Get to know Mia Steinle, POGO investigator

Although new to POGO, Mia Steinle is no stranger to investigative work. A native of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, Mia studied journalism at American University before joining their nonprofit Investigative Reporting Workshop in 2009. She came to POGO in Sept. 2011 and has contributed substantially to a report on the proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement—Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as POGO’s overall research on nuclear and energy policy.

The Watercooler sat down with Mia to talk about settling in at POGO, feminism, and what toppings belong on an ideal pizza.

Watercooler: How did you go from studying journalism in college to investigating nuclear policy at POGO?

Mia Steinle: What we do here is very similar to investigative journalism. I don’t have a background in nuclear weapons or in science, but I approach it the same way I would approach any journalistic project in that you just have to start at the beginning and learn about it. The nice thing here is that because I’ve been focusing on one topic, I’ve been able to build up my knowledge in a way that I wouldn’t if I were working for a daily paper covering a lot of different things.

Watercooler: What’s been your most interesting project thus far?

MS: Well, the first big project I worked on was a project I inherited, which was the report about the proposed nuclear facility in New Mexico, and that became a jumping-off point for a lot of stuff I’m doing now. But to start working here and immediately have this half-written report given to me … I came in with a huge learning curve. It was difficult, but I feel like it was the best way to just get right into it.

Watercooler: What do you do when you’re not at POGO?

MS: When I started working at POGO was about the same time that I moved to northeast D.C. by Eastern Market, so I like to go to the market a lot. I like taking walks around that part of the city because for many years, I was living in the northwest [part of the city], and that was sort of the world that I knew, so now that I’ve moved eastward, it’s fun to go out and explore. I love going to shows. I love reading.

Watercooler: Tell the Watercooler about your blog, Canonball.

MS: A good friend and I both read this newly released feminist book, and we got together to talk about it thinking we would start a book club. Afterwards, we met up with another friend. He was like, “Oh, you guys should start a blog about your book club,” and we were like, “No, that’s an awful idea.” Then the next day, we both call each other, and we’re like, “We’ve been thinking about this all night. Let’s start a blog.”

It’s been a fun thing to do post-college when you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing and you’re sort of thirsty for intellectual projects. We brought in a lot of writers, both friends and people who have just found us online, so it’s been really gratifying.

Watercooler: There are a lot of stereotypes associated with the concept of feminism. What does it mean to you?

MS: For me, being a feminist means recognizing that we live in a society that’s built on these systems of inequality and that not everyone starts out at the same level and not everyone has the same advantages, and that includes women and people of color and just generally underrepresented or oppressed people. My particular goal in Canonball is giving a voice to people whose voices tend to be not heard. That’s the thing that really appealed to me about working at POGO: working with whistleblowers and people who have been silenced or who may be afraid to speak up [and] creating a space where they feel comfortable.

Watercooler: We hear you’re really into pizza parties. What’s your favorite kind of pizza?

MS: I’m pretty classic. I just like a pepperoni pizza. I’m not fancy.

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