Sandra Clark ’14 MBA, Managing Editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer
This story originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Arcadia magazine.
Eye-catching covers from The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Features sections greet visitors entering Sandra Clark’s office in the historic former Strawbridge’s building at 8th and Market Streets, which now houses the Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com. A ceiling-to-floor print from her revamped Arts & Entertainment section hangs on the opposite wall.
As managing editor of the Inquirer, Sandra Clark ’14MBA oversees print and online content for 10 arts, entertainment, and lifestyle sections a week. Leading nearly half of the newsroom of 200, she also manages the paper’s digital operations and all of the production departments, which include the copy desk, news desk, graphics and design, and photo.
And, of course, she’s always after a great story.
An accidental journalist
Clark’s first venture into journalism started with a high school writing workshop at the University of Kansas, where she was assigned to interview the family of a collegiate basketball star who died unexpectedly. That prompted a shift for Clark, who always loved writing but had intended to become a doctor.
“I’m an accidental journalist,” said Clark, who thinks “great stories are those that impact our lives in ways that people don’t even realize. Part of our job [as journalists] is to connect dots for readers.”
While studying at the University of Kansas, Clark was recruited for a copy-editing internship by the Inquirer’s Acel Moore, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and one of Philadelphia’s most venerable columnists, who championed opportunities for minority journalists. As an intern, Clark learned that while journalism has always been and will remain about telling a captivating story, a successful newspaper requires several moving parts.
With nearly three decades of newsroom experience, Clark helps to chart the budgetary, personnel, and editorial course for the Inquirer and represents the newsroom in determining company-wide strategies. What she finds most gratifying is working with every part of the company outside the newsroom as well, from advertising and marketing to systems, customer service, and circulation.
“When you’re in management, you have to understand the business side as much as you understand the editorial side,” explained Clark. “I think my MBA experience at Arcadia gave me the tools to not only understand all parts of my company, but also to make meaningful contributions.”
Changing culture of readers
Clark had left the Inquirer in 1990 for six years to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. After her tour, she worked as a microenterprise consultant for Africare in Guinea-Bissau and as an acting country representative and administrator for a development agency in Mozambique. It was Arcadia’s global mission and international education components that convinced her to enroll in the University’s MBA with a Global Perspective program, through which she traveled to Prague and Panama with her cohort before earning an MBA in 2014.
Clark’s focus now is on tackling the changing culture of readers, who are consuming information more than ever but via different vehicles. While print is hardly dead—the Inquirer reaches more than a million readers each week—the shrinking newspaper industry faces a barrage of challenges as readers continue to shift to social media, blogs, and other digital sources for news.
“Our industry has gone through such rapid transformation, and that has put big demands on our newsroom leaders as we reinvent the business model,” said Stan Wischnowski, vice president for news operations at Philadelphia Media Network, parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com. “Sandy’s ability to balance the journalism with the business needs has been nothing short of extraordinary. It is no coincidence that her department won a coveted Pulitzer Prize last year, while also launching one of our most successful new sections—‘Live, Life, Love’—in the Sunday Inquirer.”
While the news industry must adapt, Clark believes many traditional traits of top-notch journalists—such as an ability to step outside of one’s comfort zone—are necessary for success in many fields.
“The skills you learn in journalism will serve you well regardless of the profession that you’re in,” said Clark. “The idea that you can walk into a completely foreign space, observe your surroundings, figure out the people you should talk to and the questions you should ask, and organize your ideas without making assumptions and present them well are important skills to have no matter what you do.”