Women journalists have always been at the forefront of change—so as the U.S. faces compounding crises, it’s no surprise that women journalists are stepping up to bring truth to the public.
During Women’s History Month 2021, the International Women’s Media Foundation and Ms. began spotlighting women journalists who are making the news media stronger, more diverse and equitable. But their work didn’t end on March 31—and neither does ours. Change starts with recognizing the people behind the byline. All year, join us on the last Thursday of the month to learn The Story Behind Her.
This Week: Charo Henríquez
This week, meet Charo Henríquez (@charohenriquez), editor of newsroom development and support at the New York Times.
I am a journalist, but I’m also…
… a champion for traditionally underrepresented people to grow into leadership roles in media, a wife, mother and unapologetically Puerto Rican.
What gaps do you see in the industry that influence your work?
I have spent most of my career, starting in Puerto Rico, as a digital journalist pushing for change in newsrooms and for the adoption of new storytelling tools and formats.
As our audiences change and technology evolves, so should the way we move the journalistic mission further. I’m always curious about the next thing that will disrupt or challenge what we know about how we work. Spotting and addressing those opportunities or gaps between where we are and where we want to be is where I’m happiest in my work.
How do your identities shape your work? When did your intersections help you do your job better or help you approach work differently?
I can’t separate who I am from how I do my work. My life and work experiences shape my points of view. This comes through in how I tackle helping develop a culture of learning and innovation in our newsroom.
In my current job I don’t report or edit stories, but I do a lot of work elevating storytelling skills, connecting to our audiences and helping develop a better understanding on how to serve them. The only way I know to do this work is approaching it through my perspective, but with empathy and understanding of how it impacts others.
What is unique about working in a newsroom on this particular moment in time? (i.e. in the midst of so many compounding crises)
I think one thing I have learned in the last year is that we can only plan or anticipate so much. There are situations we can prepare for and others we have to manage as they come.
On one hand, working in a news organization at this point in time, while living through the situations we are covering, has been incredibly challenging.
On the other, it has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. It is a huge responsibility to be tasked with informing people, particularly in moments of crisis, and helping them understand the world.
At the same time, managing people who are dealing with their own situations at home while doing this work requires a lot of emotional intelligence and an approach centered in the human connections.
What advice do you have for others? Or, what is the best advice a mentor has given you?
As far as career development, the best advice I have received and try to share with others is: Always be open to learning something new.
At the start of your career, be open to learning and trying new things. Don’t fixate on the one thing you want to specialize in, because you might be closing the door on skills or areas of expertise that might become more interesting or can round out your future plans or opportunities.
This applies even in the middle or more senior stages in your career. It’s important to continue developing skills and knowledge of how others around you work and how collaborating with people with different backgrounds and skill sets can enrich your own, as much as you can enrich theirs.
Another good one is lead from a place of empathy. I try to apply this advice to my work every day.
How does your community lift you up? How do you lift up others in your community?
Throughout my career I’ve developed very strong bonds with other digital journalists, particularly with women with similar career paths. I’m on the Board of Directors of Online News Association and have been a member of the faculty for their Women’s Leadership Accelerator for several years.
Having a strong community of women in leadership in digital media has been not only rewarding but also a crucial lifeline in some instances. These are the people you can go to for advice, praise or to commiserate. Sometimes you need a “gut check” or a different perspective on how to tackle a difficult situation, and having a community supporting you is essential. Developing strong support systems in this industry to elevate other women, especially women of color, and creating more pipelines to leadership for us is truly inspiring work.
Who’s in your ideal group chat?
My ideal group chat is literally my most treasured WhatsApp group chat. It’s my three closest girlfriends from Puerto Rico. We have been friends for decades and have kept this running chat through celebrations and hardships. It remains one of my brightest spots, regardless of what’s happening in the world. Knowing that home is one group chat message away is always so comforting.