Troy Aikman or Drew Brees? Drew Brees. I’m a Saints fan. Drew did so much for New Orleans and my home state.
We had some fun over the years on our blog with the pretentious name of your predecessor’s dog, which was Story. Do you have any pets? I personally don’t have a pet, but my mother lives with me. I call her my sister. So we have a 12-year-old Shih Tzu in my house named Stella. I love Stella.
You are the first woman and first Black journalist to lead the newsroom. You were also a double first at your last job. How is the double first different here in Dallas than it was in Indianapolis? It’s a much bigger city. I think there’s probably even more expectations that I not just do a phenomenal job but I give back to this community. Dallas has been very welcoming. I haven’t felt as if people see me just with that lens, that double whammy, if you will. I was worried about that, to be honest. I think many people tend to think, “Oh, well, that’s why they got that position.” In my case, I wanted that not to be the first thing that was mentioned in a story, because that’s not why I got this position. I think it’s great that I’ve accomplished those milestones. In some ways, it’s also a little sad. But what I really want to be recognized for is the hard work that I’ve done and that the newsrooms that I’ve worked in have done that can help me come here and make the News even stronger and better.
The hedge fund Alden Global seems hellbent on buying up every newspaper in the country and destroying journalism as we know it. How are you going to keep the Dallas Morning News safe? I think we have a phenomenal owner in this community. The [Decherd] family believes in local journalism and that we shouldn’t have to ever deal with companies like Alden coming here and trying to dictate what our journalism should look like. The family lives here. They’re invested in this community. And that’s one of the reasons why I came here, frankly.
The New York Times has more subscribers in Dallas than does your paper. What does that tell you? It tells me that we need to do a much better job of being indispensable to this community, that some of the choices we’ve made probably haven’t served our community well. So for me, it means I have a wonderful opportunity to come here and help us figure out our priorities. We’re in the throes of brainstorming what that looks like. I’ll give you an example: we didn’t have a health writer when I started, in August. Now we do.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you hate the fact that your newsroom has unionized? I think it’s great to see a staff who could unite and fight for what they believe in. That’s what we expect our journalists to do in their jobs. The downside for me is there might be discussions I’d like to have with certain staffers that I feel like, well, I probably shouldn’t do that because I have to make sure I go through the union. But I like that they’re fighting for each other. There are pros and cons in my eyes.
What’s the most embarrassing mistake you’ve committed to print? Oh, I’ll never forget it. I was a reporter at the Virginian-Pilot. We were writing a story about the lottery. I made the mistake of doing some math and trying to compute some statistic about the lottery that became the front-page headline. I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life, and I just felt horrible.
When you leave your job, what is the thing that everyone will remember about your tenure? I hope they think that I helped our newsroom be as aggressive, as bold, as revelatory, and as inspiring as it’s ever been.