Ask a Mentor Editor: Frank Grundstrom

franks photoFrank Grundstrom has been a journalist since 1956, and worked for The Boston Globe from 1966 until 1998. Beginning as a copy editor, he served as Assistant Managing Editor for News and went on to found an exchange program between the New England Society of Newspaper Editors and the Union of Soviet Journalists. He has also served as President of the Boston University School of Public Communications Alumni Board.

Frank retired from The Globe in 1998 and moved from Cambridge, MA to Tucson with his wife, Cynthia Dickstein (also an OEP Mentor Editor!) in 2001. He is a Founding member of the Men’s Anti-Violence Partnership of Southern Arizona and Chairs the Social Venture Partners Greater Tucson Investment Committee—a group supporting literacy programs, both financially and with the donated expertise of its members.

I asked Frank some of the questions I’ve been putting to our Mentor Editors over the last few weeks, and here’s what he had to say.

Chloe Angyal: Why do you think there are so few women on the op-ed pages?

Frank Grundstrom: I’ll talk about daily newspapers — I’m not sure I know enough about online opportunities to make a judgment. Op ed page editors have an address book of “experts”.  When the editor needs a piece on a certain subject, he or she contacts the usual expert.  Historically, they are men and the turnover is very slow.  If they need a column on what’s going on in Moscow, they typically call the “guy” who has written for them in the past.  Women have had a tough time breaking into this “club” even when the op ed page editor is a woman.  Regular columnists on major papers are a different story — many of them are now women, although often writing on “soft” subjects. Ellen Goodman and Joan Vennochi at The Globe and many others, however, write regularly on serious policy matters.

CA: What can individual women do to change the situation, and what advice would you give to a young feminist hoping to break into public debate?

FG: As is the case with many fields, part of the challenge is getting an edge. I’m making up these figures but say there is a market for five freelance pieces during a given week at the local paper.  Writing something and submitting it “over the transom” usually doesn’t get the job done or even result in getting the piece looked at. A writer should get to know somebody at the paper, or somebody who knows somebody, who will at least read the submission.  After the first piece is published, it becomes easier.  Once a woman has crossed this barrier she can go to bat (pardon the sports metaphor) for other women.

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