Pulitzer Center grantee Anna Louie Sussman joined Glendale (California) Community College history professor Michelle Stonis and Pulitzer Center Outreach Coordinator Holly Rosewood for a conversation on Sussman’s journalism career and her reporting on family policies abroad.
Sussman led the conversation with a brief history about how she got her start in journalism. Growing up with parents who were writers, Sussman found journalism to be a natural path, she said at the webinar on September 27, 2021. “I think of journalism as a way to explore questions and ideas that interest me,” she recalled.
Initially interested in fashion, she was an intern at InStyle while in college. After InStyle, she developed a growing curiosity about reproductive rights, leading to an internship with Planned Parenthood in Tunisia, Africa. An internship at The Nation, where Sussman was a fact-checker, followed.
When considering a future in reporting, Sussman said she thought, “If I really want to understand the world, I want to write journalism that has more explanatory power. I should have a better grasp of how resources are allocated and decisions are made. How policy gets made and enacted, and these kinds of macro-level things trickle into people’s lives.”
She then went on to Reuters, where she was the finance and business reporter. After reporting on economic disparities, gender, and race in America, Sussman said, she found herself wanting to look at how economics can impact family life. Sussman found herself training in many ways of thinking from both a human rights perspective to economic and class analysis.
Sussman, who studied French and Italian in college, spoke to the importance of language when traveling abroad, especially when your job revolves around talking. “Reading good writing can be the best way to improve your own writing,” Sussman said.
“There are two big components to journalism: One is training and craft, and the other thing is expertise. It helps to be passionate about what you are covering,” Sussman said when discussing what makes a strong journalist.
Stonis guided the conversation into a discussion of Sussman’s Pulitzer Center-supported project, Reproductive Rights and the Family in Poland and Denmark. Sussman talked about how a lot of her work was trying to answer challenging questions about the future of families. She explained that the cultural context was important for shaping her reporting on declining birth rates, in countries with strong social policies and safety nets. She also spoke on her work in the U.S. that focused on the impact of policies on families, specifically in the post-Roe v. Wade era.
“There are deeper questions we aren’t asking, and it becomes a political game of football. Citizens aren’t talking to one another, about what they believe, why they believe,” Sussman said of her extensive coverage of abortion.
She also took questions from the webinar participants. One listener asked a question related to fact-checking and its role in reporting. Sussman spoke to the importance of fact-checkers in journalism, and how sometimes you are your own fact-checker.
“With in-house fact-checkers like The New Yorker, they will often play back the story to you, making sure the quotes, and potential legal documents are right,” Sussman said.
She also touched on reporting with empathy and dealing with stories that can be traumatizing for people: “Listen deeply, and empathically.”
In reflecting on a question about religion and covering religions in other countries, Stonis spoke about how Glendale was located in the Armenian diaspora, one of the first countries to Christianize, also noting that you don’t have to practice a religion to report on it with nuance and compassion. The conversation ended with a wrap-up about safety as a journalist.
To watch the full conversation, click here.