Metropolitan Editor, The New York Times
Carolyn Ryan is in the newspaper business for the human drama and impact.
When she was 10, the Massachusetts native read two great narratives in The Boston Globe. One story was about the Red Sox, who made it to the World Series in the fall of 1975. (Ryan is a lifelong Sox fan who named her cat Wilson, as in Woodrow, after the president who was in office when the Sox won the series in 1918.) The other was the story of Kevin White, “ a dashing new Boston mayor” who oversaw that city’s busing crisis the same year.
“It was a very exciting time,” she said. “The idea of being able to enter a drama like that was very appealing to me.”
And enter she did, quickly rising as a reporter through the ranks of local papers to become deputy managing editor at the Globe, before joining The New York Times as a deputy metro editor for government and politics in 2007. There was, she learned, no shortage of drama in New York politics.
“You call it a mess, but think about it,” Ryan said. “We had Bloomberg flirting with the presidency; we had Spitzer, who was already having significant issues, then have this unexpected implosion; and then we have the unlikely counter-shift of David Paterson; then we have, again, the unlikely flirtation of Caroline Kennedy with the Senate seat. It’s been sort of spectacular just in terms of these big characters.”
How did you get your start?
I tumbled into a job covering towns and communities for a paper called The Patriot Ledger, where I covered an old mill town and an old beach town. My career kind of took off in 1994, because Ted Kennedy was going to run for reelection, and he had a challenger whose name was Mitt Romney. I put my hand up and said, “Can I cover that race?” No one else wanted to cover it because Ted Kennedy always won reelection pretty easily. As soon as I started covering that race, I was really hooked. That was when my career accelerated and I took off.
On balance, has being a woman helped or hurt?
I traveled on this international trip with some reporters and a Massachusetts political figure—I’ll just leave it at that. The political figure made it very clear that he was eager to…observe and enjoy the attractiveness of the waitresses at the pubs in Ireland, and that that was one of the delights of his trip. I was the only female covering that trip, and I felt like that was awkward.
What is the worst advice anyone ever gave you?
“Go to law school.” I think even though that was a more lucrative time for newspapers, it was seen as a much less stable kind of life. It was seen as a little less respectable, a little less prestigious.”
Tags: Boston Globe, Caroline Kennedy, Carolyn Ryan, Columbus Circle, David Paterson, Eliot Spitzer, fireplace, Ireland, Kevin White, massachusetts, Michael Bloomberg, Mitt Romney, New York Times, Patriot Ledger, politics, Red Sox, Ted Kennedy, waitress, World Series
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