In this edition of Meet the Media, we have the pleasure of introducing you to Shawna De La Rosa, an accomplished journalist at the Puget Sound Business Journal covering real estate and economic development. Currently focusing on the South Sound region, Shawna brings her unique perspective and dedication to uncovering critical issues, such as the affordable housing crisis. With a career that was inspired in high school, Shawna has honed her skills and adapted to the ever-changing landscape of journalism.
How did you first become interested in journalism, and what led you to pursue it as a career?
I worked for my high school newspaper, The Outlook, at Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor. I had a great teacher, Mr. Spadoni. I fell in love with the whole process and knew I wanted to pursue it as my career. I’m also a great listener. I love asking people questions. I drive my kids and family crazy with all my questions. Luckily, all my questions come in handy in this profession.
What are some of the biggest trends or issues you’re currently following in the Puget Sound community, and what impact do you think they’ll have on the region’s economy?
This biggest issue that I have been following is the lack of affordable housing and the crisis it is creating. It is having a huge impact on our economy, as well as on our quality of life. People ask me why there are so many people living in tents on the freeway. My answer is that there aren’t enough places for people to live. It is very expensive for developers to build more housing due to long permit times, excessive fees, regulations that have unintended consequences and soaring construction costs. Now, the rising interest rates are making that problem even worse. Even non profit housing providers are impacted by higher interest rates.
What is the most interesting project you’ve covered recently, and what made it stand out to you?
I wrote an article about the Low Income Housing Institute’s (LIHI) plans to convert a hotel into housing in Tacoma. That launched a yearlong centerpiece on affordable housing.
A woman named Yolanda saw my LIHI story and emailed me to ask how she could get on the tenant list. She told me about her struggles with housing and how she had priced out of her apartment due to rent hikes. When she talked to me, she was sleeping on her son’s couch in Tacoma. Her son had a wife and son so it was pretty crowded. Yolanda worked full-time at a warehouse on the graveyard shift making more than minimum wage, but she still couldn’t afford housing.
That really struck me. I dug into it and found you need to make $31 an hour in King County to afford market-rate rent. The lack of housing is due to lack of supply and too much demand. At this moment, there isn’t enough housing in the Puget Sound.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned as a journalist, and how have they shaped your approach to your work?
When I conduct interviews I start with my own questions. At the end of the interview, after they feel more comfortable with me, I always ask them if there is anything I didn’t ask that they’d like to share. I find I get the most interesting comments after the “official interview” is over. Often, that’s where the story is.
How do you balance the need for speed in breaking news situations with the desire for accuracy and depth in your reporting?
That’s always a tough balance. We don’t report on something if we aren’t confident it is accurate. We will hold the story if we need to.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone who is aspiring to be a journalist in a similar field as you?
Journalism is all about being curious. The question is always: Why? If you are always curious and always willing to learn about new things, this is a great industry in which to work.
I would also suggest that those looking to get into journalism embrace all the different ways news is delivered now. Make content on social media about your articles, do podcasts, build a good following. I still remember when news was only available in the morning in print and at 5 p.m. on the local television station.
Aspiring journalists should also watch the television series “Alaska Daily” starring Hilary Swank. The show really captures the essence of the importance of journalism, especially at small daily papers.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
My favorite thing is that it is always changing. You are always learning.
Quick Fire Question:
- If I am not working, I am… sitting on a soccer field watching my kids play soccer somewhere between Olympia and Everett
- If I could interview anyone, it would be… Jimmy Carter
- The last book I read was… Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
- My favorite movie is… It’s a Wonderful Life
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