“Intern to editor.” It has a nice ring to it. And in 19 years at the Buffalo News, Margaret Sullivan did just that. She’s been the top editor at the News for 12 years, and one of her goals has been to enrich her newsroom through diversification. Sullivan is the first female editor in the paper’s long history.
She estimates that diversity in the newsroom has increased from 3 percent to 12 percent. Recently she observed just as many women at the news conference table as men and several people of color, she said.
“Overall it’s a good thing because it really reflects on our readers,” she said.
In April, Lisa Wilson, 41, became the only black female sports editor in the country at a large paper, “which is just shocking to me,” Wilson said. ‘I can’t be the only one qualified.” She considers it a “tremendous honor.”
Wilson joined the News in 1998 as a sports copy editor and steadily worked her way up.
“It’s not as hard as you might think,” Wilson said. At the beginning of her career, she might have talked sports a little more to prove her knowledge in a traditionally male-dominated section.
“But now, I don’t think so,” she said. “Everyone knows I’m a female and I run the sports section.” She’s been “in the trenches” with the newsroom staff, to the point where being a black female editor doesn’t make much of a difference.
Sullivan too said she felt like she had paid her dues, although there have been many times when she was the only woman in the room.
“You can feel alone,” she said. “It’s not an entirely pleasant feeling.”
Sullivan prefers to represent her individual views, she said. She laughed when an opinion editor asked her for the women’s point of view for an article. “I thought that was hilarious because I could never try to represent 51 percent of the population,” she said.
In fact, Sullivan represents a tiny percentage of the population. She’s a newspaper editor in Buffalo, one of only an estimated 30 in the city’s history.
“One of them was Mark Twain, and one of them was me!” she said. “It’s a great legacy.”