Elaine Fry: A Fortuitous Path to Forbes
Some people, in their lifetimes, may stumble upon a dollar bill on the sidewalk or upon a stray cat, or they may even accidentally stumble upon a new idea. But Elaine Fry stumbled upon a career that has led her to positions at some of the world’s most prominent publishing companies, such as Billboard, Ziff Davis Media, Penthouse, Time Inc., and eventually to Forbes Inc., where she currently is group director of manufacturing and production, a position she has held for six years. Her career achievements and her involvement in industry initiatives, such as those undertaken by Specifications Web Offset Publications (SWOP), have earned her the respect of many of her peers and induction into the 2006 Publishing Executive Hall of Fame.
Fry always knew she wanted to be in publishing, but it was magazine production that she fell into purely by accident. “I don’t think anyone wakes up one day and says, ‘Gee, I want to be in production,’” she says.
Fry had worked her way through college, taking a job with The New York Times during one summer break.
“I joined The New York Times, like everybody, thinking I wanted to be a writer, a journalist,” she recalls. “But after I realized just how difficult that job was, in terms of making deadlines, I soon realized it wasn’t for me.” Little did she know then just how deadline-driven her entire publishing career would be.
Fry moved around the newspaper, taking various news-clerk assignments with the metro, national and foreign desks. All the while, she was watching, learning the business, and she soon found that it was the mechanics of making the newspaper that fascinated her most.
“There was this place called ‘The Bullpen’ … It was the place where all of the negotiations happened—where editors would come and barter for space when they needed more columns to cover a story,” Fry says. “It was so much fun, watching the power brokering. Just to put the issue together was more fascinating to me than the writing.”
Related story: Wagoners of Change