Anna Staver is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
Why I became a journalist:
Politics was my first love. I joined my high school debate team and spent my summers on college campuses researching topics like U.S.-Russian relations and renewable energy.
At first I thought I might want to be a lawyer, but I quickly realized I like learning policy more than debating it. Then, I thought about politics as a career. But that didn’t fit either.
Journalism was the perfect avenue to pursue my passion for understanding how policy gets made and how that shapes our schools, our cities and our state.
I love breaking down complex ideas into digestible bites and seeing that lightbulb go off over people’s heads when they comprehend. I want to make what happens at the legislature accessible to all Ohioans.
What I like best about my job:
I love that I get to let my curiosity run wild.
If a number or statistic piques my curiosity during a committee hearing, I can chase down its origins. That’s how I found a story about the rise in chronic school absenteeism during the pandemic.
And that curiosity extends to the way we present information. I love experimenting with alternative story formats. That’s what led me to co-found our podcast, Ohio Politics Explained.
The idea was to try and reach people who don’t think they have time to read the news. It’s a 15-minute podcast once a week that aims to catch people up on Ohio’s political news of the week. I believe in meeting people where they are, and I love that my job and my employer give me those opportunities.
A story that had a lasting impact on me:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, but my dad died in the middle of it.
We hadn’t seen each other in a year because we were trying to keep him safe. He had heart and lung problems. He didn’t contract COVID, but he died just the same.
And soon I found myself in the middle of a pandemic mess. My youngest daughter tested positive while I was in Florida with my dad. My husband couldn’t come to the funeral, and I was advised not to go home after two negative tests.
I rarely write about myself (twice in my career), but this was one of those exceptions. I interviewed contact tracers and professors and wrote about what it was like to become a statistic.
The biggest challenge I face:
Public perception of my job is probably the biggest challenge I’ve faced in recent years.
I joke that I can tell someone’s political affiliation by the face they make when I tell them what I do. People assume I’m their enemy or on their team, and both of those assumptions are problematic.
What I strive to do is ask people to give me a chance. I think I can show myself to be a fair and accurate reporter if given the opportunity. And always reach out if you think there’s a mistake.
I always tell sources to never attribute to malice what is probably misunderstanding.
What I like to do when I’m not working:
I’m a runner who believes all writer’s block is cured after mile six. I’m the wrangler of two amazing little humans. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see glimpses of them as they routinely bust in on me while I’m working from home. And their artwork hangs all over the walls of my home office.
During the pandemic, I started propagating plants. Though my husband has banned me from growing any more fiddle leaf figs. We have three in the house right now, but I’ve given a few to family and friends.
I’m also an amateur baker. Christmas sugar cookies are my specialty, but I recently learned how to make sticky toffee pudding. I absolutely recommend trying it.
Why journalism matters:
I believe reporters are the fourth branch of government.
Our job is to understand what elected officials are doing, explain that to the public and hold those people accountable.
And studies show that cities spend more on services when newspapers disappear. You want us out there scrutinizing elected officials and keeping an eye on your tax dollars.
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