Lou Varricchio is a writer, editor, dinosaur enthusiast, NASA alumnus, and now, Vermont Watchdog’s new bureau chief. He brings over 20 years of journalism experience to Watchdog, and we’re excited to welcome him to the team.
Get to know Lou and why he loves journalism, paleontology, and astronomy in the interview below:
- Where are you from? Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Pennsylvania and worked for the Quakertown Free Press (daily) and then became editor of the Emmaus Free Press (owned by the QFP back in the day).
Among my various career highlights was working as a NASA senior science writer at the Ames Research Center in California. I wrote stories for “NASA Insights” magazine about the team that did spacecraft and aircraft design testing using supercomputers, notably for the cancelled “Venture Star” X-33 space plane project that was supposed to replace the Space Shuttle.
I have undergrad degrees in communications from Temple University and Grahm College (now Mt. Ida College) and a M.S. in space studies from the University of North Dakota.
- How did you end up in Vermont?
I moved to Vermont in 1989 after I met my wife-to-be in 1988. She was a long-time resident of Vermont.
I worked as managing editor of the Vermont Eagle weekly newspaper from 2000 through 2016.
- What do you do when you aren’t being a journalist and editor?
In addition, having a master’s in science credential, I am able to teach college-level courses as an adjunct science instructor.
I teach both astronomy and dinosaur paleontology courses at the Community College of Vermont (CCV).
My love of dinosaurs emerged as a boy and then blossomed into being an amateur paleontologist. I have assisted my cousin, Dr. David Varricchio of Montana State University, on a Nat’l Science Foundation dinosaur egg-nesting field project in the Montana badlands for several summers. I also enjoy observing the Moon through a telescope and star gazing–at least when the often cloudy skies of Vermont are clear enough to see through!
- Why did you choose a career in journalism?
I always liked writing and journalism, beginning in high school, and later science journalism; I started in community news reporting in Pennsylvania back in the ’70s. But I also worked on the other side, in public relations, at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt. for many years, trying to get the attention of editors and reporters.
- What is your favorite part of working in the news business?
The news business is both exciting and stressful with issues and deadlines being part of the package. It is especially wonderful to be close to the inner workings of our republic when reporting about local and state government. News reporting is an awesome responsibility. It is important that journalists not be part of the story or insert themselves in the reporting. The news business has changed a lot since the 1970s, most notably with the rise of online news sources.
- What does watchdog journalism mean to you? What sets Vermont Watchdog apart?
I came to greatly admire Watchdog.org when the Vermont Eagle began publishing Vermont Watchdog reports in every issue starting in 2014. As the former editor, I watched how readers get more engaged; it is a terrific, investigative statewide feature to bring to a local weekly paper. That’s why I was honored (and humbled) to be asked to become part of Watchdog’s important mission. The Vermont Watchdog team is exceptional; we talk to each other and respect our strengths as well as our special beats. It should never be about egos or agendas, but finding and reporting the stories which support our news mission.