This week on our Meet the Media series we are featuring Zoe Branch. Zoe is a staff writer at Premier Media Group, where she focuses on social justice issues and the environment, amongst other topics. Fun fact, she is also a small business owner! Read all about Zoe below.
1. How did you find yourself in your current role?
My senior year of college, I worked as an intern at Premier Media Group for nine months; toward the end of the internship, before I graduated, a longtime writer left the company, leaving a position open, which I was able to move into directly following my graduation. I’ve been in the position since!
2. Which of your stories are you most proud of?
Definitely pieces that focus on social justice issues and/or the environment. I wrote a piece on an organization I volunteered with that supports incarcerated women to earn a college degree while in prison (Trapped Bodies, Freed Minds); a piece on the history of harmful medical experiments on chimpanzees and how one Washington sanctuary now provides the animals with a better life (Almost Human), and an article that examines the global breakdown of our recycling system and how one Tacoma facility is trying to deal with the fall-out (The Changing Face of Recycling). Perhaps the article I’m proudest of is called Why We’re Still Talking About Women in Business, which looks at the wage gap as it presents itself especially between white women and women of color, and the degree to which representation matters.
3. What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love the agency I have to pursue stories I’m passionate about — when I pitch a story, my editors always tell me to go for it, which is a freedom I’m really grateful for.
4. What is your interview style?
I definitely have a pretty casual interview style: I find that the more an interview can feel more like a conversation — a chat between friends, even — the better. This doesn’t always hold true for the more serious business stories I report, but for lifestyle stories, finding a groove and keeping things feeling low-key helps put everyone at ease and makes for good, authentic quotes.
5. What do you look for in a story?
I look for something that I personally feel intrigued by in some way — I figured that if I’m curious about something, someone else must be, too, and I’ll be better able to convey the nuances of a topic if I’m excited to pursue it. This can’t hold true in every story I’m assigned to report, of course, but I do always try to find some element that pulls me in: doing so always makes for better storytelling.
6. What is your day like at your job?
Different every day! Sometimes, I’m desk-bound with emails, transcribing interviews, or going down deep research rabbit holes; other days, I’m hanging out with chimpanzees, touring a candy factory, trying a new workout class, or eating a decadent meal. When I get to the actual writing process of a piece, I like to print out all the materials I need, hole up in a nearby café, go offline, and write a comprehensive draft in one sitting.
7. Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
Journalist and author Rebecca Traister, writer at large for New York magazine, is one of the most highly respected feminist voices today. I love her perspective and voice and look up her immensely. Also, Rukmini Callimachi, an ISIS reporter for the New York Times, will do literally anything for a story, including crawling through rubble in an active war-zone to collect pieces of documents. I don’t think I could ever do what do does, but I have so much respect for her as a reporter.
8. What is your favorite news outlet?
The New York times for day-to-day news; The Cut for more cultural/lifestyle pieces. I’m a big podcast listener, too (podcasts from both NYT and The Cut are awesome; I’m also a big fan of Call Your Girlfriend, This American Life, and On Being).
9. Fill in the blank:
- If I am not reporting, I am… Running a small business! I own a small art business called flora & phrase, in which I make mounted poems with my great grandfather’s 1931 typewriter. I do most of my business on Saturday nights at local night markets, as well as online through my Etsy and website, floraandphrase.com.
- If I could interview anyone, it would be… Margaret Atwood. She’s been my favorite author since I was 16 and is one of my biggest literary inspirations.
- My favorite thing about Seattle is… Visiting it every once in a while! I live in Tacoma and all of my reporting centers around the South Sound and Eastside Seattle; though I have a lot of friends in Seattle and enjoy visiting them, I don’t envy the traffic or parking situations!
10. What is your guilty pleasure?
Standing in the kitchen, eating things right out of the container. Though, come to think of it, I don’t have a lot of guilt about that.
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