Claire Regan started in journalism at a time when there was only one toilet in the women’s bathroom in her hometown newspaper; now, she leads one of the largest journalism organizations in the nation.
“The ladies room in the newsroom had one stall, one toilet, a closet and a chair. The men’s room had five stalls and that’s how newsrooms were,” Regan said.
Regan describes herself as an accidental journalist, in that this is not the profession she intended to pursue but the one in which she fell in love.
After graduating from Wagner College on Staten Island, the young professional followed in her parents’ footsteps and started substitute teaching in the New York public school system.
In the 1980s, when women were still gaining ground in the newsroom, Regan started her career as a wedding writer at the Staten Island Advance after the registrar at Wagner recommended her for the position. Regan eventually became a copy editor and then a managing editor for the publication, serving 35 years with the paper.
Regan said it was sometimes difficult being the highest-ranking woman in the newsroom and the only woman attending meetings.
“As a woman, sometimes you’re judged more about how you say something, not about what you are saying,” Regan said.
According to the Pew Research Center, women only comprised about 33% of the media workforce in 1982. This number has jumped, but some still harbor concerns about representation in newsroom leadership.
“There are a lot of women in newsrooms [now], but they tend to be reporters and not newsroom leaders, so we have to work on that,” Regan said.
The SPJ president later explained how, despite the difficulties of the media industry, she took on various leadership roles, including becoming president of the New York chapter of SPJ, the Deadline Club, a board member and vice president of SPJ and the ninth female president of SPJ.
As president, Regan made diversity and inclusion a keystone of her administration. Five of her board members are female, including her vice president, Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins, who will succeed Regan as SPJ president for the 2023-2024 term.
The organization also focuses on advancing journalistic initiatives and supporting publications and journalists. Regan’s administration backed and supported the Marion County Record, the Kansas weekly raided by authorities in early August.
Post-presidency, Regan plans to continue advocating for diverse newsrooms and remain active in SPJ while teaching at Wagner College as an assistant professor.