About me

I’m an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University where I teach graduate and undergraduate classes that support students in cultivating digitally relevant skills in verification, story craft and audience engagement. I’m also a faculty affiliate of the NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks and the advisor for The Scope, a student-run experimental digital magazine dedicated to telling neighborhood stories of justice, hope and resilience.

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

I write regularly for a variety of publications about the intersection of gender, technology and journalism, and my recent work has appeared in USA Today, The Boston Globe and the Columbia Journalism Review. I also continue to work as an occasional consultant for local news organizations striving to find their voices online. (Want details about my consulting services? Shoot me an email at mheckman32 at gmail dot com or ping me on Twitter.)

I’m a past president of the New Hampshire Press Association, have served twice as a Pulitzer juror and am the Northern New England regional captain for the Journalism and Women Symposium. My graduate thesis – Where the Women Are: Measuring Female Leadership in the New Journalism Ecology – is the foundation for my ongoing efforts to ensure that the future of journalism is crafted by diverse practitioners who understand the importance of finding and telling inclusive stories.

For more, see my CV.

Photo credit: Josh Qualls

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Recent work

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Bylines, awards, updates

2018-2019

Along with several colleagues from Northeastern’s College of Arts, Media and Design, I spoke at the National Academy of Sciences in April 2019 at an event called Branches From the Same Tree: A National Convening on the Integration of Arts, Humanities, and STEMM in Higher Education. For more, click here.

I’m researching the career of Nackey Scripps Loeb, the influential but often overlooked publisher of the Manchester (NH) Union Leader. In 2017, I won a seed grant from the NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks to digitize and analyze her many editorials.  I presented preliminary results in 2018 at conferences in New York City and Washington, D.C., and I’m now writing a biography focused on Loeb’s impact on conservative politics during the late 20th century. Loeb’s career is fascinating, but this project has also been a reminder about the importance of finding new ways to ask questions – something I write about here.

Along with my colleague John Wihbey, I’m studying the relationship between local newspapers and mobile news delivery. Our work won top paper abstract in the Media Management, Economics and Entrepreneurship Division at the 2018 AEJMC Midwinter Conference in Norman, Oklahoma, and we presented a related poster at the main AEJMC conference in Washington, D.C. last summer. I shared some results of our research with local publishers at the 2019 New England Newspaper Convention.

In October 2018, Northeastern hosted a conference called AI, the Media and the Threat to Democracy. The panel I organized and moderated – AI on the Beat: How Journalists are Using and Covering Bots, Algorithms and Whatever Comes Next – brought together working journalists from a variety of news organizations to discuss approaches to this kind of emerging technology.

2017-2018

USA Today published my column about how Hollywood portrayals of serious newswomen like Meryl Streep’s Katharine Graham can help improve conditions for real-life female journalists.

I wrote about chatbots in local newsrooms for the Columbia Journalism Review.

I appeared twice in 2018 as a guest on New Hampshire Public Radio’s morning talk show, The Exchange. In January, I talked about the movie The Post. In July, I was part of a panel discussing the aftermath of the shooting at the Capital Gazette.

In February 2018 , I organized and moderated a well-attended event at Northeastern called  Gender, Power and Journalism: Covering #metoo, #timesup and what’s coming next.

In September 2017, I was the keynote speaker at the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s regional training in Concord, New Hampshire where I gave a talk called What matters: Current trends in digital journalism.

(Note for any readers who aren’t journalism professors: AEJMC = Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.) 

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.

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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.