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Buffalo News names first Black executive editor

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Accomplished journalist Sheila Rayam has been named executive editor of The Buffalo News, the first Black journalist to hold such a position since the news publication’s inception 142 years ago.

She is also just the second woman to hold the position.

Rayam will be succeeding the previous editor, Mike Connelly, who retired in May after a decade in the position.

Before her new placement, she worked as executive editor for Gannett’s Mohawk Valley news’ Utica Observer-Dispatch, which she had worked at since April 2021. While with Gannett – the largest publisher for news in the country after its merger with GateHouse in 2019 – she was able to grow the Utica Observer-Dispatch’s digital subscriptions by 63% in 2021.

Rayam’s experience is built on a bedrock of 26 years with Democrat & Chronicle acting as reporter and entertainment editor turned community engagement director. There she developed their “mobile newsroom” strategy, where she connected newsroom staff with members of underserved communities across Rochester, where she was raised.

While there, she also worked as a site manager for the Democrat & Chronicle women's news site herrochester.com before she took the position as a newsroom leader.

“The thought of being in a city that I love and working and leading a team that I respect a great deal was just an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” she said.

One of the reasons Rayam joined The Buffalo News was how the newsroom reported on the May 14th Buffalo supermarket shooting, where a racially motivated gunman killed 10 Black people and wounded three others. Rayam found their deliberation in their coverage notable enough to want to join them, where she will continue to help cover the aftermath of the massacre.

“There are many more stories to tell,” she said. “I think The Buffalo News will be key in really unraveling this tragedy and helping the community move forward as best we can.”

The Buffalo News is home to University at Buffalo, the State University of New York and the college where Rayam received her Bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Other news organizations Rayam has worked with include the Herkimer Times Telegram, the Mid-York Weekly, and the Niagara Gazette.

She will be joining Buffalo News beginning on Aug. 22, 2022.

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