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Spartan Profiles: Susan Goldberg



  • Author:
    Paula M. Davenport
  • Published:
    Fall 2014

Goldberg, ’84, Puts Focus on Daily News as Editor of National Geographic

            Susan Goldberg, ’84, is doing something no woman has done before. She’s moved into the executive editor’s office at National Geographic magazine, in Washington, D.C.The esteemed monthly magazine, with its signature gold-framed border, is printed in 36 languages and boasts 8.3 million subscribers, about 5 million of them in the United States.

            Goldberg is expected to introduce day-to-day, minute-to-minute news coverage for its hyper-connected global followers, according to media watchers.Goldberg brings 34 years of daily news experience to the task—using technology that didn't exist when the National Geographic Society was formed in 1888 by 33 storied scientists and academics.

            Being first is familiar territory for Goldberg, too. She was the first woman to run the newsrooms of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and San Jose Mercury News. Stints at Bloomberg News, USA Today and metro dailies in Seattle and Detroit round out her résumé. 

            “The topics that are central to National Geographic’s coverage—the environment, climate change, science, innovation, cultures—are also central to the nation’s conversation about the future,” says Goldberg, who began her position in April after starting as executive editor for news and features in January. “National Geographic has a growing daily news operation putting out lively, relevant, timely stories on our digital products—our website, mobile and video. We can cover what people are talking about in the moment.”

            An Ann Arbor native, she chose Michigan State University for its top journalism program. “But what has stuck with me most was reporting at The State News (the daily campus newspaper). I worked there just about every hour I wasn’t in class, and it provided the most valuable experience possible: the work of actually writing and reporting stories for readers. I will never forget those days—the clatter of the typewriters, the smell of the rubber cement and the understanding that it takes a team to publish the news,” Goldberg says.

            An eight-week internship the summer after her junior year grew into an immediate fulltime job offer at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which became online-only in 2009. “I dropped out for a few years. But I eventually went back to MSU at night when I joined the Detroit Free Press, graduating with the class of 1984,” Goldberg says.

            She’s established the Susan B. Goldberg Journalism Internship Award to help student-journalists take advantage of internships, some of which are now unsalaried.

            The media industry is experiencing explosive change. “It’s a great time to be a journalist,” Goldberg says. “Student journalists have the power to invent the future of news and information. So embrace change! Be one of those bold, brave people who are eager to learn about smart new ideas and approaches. Then, share them with your elders!”