April 14, 2013

Journal names new top editor

Karen A. Bordeleau, senior vice president and executive editor, to lead paper, website, social media

Karen A. Bordeleau has been named senior vice president and executive editor of The Providence Journal, effective April 29, publisher Howard G. Sutton announced.

Bordeleau, 54, of Cranston, becomes the first woman to hold the title as top editor in the newspaper's 183-year history. She succeeds Thomas E. Heslin, who is retiring for health reasons on April 25 after 32 years in various editing posts at The Journal.

While Heslin was on medical leave for most of the last two years, Bordeleau led the paper's newsroom, first as deputy executive editor, and then, since June, as acting executive editor.

"Over the last year as acting executive editor, Karen has admirably navigated The Journal's news staff through uncharted waters created by a challenging economic environment and a very dynamic digital-media landscape," Sutton said.

"Under her leadership, The Journal has delivered, on all platforms, the most comprehensive coverage of breaking news, politics, sports, arts and entertainment, lifestyles and long-term issues in southeastern New England. She will build on The Journal's great legacy of informing the public."

A Rhode Island native, Bordeleau came to The Journal as a copy editor and special sections reporter in 1996 after tenures as editor of The Kent County Daily Times in West Warwick and of The Call in Woonsocket. She began her journalism career in the 1970s at age 17 when the Kent County Daily Times paid her to write a column about student life at The Prout School.

She has worked at The Journal as a section editor, assistant city editor, assistant managing editor/online, managing editor/production and deputy executive editor. She supervises all reporters, photographers and editors and is responsible for the entire news report on all platforms.

Bordeleau said in an interview that today's journalists must embrace constant change. As news consumers are pulled in more directions, news organizations must adapt while vigilantly maintaining the standards that have made them trusted news sources, she said.

"A critical mission of The Providence Journal now is to push ourselves further into the digital space and deliver excellent journalism on platforms including, but not limited to, print, the website, social media, mobile, iPads and anything somebody is building right now in a garage."

At the same time, "we're here to make sure we continue to produce an excellent newspaper."

Bordeleau said journalism will always have a future.

"This is a period of great transformation and therefore great possibility. Journalism will always be the rock that anchors our democratic society. We just have to remind people of our mission."

The Journal is adding new methods of informing, educating and entertaining its audience, including video reports, slideshows and interactive graphics and maps, Bordeleau said.

"We can no longer tell a story with just text," she said. "We have to tell stories in as many ways as possible to reach as many people as possible."

Bordeleau is an adjunct professor of journalism at Emerson College in Boston, where she teaches ethics, and editing and design. She has also taught at the University of Rhode Island, Northeastern University and Bryant University. She has organized and participated in journalism training and/or exchanges involving several countries including Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Kenya.

She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a master's degree in political science with highest distinction from the University of Rhode Island. She was a Sulzberger Fellow at Columbia University in 2011.

She is a member of the board of directors for the New England First Amendment Coalition and the Rhode Island Press Association. She is past president of both the New England Associated Press News Executives Association and the New England Society of Newspaper Editors.

The daughter of David and Elaine Bordeleau, of West Warwick, she is the mother of Caroline Boulanger, of Bos-ton, and of Lauren Boulanger, who lives with her husband, Anthony Maietta, in Worcester, Mass.

While Bordeleau is the first woman to hold the top editor's job, she is not the highest ranking woman in the newspaper's history. From 1874 to 1879, Mary Caroline Knowles served as senior publisher, a title she inherited upon the death of her husband, Joseph Knowles, who had run the paper since 1838.