Theo Peck-Suzuki headshot

WOUB Employee Spotlight: Report for America Corps Member Theo Peck-Suzuki

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Peck-Suzuki stated working at WOUB in the summer of 2022

ATHENS, OH – WOUB’s Report for America Corps Member Theo Peck-Suzuki may be relatively new to WOUB but he is not new to southeast Ohio.

“I was born in New York City, but my parents moved to Athens when I was two,” said Peck-Suzuki.

Peck-Suzuki was hired to work in the WOUB newsroom in June of 2022, as the station’s first Report for America corps member. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. The national two-year service program works to reverse the collapse of local journalism by paying up to half of the journalists’ salaries, while providing ongoing training and mentorship by leading journalists, peer networking opportunities, and memberships to select professional organizations.

“There’s a lot going on in this area that is seriously affecting people’s lives, and most of us, even people who consume news regularly, don’t know about it. The reason is simple: we don’t have sources of in-depth local news. This Report for America position exists specifically to address that issue,” said Peck-Suzuki.

Peck-Suzuki has been assigned to cover the children and poverty beat in southeast Ohio. He is digging into what childhood poverty actually looks like in our region and then examining the organizations, programs and policies in place to help these children.

“This summer, I reported on the shortages the Southeast Ohio Food Bank has been facing recently. Many people I’ve spoken with since were surprised when they read my story, because all they’d heard about food banks in the region was the national news following Joe Burrow’s Heisman speech (the speech catalyzed a flood of donations to the Athens County Food Pantry, but that was before the present shortages). There are several other issues I’ve learned about recently that I can’t believe I didn’t hear of growing up,” said Peck-Suzuki. “My hope is that by sharing news particular to this area with more people, I can help generate more interest in what’s going on here. That leads to more robust participation and more active communities.”

When you hear how passionate Peck-Suzuki is about journalism, it’s hard to believe that wasn’t the profession he’d originally imagined for himself.

“I graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor’s in anthropology and then got a master’s from University of Chicago,” said Peck-Suzuki. “But then I decided to explore journalism, and I’m currently finishing up a master’s in journalism from Ohio University. I believe that the skills I learned studying cultural anthropology have translated very well to journalism. Ethnographic analysis involves a lot of interviewing, spending time getting to know people, and figuring out what’s going on in their lives. That’s pretty much what I do as a journalist, except instead of producing a hefty academic text, I’m writing an article for the general public.”

Peck-Suzuki also spent some time serving in AmeriCorps at Rural Action, which he says gave him the knowledge to cover this area and this beat.

“AmeriCorps gave me a much richer understanding of Southeast Ohio, which has been very helpful to me as a reporter covering the area. The better journalists understand a place, the better they can cover it.”

In his short time working at WOUB, Peck-Suzuki has found he enjoys the work of journalism and learned why local news coverage is so important in a community like ours.

“I’ve always liked sharing stories and learning about other people. That’s pretty much what I get to do here at WOUB,” said Peck-Suzuki. “It also gives me a chance to help people learn about how big issues affect their daily lives in less-than-obvious ways, which is something I’ve long been passionate about. Honestly, I can’t think of too many other jobs that would fit my interests so perfectly. My editors are also great to work with, and I’ve discovered I really enjoy working with audio.”

But there is also another thing Peck-Suzuki likes about the job that he didn’t expect – the satisfaction that comes with knowing you are making a difference.

“Every time someone tells me they learned something new or surprising from one of my stories, I get a little bump to my mood. That’s just very exciting.”