Q&A with Lea Trusty



Lea Trusty 2016-2017 Currently works at: Democracy Fund


What one piece of advice would you offer to current Fellows?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask your managers, ask the great people at Newman’s Own, ask other fellows who may be in similar boats. There will be time to have everything figured out (or at least pretend like you do) later down the road. Now isn’t that time!

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve recently read or seen?

I’m going to stick to my public radio roots here…one of my favorite podcasts is Reveal, and they recently did an incredible episode on Louisiana’s habitual offender statue, or the “three strikes law.” It takes a look at how this law has led to the long-term incarceration of hundreds of nonviolent offenders, many of which are black. It also talks about the disproportionate use of the law in Orleans Parish compared to others, like East Baton Rouge, and emphasized just how much is determined by the needs and biases of current District Attorney’s offices, their respective heads, and prosecutors.

How do you recharge yourself?

It’s finally fall, so I’ve been enjoying the weather and walking around DC more. I’ve also been baking a lot. I made this banana bread swirled with Nutella the other night. I’ll have a slice with a mug of tea and put on some music to match—my favorite right now is May Ayres’ new album—and it really takes me away for a moment or two.

What do you find to be the most fulfilling aspect of your current job?

I work in philanthropy, and my particular space is all around engaged journalism—how do we support deeper, more authentic connections between newsrooms and their communities, how do we ensure those communities, particularly historically underserved and marginalized ones, are heard by journalists, and how do we rebuild trust in some places and establish it where it never existed in others?

There are no simple answers to any of these questions, but I feel so fortunate to be able to support and connect with some of the brightest minds in this space—some that I’ve considered role models for some time—and engage with them on such worthy issues. There is also immense privilege in having resources and being able to determine where and to whom they should go. Needless to say, I’m learning something new every day.

If you were given a one-minute ad slot during the Super Bowl that you couldn’t sell, what would you fill it with?

I’m not sure I’d fill it with anything. I haven’t watched an NFL game in a while, for a number of reasons. Maybe just a black screen for 60 seconds. Or perhaps I’d donate it to a nonprofit newsroom that’s serving marginalized communities.

What is something you recently realized that you can’t believe you had not realized earlier/sooner?

There is nothing wrong with seeking and feeling joy despite the overarching crappiness of the world. I have a tendency to vacillate between extreme happiness and profound sadness whenever my mind presses pause on a joyful moment to think about the current state of humanity.

To that end, I’ve been working to put some containers around my conceptualization of the world. I am in this one container—doing mostly good work that I think is important and trying to be a little kinder to those around me every day. I have to believe that has a ripple effect on all the containers that I worry about but may not be directly within.