By Elizabeth Moody
Tonight, Pittsburgh Magazine will honor GSPIA alumna Mila Sanina (MPIA ’10) for her outstanding contributions to the Pittsburgh area with its “40 Under 40” award. Sanina is currently the executive director of PublicSource, a nonpartisan, public focused news outlet. She previously worked for PBS, CNN, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Sanina recently reflected on her career path and the impact that GSPIA has had on her career.
Although originally inspired to be a journalist, it was a risky profession in her native country of Kazakhstan. Sanina decided to pursue a degree in policy because in her view, it was the next field after journalism that had the potential to change the world. She reflects, “as grandiose as it sounds, I think everybody has a little bit of that optimism when they are young, and a sense of mission has always been very important to me personally.” However, she never lost her first love for journalism, and found that she could combine her interests and bring her policy perspectives to journalism.
Sanina is passionate about the power of journalism to connect people and policy, and believes that policymakers and journalists can collaborate further to ensure that the public understand the tough political issues of the day. She remarks that “GSPIA was a valuable experience for me as a journalist just because most journalists get trained in journalism schools, and there is a lot of value in people who come from a different background and with a different appreciation for policymakers.” She credits her experience at GSPIA with positively influencing many aspects of her work, including preparing her to interview and understand policymakers, identify incentives and stakeholders, and equipping her with frameworks to analyze issues.
Sanina appreciates her GSPIA experience, but in an age of complex policy decisions where public must often sort through ample misinformation, she believes policy schools can play a larger role in promoting facts and informing local decision-makers. She sees untapped potential for GSPIAns to put their analytical skills to good use, explaining, “there could be more opportunities in an advisory capacity for local government; they could use the expertise that we find in GSPIA.”
Local journalists could benefit from GSPIAns’ input as well; she sees an opening for “journalism opportunities where GSPIAns’ research could be useful beyond academic journals or policy memos with real implications or provide framework for local government.”
Along this line, Sanina will be teaching a capstone course at GSPIA during the spring 2018 semester with Professor William Dunn on evidence-based journalism, exploring the link between research and academia, the press, and policymakers. The course, entitled “Collaboration between University and Journalism Communities in Combatting Alternative Facts and Policy Deception,” is aimed to prepare students to work with journalists to better disseminate real research and information. Professor Dunn notes, “the press is a vital link between what we do at universities and policymakers and citizens.” The course gives students the opportunity to learn from Dunn and Sanina’s experience, and work towards better journalism for all.