The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, a daily newspaper serving Massachusetts’ second-largest city, has been witness to a lot of history since its founding in 1866.

Editor Leah Lamson has spent almost her entire career with the newspaper and has witnessed many changes there and in the broader newspaper industry as well.Leah Lamson

With The New York Times Co.’s sale of The Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette to Red Sox owner and businessman John Henry looming, I spoke with Leah and got her perspective on the newspaper’s history, where the industry is heading, and where she sees opportunities for growth. (Note: The sale of the Telegram was finalized one week after our conversation.)

Tell me a little bit about the Telegram, its history, and where it is today.
We are in our 147th year. The Telegram & Gazette actually had many different owners over the years until around 1925, when a corporation was formed to create the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. When I started with the newspaper in 1978, it was two different newspapers: the Worcester Telegram, which was the morning edition, and the Evening Gazette, which was the evening edition. I worked for the Gazette. We were in the same newsroom and had competing staffs. So the Gazette people always wanted to get a story before the Telegram people, and vice versa. It made for some pretty interesting times.

In 1986, we were sold to Chronicle Publishing of San Francisco. Then we were purchased by The New York Times Co. in 2000. We, along with The Boston Globe, formed what The New York Times called the New England Media Group.

And now, we are being sold by The New York Times to John Henry, and a new corporation will be formed called Boston Globe Media Partners. That should be finalized sometime this month.

Do you have any sense yet of what will be different with that venture?
That’s a great question, and a question we’re asking ourselves. Being owned by The New York Times, you know what the Times is and what they stand for, and that’s practicing journalism with a capital J. Everything I’ve read about John Henry is that he’s an upstanding businessman, very ethical and very smart, so we have every reason to believe that he’s going to take us to another level. We just don’t know what that is yet; he hasn’t shared his strategy publicly.

A lot of big fish are gobbling the small fish, so a lot of newspaper chains are buying up properties. But another trend that John Henry sort of falls into is the wealthy businessmen buying newspapers, which makes us feel good about the future of the industry. Warren Buffett has bought a lot of newspapers recently, Jeff Bezos just bought The Washington Post, and you have John Henry buying the Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette. So there is still a belief by some very smart people that this business has a future.

Tell me about your role at the newspaper.
I never really know what my day is going to be like, which is why I love this profession—every day is a little bit different. But basically I am responsible for the overall editorial direction of the newspaper and the website. Does that mean that I read every story before it goes into the paper? No. But I do get involved in determining what we’re going to put on Page 1 every day, and I will read any kind of sensitive stories if there’s an issue about fairness or unidentified sources or taste, or any kind of legal question.

I start my day around 10 a.m. We have two news meetings each day. The first one is at 10:30. We get together with the section editors, the managing editors, the photo editor, and the graphics editor, and we look at what we’re working on for the newspaper tomorrow and what we’re working on for the web today.  That includes what videos are we doing, and making sure that reporters and editors are using all the social media tools that are available to us. Then the day just kind of unfolds. There are a lot of administrative tasks that I have, plus there are budget responsibilities. I’m also sort of the face of the newspaper in public.

As the editor, I intersect with the other departments at the paper, such as circulation, advertising, marketing, IT. Basically, I go to a lot of meetings! I’m sort of the point person in the department to attend those other departmental meetings. If I bookend my day, then at 5:00, we’ll have another news meeting in which we get a much better sense of what we have for tomorrow’s paper. After that meeting, the last part of my day is spent catching up with email and dealing with any other kind of issues that might have cropped up. I usually leave here at 8:00 at night.

We publish every day of the week. Fridays are the day from hell because not only are you thinking about your Saturday paper, but you’re thinking about your Sunday paper and Monday too.

How did you get started in this industry?
I went to high school in Hudson, Mass., and I always enjoyed writing. I had great English teachers at Hudson High. Then I went to Simmons College in Boston. I sort of thought I wanted to be a special education teacher; I was always interested in teaching. Then, because I liked writing and because I was homesick and wanted to fill some time, I saw that the school newspaper was looking for some reporters, so I signed up to cover some stuff and it just opened up a whole new world for me. I absolutely loved it. I loved it because I learned all the time, and because of the people I met. It was during the feminist movement, and I got to cover a talk by Germaine Greer, who wrote The Female Eunoch. Later, at the Telegram & Gazette, I interviewed author Erica Jong. And of course you see your first byline, and it’s like seeing your name in lights.

When I was at Simmons, I actually interned for the Telegram & Gazette my senior year. When I graduated with a degree in Communications, I applied to the Telegram but they said no, go get some daily experience at a smaller newspaper. So I worked at the Fitchburg Sentinel for two years and then reapplied here and was hired in 1978.

How has this field evolved for women from your perspective, and, based on where things are now, where are you seeing opportunities for women in media?
I think it’s gone through quite an evolution in terms of women in this industry. I was sitting in one of the news meetings recently and looked around the room. There were probably about 15 of us, and 14 were women. And so I think the opportunities for women in this business have really opened up.

Unfortunately, the newspaper industry isn’t doing a lot of hiring, and I do think that there is sort of a glass ceiling. I think if you look around the country, you’ll see that the editors of many top newspapers are still men. But I find it interesting that a lot of the issues that we used to think were just female issues of juggling work schedules to balance your work and home life are also issues for men these days. I think there’s a sort of equalization of concern about balancing family and work. And unfortunately, I think that this industry is a difficult one whether you’re male or female, in terms of that balance. It’s all-consuming, since we publish seven days a week, 365 days a year, and we work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Obviously, digital and mobile are big advances in the industry. What’s your opinion about where that’s going, and where you think the benefits and potential successes are?
I think that at a high level, everyone is still trying to figure this out, but we’re all moving in the same direction, which is a business that’s based in legacy print journalism evolving into a business that’s mobile and digital. I think that the difficult part is that for the most part, the revenue is still coming from the legacy operation. Until you can really make that leap where you’re getting the economic support from your digital operation to support the staff that you need, you still need to do both.

I don’t think print is dead; I think it’s changing. Having said that, we have to be mindful of where our audience is going and how they want to consume information. We have a very vibrant website, and we happen to have a metered model. We also have an e-edition, and that’s available on three different platforms—mobile, tablet and desktop. We just rolled out a tablet app, and we have what we call Mobile TG; you can get information on your mobile device.

What are the successes that you and your group have seen in making this transition?
In terms of making our information available on any device that you want to consume it on, we’ve been able to grow our audience. I think that that is huge for us. Back in the good old days of just newspapers, there were always what we called pass-along copies, so you knew more than just your paid circulation was seeing your newspaper. Now, we’ve been able to grow in great leaps and bounds the number of people who are seeing our information in some way, shape, or form.

What other challenges would you like to tackle?
I think one of the next big things that we need to do is really expand in the area of video production. We do have videos on the website, and they’re very good—they’re videos of news events and breaking news by our photographers, and they do some really nice feature videos as well. But Worcester is the second-largest city in New England, and it doesn’t have its own TV station. So, is there an opportunity there for an expansion of what we do? In other words, would we want to put up a noon newscast on our website?

If you were to speak to a young woman just starting out in the industry, what would be your advice?
I’ve often said that I wouldn’t hire myself to be a reporter today. These days, you have to be a multimedia journalist. You have to do video on our cellphone and know about all the social media that’s out there, so you really have to be more highly skilled in a technical sense than I was many years ago. But, having said that, I think that you don’t want the balance to tip on that either, and you have to have a foundation in journalism. So my advice would be, get that foundation, but also make sure that you have skills in all these other areas, because that’s what the business needs.

I also want to emphasize that I do think the industry has a really bright future. We haven’t all figured it out, but as long as we keep putting runs on the board, I think we’re moving in the right direction.

Technology for Publishing’s Women in Media blog highlights the news and achievements of female leaders and role models in the publishing and media industry. Look for our monthly in-depth profiles and interviews of top women to watch. Is there someone you’d like to nominate for an upcoming Q&A? Drop us a note!

Posted by: Margot Knorr Mancini

A thought leader in the publishing industry, Margot Knorr Mancini has helped numerous publishers redefine their missions to become nimble content generators with the ability to repurpose content easily and efficiently. As Founder & CEO of Technology for Publishing, her analytical mind allows her to remain a step ahead of the industry, recognizing early trends and developing pivotal best practices.