On January 10, Nancy Meyer made journalism history when she became the Houston Chronicle’s first female and first lesbian publisher. Her new job is a perfect fit for someone whose family had a lifetime love of newspapers.
“My father was a voracious newspaper reader, with four newspapers coming to our home—the New York Times, Newark Star Ledger, New Brunswick Home News, and the Hillsborough Beacon,” the 58-year-old recalls about her upbringing in New Jersey. “I majored in communication studies and wrote a few articles for my college newspaper. But writing under a deadline took away the enjoyment of writing, so I moved to the business side. As I tell our staff regularly, no matter your role or position, you help support the role that strong journalism plays in our community. That remains our core mission.”
Meyer brings three decades of newspaper experience to the Chronicle, including her years as publisher of the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Hartford Courant. Between 2016 and 2018, she was president of the Bergen Record of New Jersey, part of Gannett’s USA Today network. She was president of the Miami Herald for less than a year when she was recruited by Hearst for the Chronicle job. Her hiring is somewhat of a homecoming for Meyer, as she was the advertising director at two Hearst papers between 1997 and 2006: the Times Union of Albany, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Being a lesbian journalist hasn’t really been a problem in today’s newspaper business.
“I can’t remember a specific obstacle, but I think sometimes these challenges can be nuanced,” she says. “For example, I learned how to play golf because it was easy to see relationships and business [deals are made] on the golf course, and it was predominantly my male colleagues playing. But I also arranged spa days for our female clients. I think of the lyrics in the play Hamilton: ‘I want to be in the room where it happens.’ Leaders need to pay attention to these nuances and ensure they bring unique voices to the forefront. Invite them into the room.
“This was also a strong reason for my return to Hearst. When I first joined Hearst in my early thirties, my publisher at the time took me to lunch and asked me directly if I had a partner. The newspaper publishing world is a small place, and I said yes. He said, ‘I hope she knows she is now part of the Times Union/Hearst family, and [I also hope] you both feel welcomed.’ From that moment, bringing my unique leadership perspective as a woman who is part of the LGBTQ+ community was a strong differentiator. He welcomed me professionally, and also held his hand out and welcomed me personally.”
Although Meyer also has a strong background in digital media, she doesn’t see the demise of print anytime soon.
“I see this as a both/and, not an either/or,” Meyer explains. “More than half of Houston households receive a Houston Chronicle product delivered to their home every week. The Houston Chronicle, the Conroe Courier, La Voz, and twelve unique weekly titles are hand-delivered to over one million households. Print remains a vitally important product for our audience. And we are aggressively investing in our digital future, houstonchronicle.com, chron.com, HC app, the E-Newspaper (an electronic replica of the newspaper) as well as social media. We will be where our audience prefers to read us. It’s not the platform, but the journalism that should matter.”
More importantly, she feels that the Chronicle’s brand of journalism is on point. “I sound like a commercial,” she admits, “but the Houston Chronicle is woven into the fabric of our Houston community. We have been the storytellers of this great community for over 121 years—a trusted voice, respected, debated, a convener of civic conversation. We are a watchdog, holding those in positions of power accountable. I want to maintain strong journalism that our community can depend upon. Today’s audiences expect more—more digitally, more breaking news, and more local news. I would expect you will see expansion around these key areas. In addition, it is so vitally important to ensure our diverse communities see themselves in the Houston Chronicle, houstonchronicle.com, and chron.com. Rebuilding and strengthening our community connections is a priority. And just as important, ensuring we have great talent and that the culture within our organization is supportive—one where our employees can thrive professionally and personally.”
Meyer and her wife, Melissa Macri, have settled into Houston life just fine, although they are still house-hunting.
“We have been spending a lot of time doing weekend open houses,” Meyer says. “We love exploring all the unique neighborhoods of Houston. We spent a day in Galveston, attended my first women’s MLS Dash match, and got to see a production at The Alley. The adventure of a new city is invigorating. The restaurant scene here has so many choices. While I’ve tried some great food, I’ve really enjoyed Ouisie’s Table. Since I’m not from the South, enjoying some Southern comfort food has been great. I also just tried Kiran’s wonderful Indian flavors. I’m checking things off the Chronicle’s famed Alison Cook’s Top 100.”
The couple has also been enjoying long walks in Tanglewood and Memorial Park with their adorable Cocker Spaniel, Daisy. She has found Houston very dog-friendly, although she’s still looking for the perfect groomer. They also love to read, play golf, cook, and entertain. And she does plan to be involved in the community here.
“I typically give it six months to get grounded in my role, and then I start to get involved in community and business organizations,” Meyer says. “Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community will be a priority.”
For more info, visit houstonchronicle.com.
This article appears in the June 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.