A graduate of Barnard College (1974) and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (1976), she was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard for the academic year 1987–88. She began her journalism career at Barnard as a campus correspondent for the Daily News in New York City before graduating to The News-Times of Danbury, CT and United Press International in Boston.
During nearly 30 years at The Boston Globe, she covered everything from the night police beat to the United States Congress. First hired as a newsroom secretary, she worked her way up through the general assignment staff, the State House Bureau, the special projects team and the Sunday magazine staff to the position of columnist in 1995.
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary (1997), she has been the recipient of writing and public service awards from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Sigma Delta Chi, the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation and others for a reporting career that focused on such pressing social issues as infant mortality, domestic violence and juvenile crime. In 2007, she was named a winner of the Yankee Quill Award, the highest individual honor given by the Academy of New England Journalists.
McNamara is the author of two books: Breakdown: Sex, Suicide and the Harvard Psychiatrist (which was an Edgar Award finalist in 1994) and The Parting Glass: A Toast to the Traditional Pubs of Ireland (with photographer Eric Roth).
- Globe fills two columnist slots with newsroom veterans, by the Boston Globe City & Region Desk, June 19, 2007.
- Hush-hush: In its war of words with WEEI, the Globe learns that silence isn't necessarily golden, by Dan Kennedy, Boston Phoenix.
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