From the National Zoo reducing its hours to a drug-related killing, Washington Post local news reporter Julie Zauzmer is on the beat in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia).
The 24-year-old Philadelphia-area native has been at the Post for nearly two years. Her prior journalism experience includes a four-month reporting stint in 2013 at the Philadelphia Inquirer and as the managing editor of The Harvard Crimson from January to December 2012.
While a student at Harvard, Zauzmer wrote the book Conning Harvard: The True Story of the Con Artist Who Faked His Way into the Ivy League, about Adam Wheeler, who was convicted of fraud for faking his way into Harvard. The book was based on Zauzmer’s reporting for the Crimson.
Zauzmer recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk about the human element of covering crime, finding community at an independent minyan and the joy of twisting balloons.
What’s a typical day at The Washington Post?
I’m a breaking local news reporter, so I am constantly on the lookout for local news that is developing and being told about things and looking at things and responding to them as quickly as possible as they happen.
What story are you working on right now?
There’s one that I’m working on today that I’m very excited about. … My day has been somewhat upended by discovering someone I wanted to interview is leaving the country tomorrow. I have to rush to interview her today and find a translator and all that. Never a dull moment.
What is the most challenging aspect of your reporting job?
The human element. You’re coming into contact with people, sometimes at incredibly challenging moments. Most of what I cover is crime. Sometimes you’re talking to people who are victims, who have relatives who are victims, and what’s most challenging doesn’t have much to do with being a reporter, it just has to do with being a person around at those times.
What is the most rewarding?
Telling people stories — when you get to meet individuals, sit down with them, learn their stories and try to share that. It’s really an incredible privilege to be allowed into some of these moments and to get to know people I’d never get to know otherwise if I didn’t have that access as a reporter.
How would you compare covering Philly vs. D.C.?
Philly was home for me, whereas D.C. was a city that I had to get to know as a reporter. I’ve really enjoyed being very active in trying to get to know the city.
How did you get interested in a journalism career?
I fell in love with my college paper. I came in as a freshman wanting to write theater reviews because that was something I thought was fun, that I’d done a little bit of in high school. Luckily, a senior tricked me into doing news first — and from basically my first story, I was hooked.
Do you have any thoughts on the current state of journalism?
I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing this in this city, at the Post, at this time. It’s a challenging time, but it’s an incredibly exciting time to be a young reporter.
How did you get involved in joining the organizing committee of Tikkun Leil Shabbat?
Tikkun Leil Shabbat is my favorite Jewish group in D.C. … It’s big, there are maybe 60 to 80 to 100 people [for Shabbat] but there is a real core community and I’ve really made wonderful friends there that I see every single time I go. So that’s been really important to me, and I think is rare for Jewish young adults to have something like that.
What is your favorite thing about living in D.C.?
The people. People come here from everywhere. They’re ambitious and interesting, and you get to hear amazing stories.
Do you have a favorite pastime?
Balloon twisting. Sort of more than a pastime. It’s really my part-time job. I do parties pretty much every weekend. I get hired to work at children’s parties, making balloon animals and sculptures. I make giant balloon sculptures.