Yahoo News Editor-In-Chief Says Her Pregnancy “Didn’t Faze” Company At All

Hillary Frey has a new baby and a new job: editor-in-chief of Yahoo News. She talks to BuzzFeed Shift about what it’s like to be a working mom at Yahoo — which will soon have a widely analyzed new mom CEO — and her plans for the news division.

Yahoo

Hillary Frey.

Frey came to Yahoo as managing editor of news in 2011. She’d previously been managing editor at Adweek, and media and style editor at Politico. As editor-in-chief, she’ll lead Yahoo News’s New York-based editorial team.

You recently had a baby — did you take maternity leave? What has it been like to be a working mom at Yahoo?

My daughter was born in February, and I did take leave. I interviewed here when I was about five and a half months pregnant. [Head of Yahoo News and Finance] Rob Barrett interviewed me and knew I was pregnant, and it didn’t faze him at all. I was talking to some other companies as well at that time and that was not the experience I had with them. Sometimes pregnancy makes people uncomfortable or anxious or whatever, but that was not an issue at Yahoo. So I took a couple months off when my daughter was born, and it was great, and when I came back I was very happy to be back at work, and it’s been full throttle since then.

It’s not what you expect, to have a new baby and get a big promotion, but the two things went together nicely. (Our baby is happy and sleeps through the night, so that helps.) And Yahoo has east coast and west coast operations, so if I start my day early there’s support from the west coast later on. There are ways to find balance. I’ll be going to the Republican and Democratic conventions soon, and I’m taking the baby with me.

Do you have specific conversations at Yahoo about family and work-life balance?

This is a place where a lot of people have families. We’re lucky that everything at Yahoo can be done lots of different places — New York, Santa Monica, your house, Europe. We’re a truly digital company, and my experience has been that it’s a flexible place.

Aside from a positive interview experience, what made you come to work for Yahoo in the first place?

I was excited about the project of creating more and better original content and creating a real newsroom. That’s what I got to do at Adweek — bringing together a staff with editors and reporters, and putting all these pieces together is something I really enjoy doing. And here it’s a much bigger company, it’s a much bigger audience. And my coworker Chris Suellentrop who used to be at the New York Times Magazine was here, so that was a big draw too.

Editor-in-chief of Yahoo News is a new position — what are you going to be doing?

I’m building off of what I was doing as managing editor. In that role and in this role I oversee our original reporting team, including our politics team, which is headed by our Washington bureau chief David Chalian. And I work with our many partners at Yahoo, doing creative projects with them, as we move away from taking people’s feeds and posting third-party content into original and collaborative work. I also work on special projects, some of which will be based around the election. And I work with Yahoo studios on video programming. Basically I’m trying to create a throughline, a coherent identity for Yahoo News that will be a mix of creative and unique content, created by Yahoo and in concert with our partners.

What’s next for Yahoo News? What are you planning?

We’re just getting a few things off the ground that are confidential for now, that we’ll release and announce as they’re ready. But one of the most exciting things I’ve done so far was help bring in [former New York Times columnist] Virginia Heffernan as a columnist. Bringing her voice to Yahoo News has been pretty different for the site, and I’d like to keep working with more people and great writers, whether they come in with Yahoo specifically or we do things with partners that we’re really excited about. Expect to see more interesting stuff and more engaging stuff and more different ways of engaging our readership. We have a vast readership and I’ve never been in a position like this before with millions and millions of people reading. Figuring out cool ways to get users involved through interactives or first-person pieces is something I hope we do more of as well.

Have you met Marissa Mayer? How do you feel about her hiring, both as a Yahoo employee and a professional woman?

I haven’t met her, but when she was hired it was an exciting announcement for everybody. It’s a big deal. In a big picture way, coming off Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in the Atlantic [on whether women can “have it all”], it’s always exciting to see women at the top of companies. I’m proud to work for a place that put not just a woman but a pregnant woman in the top spot.

People have criticized Yahoo as somewhat uncool or behind the times. How is Yahoo News responding to that?

One thing we’re working on at News is finding ways to better promote original stuff that we’re doing, exciting angles we’re taking on stories and voices we have here. The more we can surface that kind of content, the more clear the identity of News will be. It will all come together for the user the way it comes together for us. We have all this great stuff — it’s just about getting it out there.

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