Anastasia Hendrix – Senior Features Editor, San Francisco Chronicle
To survive under its current conditions, the newspaper industry needs the creative initiative of journalists like Anastasia Hendrix. It’s no coincidence that she became senior editor of the San Francisco Chronicle’s revamped features section at such a critical time. Promoted in January 2009, Hendrix was most recently a style editor for the publication. She is also the editor of the regional magazine SFiS.
Hendrix says that what energizes her is “The process of creativity and creating things that are new.” With a redesign of its entire paper underway, the Chronicle is channeling that energy in hopes of retaining its readership.
Of course, attracting new readers is the goal as well.
“My absolute favorite thing is brainstorming with writers and coming up with engaging story packages,” says Hendrix. Developing new sections, or revamping old ones, has been part of her experience as a journalist since day one.
Though Hendrix didn’t enter college as a journalism student, she was “Completely bitten by the journalism bug” shortly after joining Fresno State University’s student newspaper. Joining the paper was an outgrowth of her idea to write theatre reviews.
Not having contributed to the paper in the past, Hendrix introduced herself to the student staff at the same time she submitted her idea for a reviews section. The paper hesitantly agreed that she could contribute reviews once a month. Soon, the feature became a weekly item.
Eventually Hendrix had created an entire section devoted to arts and entertainment, with fellow newspaper staffers clamoring to join her. The culmination of her student newspaper experience occurred when she became editor of the entire paper.
Hendrix’s first reviews idea had designated her career path.
Upon earning a degree in journalism from Fresno State University, Hendrix took her first professional position in the Czech Republic as the culture editor for an English-language publication. She returned to the States with a stint at the Kingsburg Recorder. While working as a metro reporter at the Fresno Bee, Hendrix became interested in moving to San Francisco.
Her path from the Fresno Bee to what is now the San Francisco Chronicle mirrors her very first foray into journalism, back at her alma mater’s paper. That is, she was at the right place at the right time, with a good idea.
Accompanying a friend to a job fair at the last minute, Hendrix discovered The Examiner and The San Francisco Chronicle. She seized the moment and spent her last day at the fair typing up what she thought was “a bare bones resume.”
She submitted her resume to The Examiner, and what began as a casual conversation turned into a phone call. A month later, The Examiner had an opening.
Finding her new position to be very different from her time at The Fresno Bee, Hendrix saw The Examiner as “A fast-paced, competitive paper…I thrived on that.”
That was in 1997. The Examiner and Chronicle split in 2000 when the Examiner was sold and Hendrix continued with the Chronicle staff.
Of course, the paper doesn’t have the same direct competition it once did. Now The San Francisco Chronicle has a slew of competitors, especially on the Web. As a result, Hendrix is putting her creative experience to work and presenting readers with a “Broader-focused feature section.”
“I’m not one of those people who needs things formatted a certain way,” says Hendrix, “I get ideas from things I see that aren’t a fit now.”
Hendrix encourages PR professionals to send information surrounding “Health and fitness ideas, DVDs, books and other new releases, the outdoors, things to do, profiles,” among other topics related to features. Keep in mind that she’s also involved in around three gift guides a year.
Her move to the features beat marks the advent of the section “Opening up more to attract more readers. We want it to be a more engaging read, instead of just reaching the niche fine arts audience.”
Because Hendrix’s day is never routine, the best way to contact her is via e-mail. And although “I may not respond as quickly as people would like,” Hendrix promises that she reads every e-mail.
“I consume everything,” she says.
In return, she only asks for patience “As newspapers continue to shrink and demands continue to grow on the few of us left.”
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