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Down to Business

Veteran financial journalist Leigh Gallagher ’94 helms Fortune’s ’40 Under 40′.

Gallagher miked up for TV.  Photo: Dana Davenport for Fortune.

Gallagher miked up for TV. Photo: Dana Davenport for Fortune.

In a Manhattan TV studio last summer, journalist Leigh Gallagher ’94 stands under the bright lights. She’s recording intros and outros for her latest crop of stories on “Fortune Live,” the finance magazine’s online weekly news show. “When you look at the diversity numbers released by tech giants Google, Facebook, Apple, and others, the picture is bleak,” Gallagher tells the camera, sounding confident but conversational. “Facebook, for one, only hired seven–yes, seven–African Americans in the last year. That’s a company with nearly 10,000 employees. But there’s reason for optimism . . .”

Gallagher’s producer asks her to try it again, suggesting she shift the emphasis; then he requests a third take with streamlined wording. She does the intro a third time”and nails it.

Afterward, at a cafe outside the iconic Time-Life Building in midtown, the print veteran ponders her forays into broadcasting. “It’s fun for me; it’s using a different muscle than my day-to-day writing and editing work,” says Gallagher, whose office has since relocated to Time Inc.’s new headquarters downtown. “Being an editor, you’re so behind the scenes. Being a reporter is the most fun job in the world, because you’re out there having interesting conversations.”

40under40A longtime financial journalist, Gallagher–whose resume includes stints at Forbes and SmartMoney–has been at Fortune since 2007. She’s now an assistant managing editor, toting a heavy and varied workload: in addition to working with writers and hosting “Fortune Live,” she reports the occasional feature–such as a 2015 profile of one of Airbnb’s co-founders–and oversees the annual “40 Under 40″ project, heading up the team that bestows one of the business world’s most sought-after kudos. “It makes people’s careers, and we’re aware of that,” she says. “It’s a big decision, and we spend a lot of time agonizing over it.”

A native of Media, Pennsylvania–she and her brother, who works for ESPN, regularly get ribbed about their hometown’s on-the-nose name–Gallagher grew up listening to her mom pound out weekly profiles for the local paper on a manual typewriter. “I knew I wanted to be a journalist, basically, from the ninth grade,” says Gallagher, who majored in English and wrote features for the Daily Sun. “I thought that learning stuff and telling people about it was the coolest thing ever.”

Being a reporter is the most fun job in the world, because you’re out there having interesting conversations.

In the midst of her Fortune duties, Gallagher carved out time to write a book, essentially giving up weekends for two years. Published in 2013, The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving examines economic and societal trends that, she argues, are making the traditional single-family-home lifestyle less appealing to many. And Gallagher boasts yet another resume line: she co-chairs Fortune’s yearly Most Powerful Women Summit, a high-profile event that has drawn the likes of First Lady Michelle Obama and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The summit is notable, Gallagher says, because it doesn’t focus on women’s issues per se but rather gathers an all-female crowd to discuss business topics of global interest. “We do still need a conference, because there are only twenty-one women CEOs in the Fortune 500,” Gallagher observes. “I like to joke that someday, we’ll need to have a ‘most powerful men’ summit, because they’ll be in the minority.”