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2018’s Media Influencer: Audrey Cooper

Story by Riley McDermid; photo by Spencer Brown

Audrey Cooper, editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Chronicle, says it was evident to her from an early age growing up in the Kansas City suburbs that “none our democratic institutions work well without the independent press.”

As a child, she loved to talk to people and was “determined” to perhaps one day be Sandra Day O’Connor. In 1989, Cooper moved with her husband from college in Boston to the East Bay, where he was studying for his doctorate at UC Berkeley.

“We drove to California in a teal Geo Metro with a couple of suitcases and a giant television. When we arrived, he asked me where I wanted to go in San Francisco. I immediately replied that I wanted to see The Chronicle’s building at Fifth and Mission,” she says. “I had unsuccessfully applied to be a Chronicle intern every year of college, but I hadn’t given up the hope of working here. When I was eventually hired, we moved from the East Bay to South Beach. We moved to Noe Valley when our son outgrew the crib in our closet.”

These days, Cooper has a commanding presence as print journalism’s staunchest defender in the Bay Area, from the editor-in-chief’s office at the region’s most iconic newspaper. She says that she has “the best job in the world” and tries to convey that both in the work the paper does and how the journalists there approach the news, how they report on it and the way they present media to the world.

“The biggest issue in journalism is clearly explaining our role in society and finding ways to make it sustainable. The top issue facing San Francisco clearly is our homelessness crisis,” she says. “We have a role to play in both by being transparent about how we report the news and bringing fresh ideas and approaches to exploring societal problems.”

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