Kim Castro (SPS ’08)
Breaking a News Glass Ceiling
By Lindsy Van Gelder
Portrait by Avi Gupta
As the first woman—and, as a Filipino American, the first woman of color—to run the venerable news magazine U.S. News & World Report, Kim Castro made history. “I’m excited,” she says of her status as a double first. “I broke the old boys’ club.”
To break out of the pack in general, Castro’s formula blends tried-and-true journalism, expertise, and analysis. But to stand out in what she calls “an oversaturated news environment” requires a different skill set and new questions. “How can we compete with the New York Times, the Financial Times, CNBC?” she asks. One way is to recognize that “mobile users do everything on their phones,” she says. Castro works closely with her design team, making sure that long stories are broken up into scrollable, visually digestible chunks, with large headlines and plenty of white space between paragraphs.
She was a business reporter for the renowned financial services company Standard & Poor’s when, in 2005, Castro decided to work toward an MS in publishing at the School of Professional Studies. The iPhone was still two years away, and social media was nascent. Castro was particularly drawn to NYU’s forward-thinking, digitally savvy media track. Right out of school, she was hired as the deputy money editor for her current employer. “I wanted to talk directly to consumers, and the broader audience was very appealing,” she says. “Then the recession started, [and] Lehman Brothers collapsed. The latest news became stale really quickly.” Beyond the rapid news cycle, she says, “we had to break down jargon and demystify all these complicated financial topics.”
Castro says her career has been nurtured at the company, including support from her colleagues and managers when she was pregnant with her children, now 8 and 5. She rose to the position of managing editor, overseeing money, health, travel, and education, before her appointment last August as editor and chief content officer. She now oversees around 200 editorial employees.
In addition to changes in how readers consume news, there have been changes during her career in how the public perceives news media. “One of the reasons why all these old-school brands like U.S. News are so relevant is that we’re 87 years old and still perceived as trustworthy,” says Castro. “There’s a barrage of misinformation these days, and readers are thirsty for trustworthy sources.”
“One of the reasons why all these old-school brands like U.S. News are so relevant is that we’re 87 years old and still perceived as trustworthy. There’s a barrage of misinformation these days, and readers are thirsty for trustworthy sources.”