Seema Mehta is a political writer for the Los Angeles Times; she has covered the 2008, 2012, and 2016 presidential campaigns. Before joining a Zócalo/Getty “Open Art” panel discussion entitled “How Does Democracy Survive Demagoguery?” she talked in the Zócalo green room about campaign trail food, journalism, and stumbling into a bar full of miners.
What dessert do you find impossible to resist?
A chocolate lava cake.
Which story of all the ones you’ve written do you think most about?
I was sent to eastern Ohio to do a story on whether Mitt Romney could be in play with moderate disaffected Democrats. It was totally not true at all. And reporting it, I ended up stumbling into this place—on Sunday, nothing open, nondescript downhome bar, people drinking canned beer, most of them had worked in the mines or were connected to people who worked in the mines. They felt like the election had just forgotten about them … This was 2012, and it underscores what we’re really seeing now.
What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had on the campaign trail?
The worst was gas station food that was dropped on our bus seats as we traveled with Newt Gingrich somewhere in South Carolina.
On what device do you do most of your reading?
What do you miss most about the East Coast?
I like seasons.
What teacher changed your life?
I took a journalism class in high school because I heard it was easy … Janet Kratz was the teacher, and before that I had no idea what I wanted to do.
Where do you go to be alone?
I find I can think the most in my shower because your phone can’t ring.