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Faces Of NPR: Leah Donnella

Lauren Zillinger

Faces Of NPR is a weekly feature that showcases the people behind NPR, from the voices you hear every day on the radio to the ones who work outside of the recording studio. You'll find out about what they do and what they're inspired by on the daily. This week's post features Code Switch News Assistant, Leah Donnella.

The Basics:

Name: Leah Donnella

Twitter Handle:@AskLeezul

Job Title: News Assistant

Where You're From: Philadelphia, PA

An Inside Look:

You're a News Assistant at Code Switch. What does that mean?

Basically anything people need it to mean. Code Switch has a podcast, blog, radio and social media presence, so I do a combination of writing, research, interviews and promotion.

How did you get started here? Or what advice do you have for someone who wants a job like yours?

I got started at NPR largely by accident. I was in between jobs and met one of my now-coworkers at a wedding. He was like, "You like race? You like writing? Apply for this job!" So I did. And I've been here ever since. My advice for someone else would be to read everything, write every day (even if it's just a diary entry about your complicated relationship with peanut butter) and don't be afraid to talk to strangers.

Lauren Zillinger / NPR

What's your favorite #nprlife moment?

Having a Martha Stewart style cooking class in Sound Bites where we learned to make fancy vegetarian dinner party food. Also, the semi-regular intercom announcements that warn us when there's a particularly beautiful sunset. ("Colleagues — God's paintbrush must've been dipped twice today...")

What are some cool things you've worked on?

I spent close to a year researching and writing a piece about the history of the word "mixed" (a project I expected to spend a couple weeks on.) I got to talk to tons of different people and really dig into the history of multiracial people in the United States, and then see how some of that history played out within my own family. It was weird and fascinating.

First thing you do when you get to the office?

Deep breath. Then I fill up a mug with hot water and make a list of the things I want to accomplish during the day.

What's on your desk?

Sushi erasers, Take 5 bars (my favorite candy,) Sriracha, tea, lotion, papers, books, mugs, a sweater, a scarf, bobby pins, sneakers.

Lauren Zillinger / NPR

What emoji best represents you?

Upside down smiley face. It's the only one I've ever needed.

Favorite Tiny Desk?

Mariachi Flor De Toloache — this incredible all-female mariachi group from New York. They absolutely slayed. Watch it.

Favorite places in Washington D.C.?

To me, the arboretum is a perfect place.

What are your guilty pleasures?


What do you love about public radio?

I love the intimacy of it. It's crazy how you can be listening to a story that millions of other people are listening to, and still feel like the host is only talking to you.

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Lauren Zillinger / NPR

Lauren Zillinger
Tat'yana Berdan