Debra Adams Simmons Speaks on the Future of Print Journalism
March 3, 2011
“This is a vibrant and dynamic time for the Plain Dealer, but the news of our death has been greatly exaggerated,” said Debra Adams Simmons the recently appointed editor of The Cleveland Plain Dealer (PD), one of the top 20 newspapers in the country and the largest in Ohio.
Simmons approached the podium in a brown suit with gold accessories looking as confident as the words she spoke at the luncheon hosted by the Professional Chapter of the Cleveland Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) at the City Club on Feb. 23.
The path to editor began in high school when Simmons knew journalism was the career for her.
A Hartford, Conn. native Simmons came to the PD as managing editor in 2007 and resides in Copley Township with her family.
Simmons took over as editor in October 2010 after Susan Goldberg left to lead the west coast operations of The Bloomberg News.
Simmons is the first African-American woman to head a top 25 newspaper and the only editor to hold that position at both of the leading newspapers in the region, The Akron Beacon Journal and The Plain Dealer.
Simmons is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences as well as Northwestern University Media Management Center’s Advanced Executive Program in its Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
Along with her impressive credentials, Simmons has worked at several well-known newspapers such as the Detroit Free Press, Virginian-Pilot, Hartford Courant and the Syracuse Herald-Journal.
There will always be a need for print journalism despite the new ways news is received, Simmons said, “Newspapers all over the country [will] continue to be the life blood of their communities writing stories that the readers couldn’t get anywhere else.”
The keep up with the changes in news delivery, Simmons said, “We’ll explore even more innovative ways to distribute our work: the Web, social media, mobile, iPad, and ways not discovered yet.”
“Our [journalists] competitive advantage is our credibility and our expertise,” said Simmons, which are the keys to success for both current and future journalists with some many avenues competing for reader’s attention.
Convergence has brought change to the newsroom because reporters must produce stories for the print edition, update the Web site, and shoot photos and video to address the reader’s growing demands for 24-hour news.
“It was interesting to hear her articulate the various steps that led to her present position and the appreciation of those she met along the way,” said Betty Clapp, adjunct faculty member at CSU’s School of Communication and SPJ board member. “Some of what she projects for technology and new applications [for iPad, Droid, and Blackberry] at the PD sound very exciting.”
Simmons suggests to future journalists to not only learn about AP Style and proper writing techniques, but explore photography, video and sound to become a well rounded potential employee. But it will be your competitive edge that no one else possesses that will make you employable in this current industry.