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 is our first double feature—meet Elissa Nadworny and Acacia Squires, editors for the NPR Ed team.
Name: Elissa Nadworny
Twitter Handle: @ElissaNadworny
Job Title: Editor
Where You're From: Erie, PA
Name: Acacia Squires
Twitter Handle: @acaciasquires
Job Title: Editor
Where You're From: West of the Mississippi (Boulder, Houston, San Diego)
An Inside Look:
You are editors for NPR Ed. What does that mean?
Elissa: So on the day I'm writing this: I wrote a piece about preschool for the NPR Ed blog, I edited a blog post from a freelancer that will run next week, I worked with a team of reporters to figure out what a two-week, five-part radio series looks like on the internet, then I went to a local elementary school to shoot photos for an upcoming teacher profile, and when I got back to the office I filed a spot for Newscast about for-profit colleges. As an editor on NPR Ed, you do a little bit of everything. One of my favorite things is being part of the pitch process. We often figure things out as a team—so web and radio and social are discussed up front, at the beginning of a story's life. I love being able to shape stories, brainstorming sources and angles, and figuring out how to tell a good story across platforms.
Acacia: It means really different things for Elissa and for me. I work with member station reporters across the country, primarily on radio, but also on web stories. I'm a collaborative editor, kind of like Gisele Grayson with Kaiser Health and Brett Neely with Politics. We try to be more than just editors by creating a team of reporters: hosting conference calls to talk about what's going on in education, providing resources on the subject, connecting reporters with one another and with our NPR reporters, too. It's honestly a ton of fun. We have enormous talent across the country and I've made a lot of friends doing this.
Acacia Squires (left) and Elissa Nadworny (right) both at work.
What are some cool things you've worked on?
Elissa: One of my favorite pieces was a database of the most popular high school plays and musicals dating back to 1938! We analyzed (and digitized!) more than 100 pages of data from old issues of Dramatics magazine and made this awesome story. I also edited a web app about mental health in schools. I love getting to work with NPR Visuals team. You can check out the app here.
Acacia: This year the Ed Team worked on a 20 member station collaboration called School Money. It was hard to make school finance a sexy subject that people would care about, but we really got creative and told the story from so many different perspectives, from students, educators, parents, lawyers, lawmakers. There's even an interactive map that might blow your mind. Working with that many reporters across the country was such an honor and they brought us the stories that made the project what it is. I don't know if I could be more proud of it.
How did you end up covering education? What were you doing before NPR?
Elissa: In college, I majored in documentary film, and my senior thesis film was about a primary school in South Africa. Eventually I found my way to grad school and focused on education reporting. When I thought about all the issues I was interested in—criminal justice, the economy, urban development—I could trace them all back to education. Before NPR I worked for Bloomberg News.
Acacia: I came to education from working as a show producer at NPR because of the work the team was doing. I remember writing in my cover letter to Steve Drummond (head of the desk) how much I admired the fact that the team didn't cover the tick-tock of the Education Department but focused on kids and learning, and I meant it! Before NPR I was in grad school at Columbia for journalism.
What emoji best represents you?
Elissa: Turtle! I'm really into wearing turtlenecks, so that little green guy is perfect for me.
Acacia: The ant. Ants have a symbiotic relationship with Acacia trees. I love the way it's just like, "Hi, I'm an ant." Small and mighty.
Elissa's mug collection (left) and Acacia's desk decor (right)
What's on your desk?
Elissa: Everything! It's a bit messy. I take a ton of notes—sometimes in my many notebooks, but more often on printed out reports, sticky notes, the back of business cards etc. So those are scattered around everywhere. I'm also a big snacker—so there's food too. Some days I'm into the mad scientist scene and other days I wish I could just sit at Acacia's spotless desk!
Acacia: Elissa might say I have the cleanest desk at NPR but then I was gone for a couple days and accidentally left behind an apple core and it was covered with fruit flies when I got back. (Sad face emoji.)
Elissa: Radiolab Presents: More Perfect. It's about the Supreme Court and it's GREAT! I bring up stories I heard on that podcast at least once a week.
Acacia: NPR Politics Podcast. Three of my best friends work on it and I get to hear all the behind the scenes stuff which makes listening even more fun. But I know there's so much more out there to listen to, I just need more time.
Favorite Tiny Desk?
Elissa: Yusuf/Cat Stevens. Never thought I'd see him perform—and being 3ft away was SO surreal!
Acacia: Natalie Merchant. I went to more than one Lilith Fair in my youth and ... yeah...
What's your motto?
Elissa: Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll fall among the stars.
Acacia: "Only dead fish go with the flow." Someone wrote that in my sister's junior high yearbook and I never forgot it!
What are you inspired by right now?
Elissa: The Marshall Project. I just visited Alcatraz and so now I'm really fascinated by prisons, and our criminal justice system. If you don't get the TMP daily newsletter, you should. I can't keep up with everything they recommend, but they've done some great original reporting and they recommend other great reads too.
Acacia: Women. I've been thinking a lot about women in history and the women in my life and feeling really happy that I'm one.
What do you love about public radio?
Elissa: I love the intimacy of radio—plus the range of stories I hear on the radio is so different from what I see on TV or in print.
Acacia: So much. I watch a lot of TV news to get caught up, but turning the radio back on is always such a breath of fresh air ... haha, get it? I love the imagination it takes while listening because our minds are good at making things beautiful. I love how many different programs there are to listen to across the country. I also love the power of the network at NPR. Working with member stations is the real pleasure of my job.