INMA President Maribel Perez Wadsworth looks to the future

By Paula Felps


Nashville, Tennessee, United States


In June, INMA elected Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of Gannett Media, to the position of INMA’s global president. Wadsworth will serve in that position through 2024.

The veteran journalist turned Gannett executive worked in a variety of roles at community newspapers — from reporter to managing editor — before joining Gannett as digital news executive in 2009. She was the company’s first chief transformation officer, which brought together content, product, and strategy to create premium journalism, discover innovations in storytelling, and explore the use of AI and other emerging technologies.  

INMA recently talked with Wadsworth to learn her thoughts on what’s ahead for the organisation and for the news media industry overall. 

INMA: What can the INMA community expect in terms of priorities from your presidency?

Wadsworth: It is a great honour to assume the presidency of this great organisation and to follow the excellent leadership of our immediate past president, Damian Eales. Over the last two years, through the challenges of the pandemic, INMA has only become stronger, adding value for its members and expanding programming in a virtual environment. Earl [Wilkinson], our initiative leads, and the INMA staff have done a remarkable job.

In terms of my own priorities, I am looking forward to a strategic relaunch of some in-person events over the coming year as well as our inaugural Vail Executive Roundtable. We are at a unique moment in time where a confluence of business model pressure and political forces are intersecting to put enormous strain on the media industry worldwide. I know that INMA, with its focus on education and forging global connection, can play a key role in helping our members to meet these challenges.

And finally, I want to continue to call attention to the need for further gender and racial diversity in the leadership ranks of media companies as a moral and business imperative.

INMA: What technology/technologies do you see as offering the biggest opportunity for media companies in the future? What are your thoughts on the metaverse, blockchain, and Web3 tech? 

Wadsworth: The emerging technologies of Web3 — blockchain (crypto, NFTs) Artificial Intelligence, fast Internet (5G, fiber, Starlink), and extended reality (AR, VR, and mixed reality) — change both how we interact with the Web and the plumbing behind the scenes. The intention is to disrupt current business models, but Web3 has a long way to go before it can realistically achieve that impact.

Today there are countless layers of technology between each of us and our daily lives that moderate our access to news and information, mediate our relationships with friends and family, filter our impressions of products and services, influence our acceptance of basic facts, and promote social division. Tomorrow’s immersive environments can help us understand others and teach us things that are otherwise hard to understand.

With foresight, experimentation, and creativity, these technologies can help us better inform audiences and strengthen bonds between us and our consumers and within the communities we serve. But we ignore the business model disruption at our peril: Big Tech is placing huge bets and devoting massive resources to the framework, and we need to devote that same foresight, experimentation, and creativity to adapt our business as we do to adapting our storytelling.

INMA: What advice do you have for media companies struggling to retain good talent right now? 

Wadsworth: Embrace the flexibility that a global pandemic has taught us is possible. Devote the time and resources to evolve workflows and culture so that employees feel a sense of community and belonging, whether they are working remotely or in person. Understand that different benefits, communication styles, development opportunities, etc., resonate differently for different employees. It’s not one-size-fits-all. Ensure your managers are putting in the time to listen and have regular career development conversations with their employees. There will be a strong return on the investment of time and sincere listening.

INMA: What are one or two professional achievements you’re most proud of and why?

Wadsworth: There are two areas that I am particularly proud to have helped to influence and champion. One is the development of our digital subscription model for local news in the early 2010s. Refocusing and rebalancing our business model toward consumer revenue and ensuring the value exchange rested with our content and not a medium or distribution method was absolutely critical to creating long-term sustainability for journalism.

The other, I think of less as an achievement and more as a lifelong commitment to diversity and inclusion as a cornerstone of excellence in journalism and a vital imperative to strong business results. I’m specifically proud of championing transparency and accountability for diversity by publishing an annual demographic census of each newsroom and the company as a whole, and pledging to achieve parity with each community we serve by the end of 2025. This is a core value.

INMA: What’s your favourite binge-worthy show and/or what are you reading right now?

Wadsworth: I’m currently watching Netflix’s Borgen, a Danish series about Denmark’s new woman Prime Minister that explores the intersections of politics and media as well as the unique challenges of women leaders. For a news and politics junkie such as I am, it’s fascinating.

In books, I just finished reading the Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. It’s historical fiction based on the real events and people involved in the creation of the original Oxford English Dictionary. It is an illuminating and thought-provoking novel that shines a light on the power of words to both include and exclude perspectives depending on who decides their accepted meanings.

About Paula Felps

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