eyed freshman, I had a hard time choosing between Onward State and Penn State’s other reputable student-media outlet. I remember mulling the decision over and over again for a few days after interviewing with both places.
However, on the morning of August 31, when I read Ali Richards’ piece about how campus toilets sound like the Nittany Lion’s roar, I knew Onward State was the place for me. After all, I was in college. I wanted to have fun, meet great people, and pick up valuable skills along the way. I can safely say I’ve done just that so far.
OS: As per Onward State tradition, if you could be a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
MD: I’d probably like to be the giant animatronic T-Rex inside Batman’s Batcave. Back in 1946, Batman and Robin were invited by a wealthy industrialist to “Dinosaur Island” to compete in a 36-hour survival competition without the aid of their utility belts in Batman #35 (old comics are whack). The Dynamic Duo survived the perils and brought back a mechanical T-Rex from the island to display in the Batcave alongside other iconic items, such as the Giant Joker Card and an oversized penny, the latter obtained following Batman’s encounter with the Penny Plunderer.
History aside, it’d be pretty neat to get a front-row seat to Batman and Robin’s superhero shenanigans in the Batcave. If you can’t already tell, Batman is my favorite caped crusader.
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