Wagner alum and faculty member shares journey from wedding writer to SPJ’s national leader
By Marisa Petrarca ’17
Before Wagner College added journalism courses into its curriculum, Claire Regan ’80, an education major, discovered her passion for storytelling in The Wagnerian newsroom. This transformative experience laid the foundation for her dual identity as a journalist and educator, paving the way for a career spanning over four decades with no signs of slowing.
After completing her undergraduate degree at Wagner, Regan followed in the footsteps of her educator parents, working as a per diem substitute teacher in the New York City school system on her native Staten Island. Despite her teaching commitment, her passion for journalism persisted. When a wedding writer position opened at the Staten Island Advance, she jumped at the chance.
Regan recalled being a “nervous wreck” during her job interview with Wagner graduate turned Staten Island Advance editor Les Trautmann ’40. Nevertheless, she secured the position and balanced it with her teaching responsibilities.
“I wrote thousands of wedding stories, and I loved every minute of it,” she said.
She excelled at her beat and earned more assignments covering engagements, golden anniversaries, birth announcements, and obituaries.
“I handled the whole lifecycle of our readers,” she said with a laugh.
From wedding writer to journalism professor and newsroom leader
Regan’s teaching journey progressed alongside her journalism career. Regan started teaching at Wagner as an adjunct faculty member in 1984. She first taught an English composition class before transitioning to journalism and taking on the role of adviser to the student newspaper that had inspired her, The Wagnerian.
Regan’s dedication to teaching earned her the Charles O’Malley Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Columbia University Scholastic Press Association in 2014.
To this day, she remains dedicated to teaching at Wagner, serving as an adviser to The Wagnerian, and contributing her insights as an Alumni Association Board of Directors member.
Leadership in journalism organizations and advocacy
Over time, Regan’s role at the Advance expanded into full-time reporter, editor, and her “real passion”: page designer, a title she held for nearly 20 years. Showcasing expertise in designing impactful front pages and covering pivotal events like 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, her design work received an award of excellence from the Society for News Design.
Regan’s influence extended beyond her journalistic and educational roles. In 1995, Regan joined the Deadline Club, the New York Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), initially as the organization's newsletter editor and designer. Her journey with the organization continued with roles on the board of directors, culminating with her Deadline Club presidency in 2019.
Encouraged by peers, she expanded her horizons, running for the SPJ National Board and getting elected as an at-large director and then President-Elect. Regan assumed the esteemed role of the 106th president of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2022, recently completing her term at the SPJ23 Journalism Convention, SPJ’s annual convention held in Las Vegas.
Highlights from 2022–23 SPJ presidency
Regan's presidential tenure was characterized by strong advocacy, championing one of the core missions of SPJ to defend the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. Among her most esteemed accomplishments, Regan swiftly responded in August when a Kansas police chief orchestrated an unprecedented raid on Marion County Record, a small weekly newspaper.
She and her national board voted unanimously to allocate $20,000 from SPJ's Legal Defense Fund to assist journalists in covering the legal fees incurred during First Amendment issues.
Another defining moment was her 90-minute interview with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the lead reporters who broke the Watergate story for The Washington Post. While the two seasoned journalists are no strangers to interviews, participating in a joint discussion is much more rare.
“I was very prepared because that was, for me, a career milestone," says Regan. The interview garnered an audience of more than 1,000 in-person attendees.
As SPJ president, Regan was also deliberate in appointing journalists to the SPJ national board, selecting individuals committed to instigating change. One notable addition is indigenous reporter Jodi Rave Spotted Bear, the executive director of the Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance.
“She was a wonderful addition to the board because she’s helped raise awareness within SPJ about Indigenous journalism issues,” Regan said, particularly in advocating for greater press freedoms for organizations controlled by tribal governments.
Regan reflects on her career with profound fondness.
“Journalism is a fantastic career,” she said, her voice resonating with proud gratitude. “I’m so glad it became mine.”