Back in 2010, she was up for the role of Assistant to the Editor at LA Weekly. When she walked into the editor's office, she saw a huge photograph of downtown Pittsburgh pinned up on a bulletin board. It turned out her future boss – despite hailing from Alaska – had an affection for the city following a stint as a diehard Pirates' fan, so the two spent the first half of the interview professing love for the 'Burgh.
She got the job.
And on Jan. 23, Trachta started a new one, becoming Pittsburgh City Paper's new editor-in-chief following a three-month search of candidates across the country.
"Even though I'm brand new, I feel right at home in many ways," Trachta says of her new role at City Paper. "I'm using the same language I used to use. I'm using the same software I used to use. I'm getting the same shiver up my spine when I hit publish."
Trachta, a Pittsburgh native, began freelancing for publications in Chicago and Los Angeles in the late aughts while earning her bread in the corporate world. She eventually leveraged her clips into that full-time position at LA Weekly, and rose to the rank of Senior Digital Editor during her 7-year tenure. Throughout that time, she was driven by a sense of purpose and belonging that she's never quite found outside the world of alternative media.
"I just felt like myself at all times at work," Trachta recalls.
Returning to Pittsburgh in 2017, she regained that feeling as managing editor of NEXTpittsburgh where she spent a year before detouring into tech startups, serving in a variety of editorial and communications roles.
Tracy Certo, NEXTpittsburgh's founder and editor-at-large, describes Trachta as "a smart, personable, and talented writer/editor with a wicked sense of humor ... She's also digitally savvy and highly skilled in social media.
"One of the things that most impressed me about her was her ability to consistently come up with good, original story ideas," Certo tells CP. "Ali is a great choice for the role at City Paper."
Trachta's former boss Sarah Fenske, who took over for the editor who hired her, echoes this sentiment: "I worked with Ali during my three years as editor-in-chief of the LA Weekly, and I was consistently impressed by her organization, her creativity, and her good humor. As the paper's digital editor, she guided the Weekly to the highest web traffic it ever attained in its 40-year history – and spearheaded some terrific projects that let people see and understand Los Angeles in new ways."
Trachta hopes to do the same at City Paper. "I intend to build on all the great work that's been happening here for decades," she says, "as well as try out some new stuff readers might not be expecting."
Trachta joins CP after a period of turbulence brought on by the resignation of former editor Lisa Cunningham in October 2022 and the paper's surprise acquisition by Block Communications, Inc. last month. Trachta learned of CP's sale at the same time the public did.
Trachta, a former union member, says her agreement with BCI grants her full editorial control over CP's content, and she has been assured by company representatives the alt-weekly's pages will not be reproduced in the Post-Gazette.
"I owe it to this paper and to the city of Pittsburgh to give this my all," Trachta says. "This is a dream job for me and I can't wait to dig in, tell compelling stories, and have a lot of fun. I feel like I'm right where I belong."
Fenske agrees. "Even during our L.A. years, it was clear how much Ali loved Pittsburgh," she tells CP, "and I can't imagine a more perfect role for her than running the alt-weekly in her beloved city. She was made for this job, and I think everyone on staff and in your readership is going to be blown away by what she brings to it. I can't wait to read the City Paper she puts out."
Follow Ali on Twitter at @alitrachta.