Penelope “Penny” Muse Abernathy is a journalism professional with more than 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor, and senior media business executive. She specializes in preserving quality journalism by helping the news business succeed economically in the digital media environment.
A former executive at the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, Abernathy is the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the School of Media and Journalism at UNC-CH. She focuses her expertise on developing 21st-century economic models that will improve the ability of journalists to produce news in the public interest. Her book, Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability (UNC Press, 2014) is based on five years of research involving more than two dozen newspapers around the country.
As a senior executive, Abernathy was responsible for both creating and implementing strategies at some at some of the nation’s most prominent news organizations and publishing companies, including the Journal, The Times, and the Harvard Business Review. She oversaw the successful launch of new multimedia enterprises, which helped increase both revenue and profit. She was also vice president and executive director of industry programs at the Paley Center for Media in New York City, which counts as its members some of the world’s leading media companies and executives.
Before moving to the business side of the industry, Abernathy, a Laurinburg, N.C. native, worked as a newspaper reporter and editor at several daily newspapers, including The Charlotte Observer, The Greensboro News & Record, The Dallas Times-Herald, The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, The Fayetteville Times, and The Laurinburg Exchange. She was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame in 1998.
She has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and an MBA and MS from Columbia University. She also attended the UNC School of Journalism.