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A Glance At a Pilot Journalist: An Interview with Katie Anastas ‘14

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At the heart of OLP is a spirit of sisterhood, and one of the most important ways to be a part that sisterhood is by honoring and learning from former Pilots. Katie Anastas, who graduated in 2014, is pursuing her career as a freelance journalist and radio show host at the University of Washington, and explains how both her education at OLP and her involvement in Pilot Press impacted the way she tells stories from a unique perspective.

 

Can you give us a small background on who you are?

“I grew up in San Diego and am currently living in Seattle, Washington. When I was at OLP, I was a Pilot Press editor, president of Peace Commission, a Spring Sing costume designer, and on the golf team. In Seattle, I work as a freelance journalist and do research in the Department of History. I also host a weekly radio show where I interview student artists and musicians.”

Where did you go to college and what did you major in?

“I go to the University of Washington. I’m working toward a major in journalism and a minor in Spanish.”

What OLP activities did you participate in that inspired you to become a journalist?

“When I was a student at OLP, three of my favorite activities were Peace Commission, Spring Sing, and Pilot Press. In Peace Commission, I brought in guest speakers, organized events, and reached out to organizations that could help us contribute to causes that OLP cared about. A big part of Peace Commission was raising awareness of local and global social justice issues, and I realized that journalism would allow me to do that on a larger scale. Spring Sing give me more writing experience and taught me to produce content that audiences would enjoy. Pilot Press gave me my first taste of writing articles, editing other writers’ work, and producing a newspaper.

“I hadn’t declared a major when I first came to the UW, but I knew I wanted my career to involve writing. I joined The Daily, UW’s student newspaper, during winter quarter of my freshman year. I quickly fell in love with journalism and the way it connected me to my new home. I learned how a daily newsroom operated, how to meet deadlines, and how to interview sources. I also started to figure out the types of stories I wanted to tell, and I went on to cover protests, workers’ rights, and cultural events on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood.”

Who would you consider your role model?

“Part of my work in the UW Department of History has involved researching the underground press of the 1960s and 70s. This involves reading either scanned or hard copies of these newspapers, which were written by people in almost every group imaginable, from antiwar soldiers to civil rights groups to feminist organizations. The papers also range in production quality – some are a few handwritten pages, while others are typed and have elaborate photo collages. The editors often write about how they were harassed for publishing their paper, either by police, military authority, or university administration. Any time I read about what those writers went through to express opposition to war, racism, and sexism, I’m inspired to become a better reporter.”

How did your all-girls education impact your college experience?

“My all-girls education taught me to be confident in my abilities, to challenge myself, and to lean on the support of the people around me. An all-girls school is one of the most supportive environments you can find, and I always felt like I could be myself at OLP. Activities like Spring Sing and Pilot Press taught me to work well with my classmates, to take risks and try new things, and find my own voice. Though I’ve enjoyed going to a larger, co-ed university, I think attending a smaller, all-girls high school helped me build a confidence in myself that I might not have found at a co-ed high school.”

What is your favorite part about being a journalist?

“My favorite part about being a journalist is that I’m constantly learning something new. When I first started college and was choosing a major, I worried that I might get stuck doing something I wasn’t really passionate about. With journalism, I’m meeting new people, solving new problems, and learning about a new part of my community every day. When I’m working on a story, I get to learn about something I might not have in a classroom, like how a mayoral candidate wants to improve bike safety or how researchers are making online navigation maps for people in wheelchairs. I come away from each story knowing something about my community that I didn’t know before.

“Journalism has also helped me come out of my shell. I’m a pretty quiet person most of the time, but being a journalist has forced me to walk up to strangers and ask questions, to make phone calls and show up to offices unannounced, and to ask for clearer answers when I don’t get the information I need.”

What type of stories are you most passionate about telling in your articles?

“I’m most passionate about telling stories that offer a new perspective or tell a story that hasn’t been told before. I gravitate toward topics like student activism and art, immigration, education, and nonprofit organizations.

“A great piece of advice a professor gave me was to find the human story in everything. To me, that means narrowing down a broad topic and finding one person or group doing something interesting in that area. For example, if I want to write about gentrification in Seattle, I might focus on one Tenants Union organizer working one part of the county. Narrowing down those broad topics can help you find new, more personal stories.”

What classes do you feel prepared you the most for your career in journalism?

“Mrs. Danaher’s World Literature Honors challenged me to become a stronger writer, to develop my own voice, and to read a variety of writing styles. Mrs. Turner’s AP Literature class allowed me to share my ideas in a variety of mediums, including poetry, a blog, and visual art. Mrs. Allen’s Ethics II class, Mr. Kirschbaum’s Spirituality and Justice class, and Ms. Knapp’s Women in the Church class reaffirmed the types of stories I want to tell through my writing. Mr. Moreno’s Spanish classes taught me to be a better communicator, both in English and Spanish. I wouldn’t be where I am or doing what I am now without my OLP teachers.”

How do you decide what to write about?

“When I’m choosing something to write about, I always consider whether it’s something I would want to read. If you’re excited about the subject, it will show in your writing. I’m always more motivated to conduct good interviews, find a variety of sources, and write as well as I can if I’m passionate about the story I’m telling.

“I also think about how I can tell a story from a new perspective. On Thursday, I went to the Washington Attorney General’s office for a press conference following the announcement that Trump’s travel ban would not be reinstated. When I got back to the office, my editor asked me, “What’s the story in it?” With that in mind, I decided to focus on the personal stories that the Attorney General mentioned during the press conference. That experience challenged me to write something more meaningful than a recap of the event, and it’s something I will keep in mind moving forward.”

In regards to your writing, what do you consider to be your best article? Why?

“I recently wrote an article about Youth Speaks Seattle, a spoken word poetry program that teaches teenagers how to use poetry as a tool for social justice. I loved working on this article because I got to meet high school students who were passionate about slam poetry and the community they had built around it. I also created a short audio piece to accompany with it. I’d love to go into radio journalism someday, so working on the audio piece gave me a sneak peek of what that might be like.”

What is the best advice someone has given you about journalism?

“Some of the best advice I’ve received about journalism is that if you want to write good journalism, you need to read good journalism. I think that applies to any form of journalism, whether it’s writing, audio, photojournalism, or video. The more you expose yourself to journalism you enjoy, the stronger your own voice will become. It doesn’t have to be just the New York Times, either; some of my favorite news sources are podcasts or smaller, more alternative papers. Reading good journalism can also help you understand what stories you’re drawn to and what stories you’d like to tell in your own writing.”

 

Once a Pilot Press editor, Katie Anastas has showed us that OLP prepares its students to soar. It was her years at OLP that influenced her to the work she loves and has given her the tools to enter into journalism and write about the topics that inspire her in a personal light.

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A Glance At a Pilot Journalist: An Interview with Katie Anastas ‘14