June 26, 2014

Meet a journalist: Allegra Abramo

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This summer, Allegra Abramo joins InvestigateWest from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where she is studying for a Master’s degree in journalism with a focus on health and science. She’s the kind of journalist we love — skeptical and interesting, with a fondness for data and people alike. Here are a few questions we asked so we could introduce her to you.

What made you want to be a journalist?

When I took a mid-career pause to assess how I wanted to spend the rest of my working life, I realized research and writing are the tasks I enjoy the most. I’m happiest when I’m learning something new every day, and I have the annoying habit of asking “why?” a lot. Journalism seemed like the perfect fit. It gives me an excuse to interview a scientist one day and a community leader the next, to grapple with the nitty-gritty of how research was done and its limitations, and how policies and programs are affecting people on the ground. Then I get to delve into reports and scrutinize data, and finally weave what I learn into a story that helps people understand the world.

What brought you to InvestigateWest?

I come to journalism after a first career in environmental work with nonprofits and government, including managing water conservation programs for Seattle Public Utilities. During and after completing a dual Master of Public Administration/M.S. in natural resources management at the University of Washington, I also did research and evaluations on topics including public housing, recycling and women in the building trades. I care deeply about fostering more effective public policies and institutions, especially around environmental and social justice issues. And that’s what InvestigateWest does, by helping people understand what is at stake and holding our leaders accountable. I’m excited to apply my analytical skills and diverse background to journalism that advances the civic discourse in the region I call home.

What was memorable about your first year at CUNY?

The year included a long list of firsts for me. I hauled 30 pounds of video equipment around the barrios south of hipster Brooklyn, begging people to talk (in any language!) on tape about the mayoral election. I jostled with the New York City press corps to snap photos of Joan Rivers and Michael Kors at a press conference announcing the expansion of an emergency feeding program. I recorded and edited an audio story about an old-fashioned Italian butcher shop in Queens. But it’s the people I met along the way who stand out the most. I kept seeing a guy in paint-splattered clothes pushing a shopping cart around my working-class Queens neighborhood. It turned out he’d taken it upon himself to beautify the neighborhood by removing graffiti, planting gardens and giving every fire hydrant and light pole a coat of gleaming silver paint. I ended up doing a photo essay on him and the eclectic group of neighbors who rallied behind him, including members of the local Muslim, Mormon and Buddhist communities.

What fills your time outside the office?

My partner and I volunteer as foster “parents” with the Seattle Animal Shelter, nursing sick cats and training rambunctious dogs until they’re ready for adoption. During Washington’s short but glorious summers, we spend as many weekends as we can hiking and backpacking in the mountains.

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