About

Meg Heckman is a journalist, author and educator focused on building a news ecosystem that is robust, diverse and equipped to serve all segments of society. Her core research examines the practice and evolution of journalism through a feminist lens with the goal of better understanding the role women have played in the creation of news and, by extension, civic life.

Because an important element of inclusive journalism is ensuring the tools of media innovation are available to all communities, Meg also engages in research exploring the contours of digital news production and dissemination, especially as it relates to local newspapers. She embraces a variety of qualitative practices—oral history, archival research, case studies, ethnography—and collaborates often with colleagues using quantitative methods in the digital humanities, gender studies, sociology and data science.

Her book, Political Godmother: Nackey Scripps Loeb and the Newspaper That Shook the Republican Party, documents the lasting impact of publisher and conservative activist Nackey Scripps Loeb, who, during the second half of the twentieth century, used her New Hampshire-based newspaper to shape national politics in ways that still reverberate today. The book, according to one reviewer, “not only chronicles the life of a fascinating woman but also the rise of right-wing populism in American politics and the strategies and tactics conservative media organizations… successfully implemented to foster growth over the past several decades.”

Meg strives to distribute her research in ways that contribute to building more inclusive news organizations now and in the future.  Her work has appeared in a variety of periodicals including the Columbia Journalism Review, USA Today, Poynter.org and The Conversation, as well as scholarly publications such as the Newspaper Research Journal and Teaching Journalism and Mass Communication.  She’s presented work at academic conferences in the U.S., Europe and Canada, and is a regular speaker at events for news industry leaders. In 2019, she was a delegate to the World Journalism Education Congress in Paris where her duties included serving on a committee tasked with developing best practices for gender-inclusive journalism education.

She is currently an assistant professor at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism and Media Innovation. Before coming to Northeastern in the fall of 2017, Meg was a journalism lecturer at the University of New Hampshire where she served as a faculty fellow at the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center. She spent more than a decade as a reporter and, later, the digital editor at the Concord (NH) Monitor, where she developed a fascination with presidential politics, a passion for local news and an appreciation for cars with four-wheel drive.

Meg teaches a mix of graduate and undergraduate classes that support students in cultivating skills in verification, story craft and audience engagement. She also developed a course that explores gender dynamics in the news industry. She is a faculty affiliate of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, an executive committee member for Northeastern’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program and the vice head of AEJMC’s Commission on the Status of Women.  She is also a past president of the New Hampshire Press Association and has served twice as a Pulitzer juror.

 

Book

Political Godmother: Nackey Scripps Loeb and the Newspaper That Shook the Republican Party

UntitledNewspaper publisher and GOP kingmaker Nackey Scripps Loeb headed the Union Leader Corporation, one of the most unusual—and unusually influential—local newspaper companies in the United States. Her unapologetic conservatism and powerful perch in the home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary elicited fear and respect while her leadership of New Hampshire’s Union Leader gave her an outsized role in American politics.

In Political Godmother Meg Heckman looks at Loeb’s rough-and-tumble political life against the backdrop of the right-wing media landscape of the late twentieth century. Heckman reveals Loeb as a force of nature, more than willing to wield her tremendous clout and able to convince the likes of Pat Buchanan to challenge a sitting president. Although Loeb initially had no interest in the newspaper business, she eventually penned more than a thousand front-page editorials, drew political cartoons, and became a regular on C-SPAN.

A fascinating look at power politics in action, Political Godmother reveals how one woman ignited conservatism’s transformation of the contemporary Republican Party.

Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press, June 2020.

Available wherever books are sold… but please support your local bookstore if you can.

 

 

CV

For a recent version of my CV, please click here.

I had a blog once…

This website began as a grad school blogging project inspired by something Virginia Woolf wrote long before the advent of even the most giant and rudimentary computers. In Three Guineas, she responds to a letter from an unidentified gentleman, describing the limits placed on women in the early 20th Century:

Both the Army and the Navy are closed to our sex. We are not allowed to fight. Nor again are we allowed to be members of the Stock Exchange. …We cannot preach sermons or negotiate treaties. Then again although it is true that we can write articles or send letters to the Press, the control of the Press — the decision what to print, what not to print — is entirely in the hands of your sex.

George_Charles_Beresford_-_Virginia_Woolf_in_1902_-_Restoration
Woolf in 1902. Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Much has changed in the 100 years since Woolf wrote these words.  Women serve in the military, run for public office and work as stockbrokers, ministers and, yes, journalists. But decisions about what is and isn’t news still rest largely in the hands of white men. Worldwide, women represent just one-third of working journalists. They’re even less common in the highest ranks of major news organizations and, as my own research suggests, this trend may be repeating itself at digital startups.

As journalism relies more heavily on technology and entrepreneurship — two more areas where men tend to dominate — how can we ensure women and other underrepresented groups will have a hand in building the future of news? What does their participation — or lack thereof — mean for the kinds of stories that will be told? What can we learn about the women who shaped early versions of digital journalism? And how might that history illuminate a path to a more inclusive media ecosystem?

I began to seek answers to these questions on my blog and continue to explore them through my writing and academic research. My posts are (very) sporadic but you can see them — and the blog’s full archive — here.