Curtis Niedermier graduated from Ohio State with a degree in agricultural communication in 2007. Shortly after graduation, he began working for FLW as an associate editor for their magazines. These days, Niedermier is responsible for the editorial content on flwfishing.com.
[ACEL]: Hi Curtis! You majored in agricultural communication. What influenced you to chose that major?
[Niedermier]: It’s complicated! For starters, I have a lot of interests, and often fleeting interests, and as a result I never really knew what I wanted to study or what I wanted to do after graduation, except I knew I was interested in writing. I always figured I’d find a job and then pursue freelance writing on the side, with hopes that I could write for outdoor magazines and maybe do some traveling to pursue my interests in hunting and fishing. Yet, for the first couple of years of college I never really considered pursuing journalism as a major. So I started with architecture then changed to construction systems management (CSM), which is when I really got involved on the “other side of the river” at CFAES.
When I decided to ditch CSM, I learned about agricultural communication, and I found out I could stay in CFAES, which is where I really wanted to be, but could also take journalism classes that counted toward my major. That sealed it for me. The nicest people I met at Ohio State were all involved in CFAES, and having grown up in a small rural town in northern Ohio, I really felt like I belonged on the CFAES campus. It was a small school within a massive university. I was able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a university like Ohio State with the perks of a smaller college feel.
Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
As I mentioned, I started off as an architecture major, and there are only a few schools in Ohio with accredited architecture programs. Ohio State is one of them. The OSU football team winning the 2002 national championship really sealed it for me. That game took place right when I was deciding where to go, and after that I was hooked on being a Buckeye.
How did your education at Ohio State influence your career path?
Obviously, my path at Ohio State wandered a little bit, but the choices I made really did set me up for my career. All of my advisors and professors in the agricultural communication program were positive people, and they all encouraged us to pursue big goals and dreams. That attitude helped give me the confidence to move away from Ohio after graduation and pursue a career in outdoor journalism. Also, I was able to participate in a couple of key internships while I was in the program that helped me get my entry-level job.
What were you involved in as an Ohio State student?
I joined several student organizations aligned with my various majors, but the most impactful experience I had at Ohio State was being part of Alpha Zeta Partners. I made lifelong friends, had a great advisor in Dr. Garee Earnest and got to travel abroad to Brazil. The AZP program taught a lot of important lessons for me, and it came at just the right time, when I realized I needed to grow up and focus on where I wanted to go in life. I’m very proud to have been a part of it.
I was also a member of Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and was one of three student organizers of Scarlet and Gray Ag Day.
What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State? What was your favorite and why?
Does volleyball count, because I enjoyed that class? Really, I loved any class where I could learn and practice writing and editing, but my favorite was a magazine journalism class that was taught in the evenings by a full-time editor. My basic news writing class was also taught by an editor from The Columbus Dispatch. Their experience as working journalists was very valuable to all the students in the classes, and I still recount things they said or taught me to the writers I work with today.
What professor, faculty or staff member had an impact on your education/career? How?
As I mentioned, Garee Earnest was a great advisor for AZP. I really looked up to Garee and stayed in touch with him for quite a while after graduation – though, unfortunately, not as much recently. He always pushed everyone to be better and to be leaders, which is what AZP is really about. He was a big positive influence in my last two years at Ohio State.
What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
Had I actually made it onto the field when Ohio State beat Michigan in Columbus to go undefeated in 2006, that might have been it, but since the law stopped me before I could get there I’d say spending six weeks in Brazil as part of AZP was the best experience, hands down. The reasons why are too many to list here. It was life-changing. I’m sure most AZP members who made the trip would say the same thing.
What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
I started at FLW about two weeks after graduation in 2007, and I’ve been with the company ever since. I celebrated 10 years in June.
For those who don’t know, FLW is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization. We host bass fishing tournaments all over the country and license our brand to several international fishing circuits. Our events range from national-level pro events with six-figure payouts to local tournaments for the weekend angler to free high school and college events where students can win scholarships. Ohio State has a very competitive college fishing team.
My first job was as associate editor in the magazine department. At that time, we were publishing magazines for bass, walleye and saltwater fishing, each eight times per year. Our media department has transitioned several times in my career, and now we focus solely on bass fishing. I manage the editorial for FLWFishing.com, which includes reporting for most of the tournaments, and for FLW Bass Fishing magazine.
You said you’ve worked for FLW for 10 years. Have you worked anywhere else?
FLW is it. But I’ve also done some freelance writing for a few other publications and websites. The most notable is Outdoor Life. I also co-authored and co-self-published a book called Walleye Trolling with Capt. Ross Robertson, a Lake Erie walleye fishing guide.
During your career, have you received any awards or honors? If so, what are those?
Staying employed for an outdoor magazine for 10 years is an accomplishment, but there’s no reward for that other than a steady paycheck. Most awards for outdoor writing are managed by outdoor writer associations, and I’m not a member of any, nor have we ever submitted our magazine for award consideration. My reward is that the FLW website is one of the most popular fishing websites on the internet, and one of the fastest growing. And the magazine is regarded as one of the best fishing magazines in the country. The work done by the writers, editors, photographers and video producers in my department is seen by hundreds of thousands of people every year. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished.
As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
There are particular stories I’ve written that stand out as my favorites, and there have been some fantastic trips to cover tournaments or to fish around the country. Those have all been highlights. Also, we just conducted our annual championship tournament, which is called the Forrest Wood Cup. It’s a huge event, with an outdoor expo, country concert, BBQ festival and a bunch of activities. This year’s attendance was more than 68,000. It’s the highlight of the year for me every year, and the memories I have from past championships will last forever.
What advice would you give to a current student?
Two things: First, take chances early in your life, because as you get older it becomes more difficult to take risks. When I was preparing to graduate, I never thought I’d leave home, but I took a chance and moved away to another time zone. Taking that chance set up my career and changed my life. It would be much harder to do something like that at this point in my life, now that I have a wife and a little girl. The second thing would be to consider opportunities to work for yourself, even if it’s not full time. I’ve never been fully self-employed, but I’ve done enough freelance writing to know that there’s a great reward for being your own boss and working for yourself. An entrepreneurial spirit is also a valuable thing in any workplace because companies need people who think big and recognize opportunities to grow.
What did ACEL cultivate in you? How?
More than anything I just felt like I belonged there. As I wrote earlier, I needed the small community atmosphere of CFAES and ACEL to really feel like I belonged at Ohio State. It’s such a big university that it’s easy to feel lost. Once I made it to ACEL, I was a lot more comfortable, and my confidence grew. From there, opportunities began to open up, and now I do what I love for a living.