Twenty-two years ago, Maribel Perez Wadsworth started at the Gannett-owned Rockford Register Star, covering Illinois agriculture. Now, as president of Gannett’s USA Today Network and Associate Publisher of USA Today, she oversees a long roster of local and national papers. Along the way, she’s worked as Gannett’s chief strategy officer, and as vice president of audience development and engagement. We talked to her about her daily schedule, her to-do habits and how she measures success.
Location: McLean, VA
Current Gig: President, USA Today Network and Associate Publisher USA Today
One word that best describes how you work: Intentionally
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer: MacBook Pro
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a Miami girl born and raised, including studying journalism at the U before starting my career at the Associated Press Miami bureau. My then-fiancé was working as a reporter-anchor in Rockford, Ill., and after a year of long distance romance I took a leap of faith and moved there – best decision I ever made. Twenty-two years later, I’m still married to him – and it happens the Rockford Register Star is where I first joined Gannett, covering the agriculture beat (see aforementioned leap of faith).
After a couple of years in the Midwest, I had the opportunity to return to Florida for a reporting role at The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla.. We absolutely loved the community and I was lucky to work in a dynamic newsroom with great leaders who gave me many opportunities to grow as a journalist. When I left there in 2009, I was managing editor for digital, a role that led me to become a digital news executive leading digital content strategy for local newsrooms in Gannett’s US Community Publishing division.
In that position, I led cross-divisional initiatives that helped me learn our operations, uncovering a passion for protecting and growing the business side of journalism – which ultimately led me to my current role.
As the newly named president of the USA Today Network, I oversee a diverse portfolio of some of the country’s leading news brands, including USA Today and 109 local media companies, and a growing number of niche brands, such as Grateful, a collection of lifestyle sites featuring content on cooking, beauty, style and fitness.
Wadsworth at a USA Today Network town hall
Take us through a recent workday.
One of the best things about my job is that every day is different. This is a recent Monday.
4AM – Alarm goes off and I groggily reach for my phone, regret having stayed up to watch Game 2 of the NLCS when I have a 6AM flight to catch. I curse my love of baseball as I shake myself awake and then leap into packing, showering and hustling out the door by 4:30AM.
7:15AM – Arrive at LaGuardia and head to first meeting of the day at our brand agency to review the latest work to develop a new brand campaign for the Network.
10:30AM – Arrive at my Midtown office to prep for the weekly national sales team meeting, at which I present the updated strategy for our content division and introduce the CEO of Grateful Ventures, our new majority investment in the lifestyle brand space.
After a couple brief one-on-ones with NYC team members, I’m back on a shuttle to DC where I finish my day with my weekly meeting with my CEO and then spend a couple of hours reviewing materials ahead of our board meeting the next day.
And I’m home by 7 or so in time for dinner and email catch-up while watching The Voice. (I’m a sucker for all such reality talent shows, as I have no artistic talent to speak of but great admiration for those who do.)
10:30-ish PM – I realise I’ve fallen asleep on the couch, and it’s off to bed. I’ve lived to fight another day.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
What’s your workspace setup like?
As long as I have my laptop, phone and a cup of caffeine I can pretty much work anywhere and do, often 30,000 feet in the air. When working out of my office, I have the added benefit of family photos and a comfy couch.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
The family meal plan. A spreadsheet of 30-minute meals from which each family member chooses one night’s menu. We select on Sundays so I can get the groceries that correspond. Only two rules: No picking what someone else did and no complaining about what someone else picked. Saves time and stress, and is generally healthier than other time-saving alternatives.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
Old-fashioned pen-and-paper to-do lists. There’s something remarkably satisfying about crossing things off a list. That, plus I’d be lost without my Outlook calendar.
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
Cooking, beach time and hanging out with my husband and our boys. When all of those things come together at once… that’s my version of Heaven.
What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend?
I challenged myself to read 25 books this year. Pushing the last few weeks of 2017, I definitely had some cramming to do. I was reading Amor Towles’s A Gentleman in Moscow, having loved his Rules of Civility. One of my favourite recent reads is Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, a heart-wrenching memoir of one family coping with mental illness. (Yes, the English lit major in me is showing.)
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
That you can be good at everything, just not all at the same time – that’s especially good advice for women. There is immense pressure to be a perfect mum, perfect wife and perfect employee. Well, forget perfect… it isn’t even easy to be good at all of those things most of the time, let alone all at the same time. It’s essential to measure your successes in small increments, focusing on the day-to-day successes and keeping everything else in perspective. No one can be incredible at every aspect of their lives every second of every day. Appreciate the moment, even and maybe especially when it’s a learning one.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
We should all get more sleep. The world would be a far less grumpy place. ☺
We’ve asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? [contact text=”Let us know.”]