For this week’s Media Monday, we’d like you to meet Chetanya Robinson, Seattle-based journalist whose work has appeared in outlets including Crosscut, the Seattle Weekly and the International Examiner.
1. How did you find yourself as a journalist?
I always wanted to be a journalist, but I had so many opportunities to learn and gain experience in college. I started out at Western Washington University, where I think I got a really solid immersion in reporting and writing. After I transferred to the University of Washington in my junior year, I learned a lot taking the UW News Lab class, writing for the UW Daily and the Seattle Globalist, and then becoming a regular staff writer for the International Examiner. Those experiences led to internships with Crosscut, the Seattle Weekly, and Awoko newspaper in Sierra Leone, through the UW Communication department’s Foreign Intrigue study abroad program. Each step of the way, I got to learn directly from experienced and professional writers and editors, while practicing writing all different kinds of stories. I think these experiences really helped me improve and discover my journalistic voice and interests.
2. Which of your stories are you most proud of?
There are three that come to mind. One is a story on data disaggregation among Asian Pacific Islanders in Washington, which I wrote for the International Examiner. The issue of how data on Asian Pacific Islander Americans is collected is a huge but underreported story that’s bound up with politics, education, equity, stereotypes, identity and more, so it was fascinating to report on. I’m also proud of this piece for Crosscut on the quest to preserve the endangered Lushootseed language, the indigenous language of the Puget Sound Area that’s in danger of dying out. And this piece for the Seattle Weekly, which I wrote the day after the 2016 presidential election, exploring reasons why our country’s first carbon tax measure may have failed. It was so hard to come into the office and focus that day, and to relive election night for the story. But it was quite something to spend the day after the election among journalists working so hard to do their jobs and put out great coverage for their readers – not something I’ll forget anytime soon.
3. What’s your favorite thing about being a journalist?
I love being able to learn and discover new things through my reporting and writing, and hopefully provide value to readers.
4. What is your interview style?
It’s something I’m always working on improving, but there’s one approach I learned from Seattle radio journalist Sara Lerner at a conference that really changed how I approach interviews. It’s basically to keep asking follow-up questions until you’re satisfied that you understand the story and you’ve come to the heart of the issues. I always try to make sure I’m really listening and getting the entirety of what my source wants to say, and not taking anything out of context or oversimplifying.
5. What do you look for in a story?
I always like stories that tackle big, systemic issues, or that shed light on something in a totally new way – whatever the subject matter is. I really enjoy reading stories that operate on both the human and macro levels, so this is also something I try to look for as well.
6. Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
There are so many writers, editors and photographers in the Seattle area whose work I’m in awe of, and that I try to learn from.
7. What is your favorite news outlet?
I couldn’t possibly pick one! Some of my favorites in Seattle are Grist, Crosscut, the Seattle Weekly, the International Examiner and Seattle Globalist. I recently got a subscription to Columbia Journalism Review, which is fascinating to read.
8. Fill in the blank:
· If I am not reporting, I am…Cooking, spending time in nature, practicing my Arabic
· If I could interview anyone, it would be…Louis Theroux. He’s a BBC journalist who’s made a lot of documentaries that delve into the weirder and darker parts of society and human nature. It’s amazing to watch his interview style and the rapport he has with people, while still one hundred percent inhabiting the role of a journalist seeking to understand, above all. He’s one of my journalistic role models.
· My favorite thing about Seattle is…That it’s home. Also the history, cultural diversity, parks, cafes…
9. What is your guilty pleasure?
Bing-watching comedies on Netflix.