First Female Editor Takes Helm At Daily Hampshire Gazette

Aug 7, 2018

A woman has been hired as top editor at The Daily Hampshire Gazette for the first time in the paper's more-than-230-year history.

Debra Scherban held the position on an interim basis for the past six months. Now Brooke Hauser has been hired in the permanent role. She takes over at a time of financial uncertainty for the Northampton, Massachusetts, based paper.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: Let's talk about this milestone. At this point in history, it seems almost ridiculous that there's never been a permanent woman as the editor-in-chief at the Gazette. What does this history mean to you?

Brooke Hauser, Daily Hampshire Gazette: It means a lot. I've been at the paper for a little over a year, so I'm relatively new, but I've really come to love working there. And you know, I have tremendous respect for the people I work for.

The fact that -- you know, it's very important to me to talk about Deb Scherban, who as interim, was the first editor -- woman editor -- for the Gazette. And she's done a wonderful job leading the newspaper over the past several months. I've learned a lot from her in a very short time.

I think it's newsworthy that she and I are both taking these roles -- she, as the interim editor, and I, as a permanent editor for the Gazette -- as women. Other than that, we're going to do the job exactly the same. It's really not so different whether you're a man or a woman in the role. It is worth noting, though, in 232 years, that there have been a lot of firsts this year.

Your appointment as editor was announced just a day after the publisher Michael Rifanburg announced two layoffs at the paper. Rifanburg wrote that the changes were brought about because the paper's feeling that financial pinch, seeing a declining print readership and also rising newsprint costs. But how will the smaller staff impact the paper that you're hoping to produce?

Well, the staff is smaller by two on the editorial side, so we still have around 30 people at the paper. And there has been some reorganization. One of the things we've done is taken The Valley Advocate under the features wing of the paper at the Gazette.

I'm excited about where we're going. Sometimes when there are -- you know, there are rising costs, for instance, with the newsprint tariffs. It's a tough time to be a newspaper right now. There are ways that you can think creatively about the kind of paper that you want to put out, and that's what I've been trying to do.

You're not alone -- with several of the other editors, and with the publishers, just think about how we can expand our digital coverage, how we can engage more with the community, including with students.

We have really great reporters working for us, I want to say, and we're about to bring on two more reporters, as well as a features editor, who I'm really, really excited about.

We also use interns from the colleges. One of my goals is to strengthen what's already a very strong internship program, and specifically, to do that with the colleges in our area, because we do take interns from colleges all around the country.

To me it's very important to -- it's a community newspaper. I feel that we should be using interns from our own community, or at least who are living here temporarily, while they're going to one of the colleges in the area.

You mentioned The Valley Advocate, which has now been brought under the control of the Gazette. The Advocate has long publicized itself as independent. It's different from the mainstream media. How can that remain true if it's being edited by the same people who are running the Gazette?

Well, it's going to be handled by a former Advocate staffer. He's going to be doing a lot of that work, and supervised by the arts and culture editor, basically. And that's all part of the features department. So yes, The Valley Advocate will still have an independent voice.

I think that the Gazette has an independent voice. It's not the alternative voice, but it's still a small, family-owned business. And so to me, the Gazette also has an independent voice. It's just not an alt-weekly.

You've been at the Gazette for over a year as a features editor. So when you were there in February, when former executive editor Jeff Good said he was fired for advocating for fair pay for young female journalists, his version of events was questioned. But one thing was clear: the Gazette did have some pay equity issues that needed to work out. What are you going to do as editor to make sure that there's pay equity among your staff?

We have a pay scale for reporters. So we have been talking among ourselves and communicating more openly in recent months. And you know, as far as the last permanent editor in that role, I really don't have much to say about that that hasn't been said already. I think it was fairly well-covered in the press. My goal, really with everything, is to be honoring the past, but pushing us into the future.

Clearly, we have a lot of women in very high positions right now. I just hired another one for the features editor role, and we also have a really fantastic new digital editor who I'm very excited about. She and have been already working very closely. So I think the proof is in the pudding. We're moving forward and we have a lot of women in top positions, and we have a lot of men in top positions too. It is what it is.

Run a scenario here: what would you do if somebody on the team came to you, and said they thought that they were being paid less than a male who is doing a comparable job?

I would look at the pay scale. That's something that we're always kind of mindful of now. If I needed to, I would talk to the publisher about it, but we're very aware of trying to make things fair for everyone.