A Women’s History Month Tribute

The Relevance Project celebrates the women who lead newspaper and press associations in North America.

What better time to pause and recognize this inspiring group of newspaper advocates than during Women’s History Month.

For this Relevant Point, we asked executive directors of the Newspaper Association Managers the following question to mark the annual March salute:

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WOMEN INTERESTED IN BECOMING LEADERS AND ADVANCING IN THE NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY AND LOCAL NEWS OPERATIONS IN GENERAL?

The responses mixed personal experiences with insightful thoughts about an industry that continues to transform but could do so more effectively with greater diversity and different perspectives.

We are honored to present the following advice:

EMILY BRADBURY, Kansas Press Association:

Always remember that your voice is needed and you belong. Imposter syndrome is real and it is imperative that you find supportive mentors to help you navigate difficult feelings and situations.

It is also our obligation to turn around and help others through the door and to ensure that other marginalized voices are represented in our work and workplaces.

LAURIE HIEB, Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association:

My first job was in radio when the population of females in that industry was minimal. I came in with a degree in broadcast journalism with big goals and hopes. But other than the sales department, I was the only female on staff for on-air work.

I quickly realized it wasn’t an environment to grow in, so I moved to Portland to work in public broadcasting. There, I was hired by a strong, full-of-life female who stood a mere 5 foot, 2 inches. I watched her, with a fierce pit-bull attitude, stand up to 6-foot-3 men at a time in the overall workforce that was not viewed as “acceptable.”

As it turned out, the lessons I learned working for her have molded me into the person I am today. She taught me to think big, surround yourself with positive, strong people, and never settle for the expectations of others. It’s advice I share with others.

Those lessons have served me well throughout my 28-year career, especially after serving on several boards and in countless meetings where I was the only female at the table. I like to think big and put myself in situations where I am challenged.

Today, I am proud to say that I am a part of the women executive directors leading newspaper associations across the country, a group that has more than tripled in the last 15 years.

DARCIE HOFFLAND, Wyoming Press Association:

When I started in newspapers immediately after college, I quickly felt (and forgive the expression) there was a good old boys club in leadership in the industry. My bosses were all male for almost the decade I spent at my first newspaper. However, after working in the ad department for about three year, I was promoted to ad director. I’ve always been one to brave new paths and butt heads when I felt it necessary. Many times I felt like the black sheep, but I believe this is what helped me become a leader.

I believe women have great organizational skills, intuition, creativity and an adaptability that makes us great newspaper advertising sales execs. Further, those same characteristics make us great leaders in the industry.

My advice to other women wishing to advance in the industry is to not be afraid to take chances. Even though I have failed at times, I believe I’ve made the most progress after lessons were learned from the biggest mistakes or flops. Also, while I don’t consider myself a patient person, I believe patience is vital to success. You have to be prepared to play the long game and overcome frustrations, setbacks and disappointments.

Secondly, I don’t believe in having my toes stepped on. To do the best job, you’re going to need the best people helping you and give credit where it’s due. There are times when someone else is going to have a better skill-set for a situation or project. Success is success, whether you’re on your own or you have help. Believe in your team, empower them, and recognize the importance of cohesiveness within your department and organization.

My final thought is that if you are passionate about what you are doing, you will go a long ways – you will advance. My passion is newspapers and I love my home of Wyoming. I truly believe this allows me to do good things as executive director of the WPA.

LYNNE LANCE, National Newspaper Association:

The advice I give anyone about this business is to learn EVERYONE’s job, they are all important.
I had lunch with a student that was in journalism and she wanted advice (she wanted to be a reporter). I told her, learn photoshop, learn to take pictures, learn excel, learn marketing skills, study InDesign.

Absorb as much knowledge as you can. Don’t be afraid to have a voice and offer help in any department.

FELICIA MASON, Alabama Press Association:

Proceed with confidence.

If you behave as though you are equal in every way to your male counterparts, you are likely to be given the respect you deserve.

I have actually found (for the most part) that the newspaper industry is better than most in recognizing the value of women and creating a level playing field for all employees.

Leadership roles are generally given to those who do not mind making decisions, even when they are difficult ones. Show your confidence that you are willing and able to take a stand, move projects forward and admit when you make mistakes.

MONICA NIEPORTE, Ohio News Media Association:

Do what you can to make sure your readers feel a connection to your product and to you. Show up at community events and be visible as a community leader. Make an effort to reach out to and meet new leaders such as a new chamber or tourism director, a new superintendent, mayor, etc.
Make sure the content of your product is relevant to the lives of your readers and covers the things that are of interest to them or they will look to social media instead. If you can’t answer the question “Why should I care about this?” then neither can they.

MICHELLE REA, New York Press Association:

America’s news consumers no longer think that the news media represents them, and the lack of diversity in our industry is a huge contributor. Advancing women’s leadership in news organizations has never been more important.

Newspaper readership is tied to representation – seeing or hearing from someone who looks like you is important. The imbalance in the newspaper industry – the lack of diversity in general and lack of gender diversity in particular – has made the news media largely irrelevant to many people.

More diversity in newsroom culture, more diversity in news coverage, more female voices in the news, and more female perspectives on the way to cover a story, will make newspapers and news organizations more relevant. Any newspaper seeking to be relevant to its readers needs to reflect the audience we seek to serve.

The data is clear – gender equality in the newspaper industry is far off. What can we do?
Women need to support other women – we need to raise one another up, and channel our collective power to increase the number and role of women in our industry.

MOLLY WILLMOTT, Association of Alternative Newsmedia:

Seek out successful women in all professions, learn from them, talk to them, and follow their lead – as the challenges we face are often universal.

Reach for the hands that are out ready to help, and don’t forget to have your hand out as well to those coming behind you.

Added tribute:

You can read the 2021 proclamation from President Biden by clicking here.

—Tom Silvestri

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