E&P’s 25 Under 35 2016

By: Nu Yang and Adreana Young

The men and women on our 25 Under 35 list this year all have one thing in common: they love their jobs. Whether their work takes place in the newsroom, in production or outside in the community, they believe in the newspaper product. And isn’t that we want to hear from the next generation of publishing professionals?

Even with their healthy optimism, they’re still aware of the turbulent climate of our industry, but instead of lying down in defeat, they’re fighting harder to keep journalism alive and relevant—for the generation that comes after them.

Dustin Barnes

Dustin Barnes, 32

Community engagement and social media editor, The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss.

Education: Mississippi State University, bachelor of arts, journalism; bachelor of arts, French

Dustin Barnes first began working at The Clarion-Ledger at the copy desk. He grew into one of the paper’s top enterprise reporters before taking a job in public relations in the health care sector. Barnes later returned to The Clarion-Ledger as the community engagement and social media editor. Executive director Sam Hall said Barnes’ role as engagement editor has taken shape because of his drive and ambition.

In his role, Barnes is responsible for working on community events, acts as the liaison for the paper’s subscriber loyalty program, pushes new services and apps for promotions, oversees the podcast team and works on anything relating to mobile. In addition, Barnes coaches reporters on best practices for social media.

“There is a lot to what Dustin does, and his drive, energy and attitude make him an indispensable member of our team,” Hall said.

 

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

I work under a mandate to experiment, to try new things. Don’t be afraid to suggest an idea because you think your coworkers won’t understand it. Go for it. If it fails, you’ve learned something valuable. If it works, look for ways to implement it in your daily practice and always be open to criticism and suggestions. It’s how you learn. And in an industry that’s changing rapidly along with technology and reader habits, you need to be willing to roll up your sleeves and be part of the team.

Executive editor Sam Hall (my boss and biggest supporter) took a chance on letting me “run wild” with this position, and I have fun doing just that while remembering I’m where I am today because I’ve never shied away from helping the team. Even if it means I get none of the glory.

 

How do you think the newspaper industry as a whole can improve audience engagement?

During my first month as an editor, I sat in a meeting on a long term project the staff had been working for six months. Before my brain said “Stop,” I blurted out, “Let’s do a mobile newsroom. Go down there with everyone we can bring and interact with the affected communities.” My executive editor’s eyes widened, and three weeks later, we were on the Mississippi Gulf Coast covering the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

I’m not a fan of the “Fourth Wall.” In order to report the impact, we need to be immersed in the areas and the lives that are being impacted. A cubicle is a great place to let your laptop and phones charge, not a safe place to escape the world you’re reporting on.

 

Jessica Bennett

Jessica Bennett, 34

Vice president, magazine division, The Repository/GateHouse Ohio Media, Canton, Ohio

Education: Walsh University, bachelor of arts, corporate communications and English

In 2009, Jessica Bennett founded Indigo Ink Press, a nonprofit organization that promotes the works of talented writers and artists. That was her first introduction to publishing. Then, in 2014, Bennett was hired by GateHouse Ohio Media as director of the magazine division. As soon as she arrived, Bennett began to “dissect and then rebuild” the division’s flagship magazine, About, which resulted in five American Advertising Federation Awards in 2015, according to Maureen Ater, general manager of The Independent in Massillon, Ohio and GateHouse Ohio Media group.

Since then, Bennett has also launched The Score Magazine and personally redesigned new websites for all magazine products, which resulted in improvements to design and writing and helped increase revenue. Earlier this year, she was promoted to vice president.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Coming up through the ranks is the best time to bring your creativity and innovation to the mix, regardless of your job description. Ours is an industry that insists upon constant re-imagining. It’s an industry that needs smart people who want to dip their fingers in everything, to figure out how things work and how they can work better, to bring their passions to bear. If you’re that person, you’re home.

What magazines do you read, and what can newspapers learn from them?

I currently subscribe to everything from Time to US Weekly. Some I read, some I hate-read, some I simply like having handy for inspiration. My favorites are Entertainment Weekly, Fast Company and Chicago. Print magazines are a thing of beauty. They tell stories and present information in ways that are editorially different from newspapers, and they have the luxury of considering reader engagement first and foremost. As a result, magazines present content that is more visually interesting for the reader. Newspapers could stand to embrace greater style and presentation on their pages.

 

Jacob Brower

Jacob Brower, 35

Publisher, The Monett Times and Cassville Democrat, Monett, Mo. and Cassville, Mo.

Education: Missouri Southern State University, bachelor of arts, communications; Crowder College, associate of arts, journalism and public relations

Since Jacob Brower became publisher in December 2013, profit margins increased 37 percent from 2014 and were 42 percent higher than 2013. In addition new digital advertising initiatives led to a 63 percent growth from 2014 and 113 percent from 2013. He rebranded the newspapers’ shopper from broadsheet to tabloid and added editorial content, resulting in 74 percent revenue growth from 2013 to 2015.  Brower also restructured editorial and distribution operations to maximize efficiency, resulting in a five-year low in expenses in 2015.

Not bad for someone who started in the newspaper industry as a 20-year-old reporter at a weekly newspaper earning $5.15 an hour.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Set specific goals—short-term and long-term—and stay focused on achieving them. Work hard, find ways to improve each day, and maintain a positive attitude. Never be too proud to ask for advice.

Learn new things. Keep an eye on what other good newspapers are doing. Go to seminars when you can. Assess your strengths and weaknesses honestly. Tailor what you’re doing to accentuate your strengths, and work toward improving weaknesses.

Success in the newspaper industry doesn’t happen overnight, but today’s industry offers more opportunities for growth than at any point in history for people willing to pursue them.

What thoughts keep you up at night as a newspaper publisher?

In any organization, especially small ones, hiring well is crucial. Those are the decisions I most agonize over. A good hire can immediately improve an organization, and a bad hire can set you back.

I love when opportunities to make big improvements present themselves, but I always look for small improvements. How can we make our news product a little bit better? How can we bring in a little more revenue? How can we shave a few dollars off our expenses? How can we get our advertisers a little more return on investment? Before long, those small things, added together, make a big difference.

I tend to look at things from a risk/reward standpoint. Are we getting enough reward from a task to justify the time and/or money we’re spending on it? If not, we should drop it and focus on areas where we can make a greater impact.

Above all, I focus on the things I can control, and try not to lose much sleep over the things I can’t.

 

Mary Ann Cavazos

Mary Ann Cavazos, 33

City editor, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Corpus Christi, Texas

Education: King High School

In her position, Mary Ann Cavazos has learned to think big in the face of shrinking resources. In order to do the best work, she coaches her staff to create pieces that easily transition from one platform to another. Editor Tim Archuleta said Cavazos is hyper-organized and willing to challenge traditional longtime industry practices, which allowed her to produce an ongoing, solutions-focused investigative report into the area’s domestic violence problem. All of this has made her into what Archuleta describes as a “master of leading a digital newsroom.”

“She adjusts to changes in our industry with an eagerness to remain true to important traditions of the past such as accuracy and community involvement while searching for new ways to use digital platforms to grow audience and change communities,” he said.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Realize that having a passion for journalism, which is essential, will only take you so far. You can’t skip the hard parts. Put in the time. Know your strengths and don’t be ashamed to acknowledge your weaknesses. Seek out others who have skills above your own who can teach you. Learn from them. There should never be a time when you say “I’ve learned everything I need to know.” Our industry is always adapting and we need to adjust to what our audience demands.

What skills are needed in a multimedia newsroom?

No matter the platform—print, online, mobile or tablet—curiosity, flexibility and the ability to tell a good story are still at the core of what any good journalist should possess. As newsrooms continue to evolve, the formats may change but not the spirit of what we do.

Readers still reward those who know how to source a story well and how to present it in a captivating way. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches to attract more eyeballs to your content. Use social media to your advantage. It gets others excited about sharing your content to a wider audience. Visuals—videos, breakouts, slideshows—should all be among the ever growing tools in a multimedia journalist’s toolbox.

 

Shawna Devlin

Shawna Devlin, 34

Vice president of advertising, Naples Daily News, Naples, Fla.

Education: Hodges University, master’s in management and bachelor of science, business

Shawna Devlin joined the Naples Daily News in 2007 holding several management roles before moving to corporate as a sales trainer. In 2014, she was promoted to vice president of advertising.

According to president and publisher William Barker, she and her team have achieved year-over-year growth in advertising and marketing services revenue for the past two years, with 2015 coming in 2.4 percent over plan and 3.7 percent over prior year. In addition, she is budgeted to add an additional 1+ percent growth in 2016.

She developed an internal call center to manage lower value/volume accounts, and deployed a hybrid approach where the paper addresses larger regional and category advertisers with well-trained category and specialty sellers.

“Under her leadership, the advertising department has placed more focus on growing and retaining local accounts,” Barker said. “We have successfully decreased our dependability on national advertisers whose spending has been trending down due to consolidation and industry shifts.”

 What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Be idea people. This is a time of change across all media. While often change presents challenges, it is out of disruption that growth occurs. We have the opportunity to create new models of delivering and receiving information. Give yourself time to imagine the world differently and think creatively; it is the key to gaining market share and influence. With much competition in the marketplace, being the team that brings audience solutions and message through a complete campaign will make you the premier media partner of the clients you serve.

How do you motivate your sales staff?

Once you have the strong sales people and management, motivation comes through many different avenues. One is a salesperson’s natural desire to win. We are transparent with performance to goal shared across the department daily. Another shared motivational factor for salespeople is our deep desire to help our clients reach their goals. We invest in sales and product training as a fulfillment of our mission to help businesses grow. Motivation is often linked to team members feeling valued. Exposure to new products, training, and the ability to grow in their career are important ways to engage and motivate teams. And lastly, as the revenue engine of the organization, there is the responsibility we feel to reach our revenue commitments to fund the good work we do in the community we love. Along the way, there’s a fair amount of public and private recognition, group celebrations for goal attainment, and rewards for sellers who model the way.  

 

Scott Gee

Scott Gee, 34

Production manager, Warren Tribune Chronicle, Warren, Ohio

Education: (currently attending) American Public University, associate’s degree, general studies

Newspapers have always been in Scott Gee’s life. His father works as circulation manager for the Jamestown (N.Y.) Post-Journal and his mother serves as special promotions coordinator at the Dunkirk (N.Y.) Observer.

In his position, Gee is in charge of supervising all phases of production from pre-press, press and the mailroom for the Warren Tribune Chronicle. Known for being “hands-on,” Gee often offers suggestions and looks for innovative ways to make the production and mailroom stages work more in sync and efficient and is always willing to help in other departments as well. For more than a year, he had a successful string of on-time press times with no late papers.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Try to involve yourself in more aspects of newspaper production. Understand what it takes to produce a quality newspaper, including things like how ads are built, pages are designed and how a computer-to-plate system works. Understand everything from how the plates make a color photo to what machine puts the inserts in the paper. Take a risk and learn new skills—the more you know, the faster you can advance your career in the newspaper industry. As we all know, the printed product has changed, but never give up on it. Keep striving to make your product the best product on the street.

How has the role of a production manager evolved over the last five years?

In this industry, we all have seen how technology is making us change the way we operate. Over the past five years, production managers have had to change what they do and how they do it. We have had to move from using film to using a computer-to-plate system, and now to using process-free printing plates. We have to embrace change in order to make our products better. With the advancements in technology, we all have to learn new ways to improve and keep the printed quality of our product at the highest level.

 

Adam Gerik

Adam Gerik, 33

Assistant managing editor/digital, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.

Education: Fort Hays State University, bachelor of science, information networking and telecommunications

As assistant managing editor of digital, Adam Gerik is always thinking of fun and inventive ways to improve stories and grow audience. For example, he created a timeline of a reporter’s beard growth until the state of Illinois came up with a budget, and he set up a Web cam overlooking the outdoor ice rink in downtown Peoria to interact with audiences.

Through Gerik’s innovative direction, the Journal Star’s website has grown by 20 percent in online traffic and mobile traffic has increased from 40 to 60 percent in two years. Executive editor Dennis Anderson said that’s due to Gerik’s investment in his staff by training reporters one-on-one on social media platforms and other initiatives. Gerik is also part of parent company GateHouse Media’s steering committee and plays a pivotal role in the company’s website redesign group.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Live outside the walls of your newsroom. You’ll do no favors for your readers if you stay caged, guessing how they consume your product. We journalists are far from normal people, so why should we pretend to know what our neighbors want?

Make sure to have hobbies beyond your job or industry—I enjoy playing pipe organs and watching the entire slate of Turner Classic Movies; odd, definitely, but helpful to clear my head after a long day or week at work.

Don’t be a monster in your news organization. I can become easily frustrated with those reluctant to change, but those same people often are the first to remind me that my focus is in the wrong place. Better workflow or technology isn’t always the solution—good content always wins in the end.

What digital media trends are you most excited about and why?

I’m most excited about traditional media organizations trying to have more fun covering the news. From surprising headlines made of honest-to-god complete sentences to covering election sound bites with illustrated quote cards, it’s the time to experiment. I’ve loved watching The Washington Post give this their best. So far, the fun seems to only be on digital platforms, but I think it could easily apply to print as well.

This is going to sound sappy, but I still can’t imagine working anywhere else. Why would you ever want a job without challenges?

 

Christine Gritmon

Christine Gritmon, 35

Engagement editor, events and branding, lohud and The Journal News, Rockland and Westchester counties, New York

Education: Vassar College, bachelor of arts, film

Christine Gritmon started at the lohud and The Journal News as a freelancer covering real estate trends in 2013 and became a full-time reporter in 2015, but quickly found herself in a role focused on driving the newsroom’s community outreach strategy.

“Christine has worked on projects to promote newsroom personalities through a host of community events including community-wide panels, coffee chats, couponing classes and wine and food tastings,” said consumer experience director Ed Forbes.

Her efforts in 2015 and into 2016 tripled events attendance for the newspaper, according to Forbes. In 2015, the newspaper hosted 20 events, and in 2016, the newspaper has hosted more than 35 events that have drawn nearly 2,000 attendees.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Recognize that while the “new ways” of today’s newsroom—emphasizing personal branding, social media, etc.—may come naturally to you, they represent a significant change for more seasoned journalists. Be empathetic to that and ensure that you’re a valuable, generous resource—not a know-it-all—when it comes to helping your colleagues learn how to best utilize these new tools.

I would also say that, as social media and personal branding blur the lines between the personal and the professional, you have to try harder to be mindful of how you represent your publication, even in unofficial ways. I slip up on this myself from time to time; in trying to be relatable, I can sometimes veer off track. Just watch it and be mindful of the fact that everyone else is going to struggle with this too; it’s a whole new world.

How do you use your skills as a reporter in your current position?

Listening to and connecting with people is hugely important.

 

Tyler Hayden

Tyler Hayden, 30

News editor, The Santa Barbara Independent, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Education: University of California, Santa Barbara, bachelor of arts, English, minor in writing and editing

As news editor, Tyler Hayden’s job is always taking him to unexpected places: to the frontlines of an oil refinery spill, to the streets of Isla Vista, Calif. after a mass shooting and even inside a jail cell for a story illuminating isolation cells (as pictured here). Hayden’s work has earned him and his staff a 2015 Pulitzer Prize nomination; first and second place awards for the CNPA Better Newspapers Contest in 2014, and a 2013 E&P EPPY award for Best Weekly or Non-Daily Newspaper Website.

In addition to effectively leading a 10-person news team, Hayden also contributes to other sections and regularly speaks to high school and college journalism classes, appears on local television and radio shows and freelances for a wide range of publications.

“Altogether, Tyler is truly a journalist of many talents who is dedicated to the craft and serious about producing quality content to inform the community of Santa Barbara and the world at large,” said Matt Kettmann, senior editor.

 

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Be hungry, but stay patient. Nudge your paper in new directions, but don’t expect change overnight. Old habits die hard, but not every habit deserves to die. Listen to people who have been doing this longer than you. Take as much advice and criticism as you can get. Give thanks you’re in a line of work that’s fun and essential and just the right amount of terrifying. Be curious. Look for angles. Get off the phone and go meet in person. Come up with ideas, then do them yourself. Study Google Analytics and pay attention to print layout. Take breaks, enjoy perks, and work as late as you need to bury the competition.

How do you lead your staff through a breaking news story in today’s newsroom? 

I’m fortunate to work in a newsroom that leads itself. We have a staff that has been through enough wildfires, mass murders, and political upsets to know the drill. I act as a sort of player-coach, catching tips and fielding stories as they come in. And I write as much as I can, with my car and police scanner at the ready.

To be an effective news editor in today’s environment, it’s important to be able to do it all—call emergency contacts, draft reports, edit copy, use photos and videos, publish stories online, monitor and manage social media, and so on. It’s just as important to ask for help when you need it.

 

Ashley Howard

Ashley Howard, 29

Circulation digital audience development manager, The Oklahoman Media Co., Oklahoma City, Okla.

Education: Ashford University, master of arts, education and bachelor of arts, psychology

With a master’s degree in education, Ashley Howard was originally brought on to lead the company’s educational services department. After only three months, she was promoted to circulation digital audience development manager because of her willingness to learn all aspects of the industry, said Eric Wynn, vice president of circulation.

Since taking on this role, Howard has grown subscriber engagement for the paper’s digital print replica from 4 to 10 percent and The Oklahoman’s subscriber engagement with its paid website has increased from 1 to 33 percent. Wynn said Howard also contributed to several promotional campaigns, and she was instrumental in growing numbers in revenue and in the paper’s digital and print circulation.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Express a willingness to learn. There is a reason a daily publication is often referred to as the “daily miracle.” There is a plethora of moving parts that go into ensuring the successful delivery of both a print and digital product. A high level understanding of how these parts intersect, interact and rely on each other lends to new opportunities for being bold, innovative and willing to take calculated risks. Believe in the power of collaboration and be willing to take risks.

Challenge the notion that newspapers are dying. Newspapers are not dying. Our methods of delivery are changing, how people consume the news is evolving—but let me repeat this again, the newspaper is NOT dying. If this is your mentality, you will not survive in this industry. A newspaper is a living product that lends to excitement and vitality—treat it as such, and I promise you will fall in love with the industry.

Besides Newspapers in Education, in what ways can newspapers show the importance of journalism to young students?

Communication, and the speed at which society is able to share information, has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a nonsense story with zero credibility to go viral via social media. It is imperative, in today’s world, to verify where the information we are consuming is coming from. If the newspaper and journalism industry could take the time to focus on the dangers of consuming information that has not been verified, it could have a significant impact on the value that students see in credible journalism.

Considering these dangers may even encourage some students to pursue a career within the industry. Understanding the facts surrounding issues within our communities, in addition to understanding both state and national affairs, produces a more knowledgeable citizenship. High level civic literacy directly influences civic engagement; the more a person understands the issues plaguing the world around them the more likely they are to get involved and take a stand, but first we have to get students to see the value in consuming credible information.

 

Suzy Jack

Suzy Jack, 31

Vice president, public affairs and events, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, Calif.

Education: University of Southern California, bachelor of arts, American studies and ethnicity

Before she joined the Los Angeles Times, Suzy Jack served as a deputy controller and a deputy mayor for Los Angeles City Hall. According to Times communications director Hillary Manning, when Jack joined the newspaper in 2014, she “immediately began creating, developing and implementing an ambitious slate of initiatives designed to restore the Times’ connection with the community, engage new audiences…and secure funding for the initiatives along the way.”

Over the course of a year, Jack launched and managed projects such as HS Insider (a journalism program with more than 100 local high schools), College Connection (a college and university subscription program with several participating campuses), Education Matters (grant-funded journalism and public engagement), as well as live journalism and civic engagement events. She now oversees the more than 90 events the Times produces annually and coordinates a variety of public programs. She also works closely with the business development team to build important relationships within the company and in the community.

 What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

“No” isn’t necessarily the last word. When you’re trying to accomplish something and you’re facing resistance, listen to what people are saying, try to understand where they’re coming from and find the common ground so you can become partners. Listening is probably one of the most valuable skills you can develop.

In what ways can newspapers work on building successful relationships with their communities?

As often as possible, engage your readers, subscribers, and the community at-large in dialogue and create opportunities to listen. Whether it’s via the website, social, in-person events, user-generated content or by being an active participant in major civic happenings, people need and want the opportunity to be heard and to hear from journalists. For example, it’s an election year and we’ve had great success hosting watch parties for the presidential debates. We invite people to watch together at a small theater and share their reactions with our editors throughout the debate. People really appreciate the opportunity to share the experience.

 

Brian Jarvis

Brian Jarvis, 33

President, The Exponent Telegram, Clarksburg, W.V.

Education: University of Florida Levin College of Law, master of laws, taxation; West Virginia University College of Law, doctor of jurisprudence; Furman University, bachelor of arts, business

In 2012, Brian Jarvis decided to purchase The Exponent Telegram, to ensure the paper would remain locally owned. Telegram publisher Andy Kniceley said when Jarvis first became owner he immediately implemented a team-based approach to running the company. The new owner met with community leaders and took on an active role in running the newspaper. He went to work understanding the Telegram’s front-end system to implement an overhaul of the out-of-date website and began building a digital audience.

Since becoming sole owner of the Telegram, which has a daily circulation of 14,130, the paper’s digital audience average grew to more than 300,000 unique users each month on its website, and mobile now reaches more than 80,000 visits per month.

Jarvis added five additional newsroom staff members and two new advertising sales positions and grew revenue and profit by double-digits. He later acquired the weekly Preston News & Journal in 2014.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

The local newspaper industry has become technology driven and must be treated as such to maintain its important purpose—independent local journalism. It is fast paced and constantly evolving. Therefore, to stay a consistent player in news media, evolution must be at top of mind.

People entering the industry need to have diverse talents to be able to adapt to this evolution. We are consuming more news than ever with our digital and print products. High quality content will always bring people. People always bring advertisers.

Never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and generate something viral or create a new product. The riskiest part of the business is not taking risks. Invest in your people and they will help create ideas. Then invest in their ideas.

Why are community newspapers a great investment?

The Exponent Telegram is vertically integrated. All we need is paper and ink. Community newspapers typically have minimal regulation and significant barriers to entry to help thwart competition. This helps control costs and provide for future investment.

The investment is in a local community. Our readers know that they can get reliable independent information daily in our print products and in real time in our digital products. Our advertisers know we reach people that care about their communities and are using their businesses.

Further, this ability to reach people anywhere at any time ties communities together. We reach first graders on tablets and great-grandmas in print—all delivered at home, in school or the office. We are convenient and the only source that provides news to all demographics in our area.

 

Anthony McFarlane

Anthony McFarlane, 34

Advertising director, Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.

Education: State University of New York at Cortland, bachelor of arts, communications

When Anthony McFarlane was promoted to advertising director in 2015, Times Herald-Record associate publisher Brad Bailey said he “immediately recognized him as someone who represented the future of (their) business.”

Working his way through the ranks of ad assistant to the top revenue position, McFarlane led his team to more than 1 million dollars in digital revenue last year “in a challenging market that has both major metro influences and an intense rural community focus,” said Bailey.

“Anthony recognizes that as the director of advertising he isn’t simply selling space (for our) newspaper, but in fact is creating sales solutions for advertisers by utilizing his entire media group’s portfolio of products,” said president and publisher Joe Vanderhoof.

 What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Be prepared to educate and research other industries, not just competitively, but in an effort to expand your overall business acumen. I began in television sales, and my experience there was invaluable in terms of learning how to grow in a sales environment. I do everything I can to keep an eye on other major businesses and industries, be it successful or failing, and see what differentiates their models and how I can incorporate that into what we do every day.  Also, don’t be afraid to surround yourself with colleagues that have different skill sets, or are even stronger than you in a particular category—you can learn from everyone as long as you have the work ethic. I’m fortunate to have one of the strongest teams in the business, from our digital director and management, to our sales executives and administrative team members.

What sales trends do you see happening in the next five years?

Looking at our overall evolution in terms of content and how it’s delivered, we’re at the front of a new age of information, engagement and interaction. The change in our industry over this time has been immense—perhaps the fastest growth in terms of product development and experimentation—since newspapers began, so now is an exciting time to be here. Although still in its infancy from my view, I believe solutions like native and real audience targeting will expand our sales capabilities even further.  I’m also still a believer in print, especially at a community level, and in markets that continue to focus on news, our value will be stronger than ever.

 

Summer Moore

Summer Moore, 32

Digital and audience engagement editor, The Times of Northwest Indiana, Munster, Ind.

Education: University of Colorado at Boulder, bachelor of arts, English literature

 When Summer Moore first joined the newspaper, her impact was felt almost immediately. Moore attacked a stagnated digital strategy, said editor Bob Heisse. To do that, she trained staff on best practices for social media and mobile video; she launched a photo gallery called Faces of the Region, which sees more than 1 million views per month; and she has helped raise the paper’s Web traffic tremendously. According to Heisse, the website hit nearly 13 million pages views in January, and their Facebook had 2.3 million page views, up from 900,000 last year.

But, Moore’s plan of attack hasn’t stopped there. She developed partnerships with the community including becoming one of the founding partners on a community campaign with the area’s chamber of commerce and built a model program with community charter schools. She also reached out to readers to start a #RegionProud column series to run all year in the Times and helped set up Indiana Next community conversations around the region in 2016.
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Take risks. The job you want could be hiding in a small paper across the country. Don’t be afraid to pick up and go there. Meet as many people as you can. Find a mentor who is doing what you want to do, stick to them like glue and ask as many questions as you can. Newspapers are changing, prove you can help in the transition to digital and sell yourself at every chance. Be direct, creative and don’t be afraid to fail. Editors are looking for energy, passion and eagerness. Be bold, be brave and make change.

What does a day in the life of an audience engagement editor look like?

There is no typical day. But, my life is always digital first. Making sure the website is humming and the digital team has everything they need to continue our growth. My next priority is community partnerships, so I usually have a meeting or two with different groups or community leaders. I also serve on a few different boards, so those meetings come into play. I work with local universities to get student voices in the paper and online. My goal is to convince potential readers why newspapers are vital, how journalism can protect the community, and how much positive growth and change we can do together.

 

Liz White
Liz White Notarangelo with her husband, Mike and their two sons, Jackson and Noah

Liz White Notarangelo, 33

Executive vice president and assistant publisher, Record-Journal, Meriden, Conn.

Education: Yale School of Management, master of business administration; Boston College, bachelor of science, business administration

As a fifth-generation owner of the Record-Journal Publishing Co., a 149-year-old family media company, Liz White Notarangelo has been a guiding force for the organization as it maneuvers through the changes in the industry as well as with a move in 2015 from a 110-year-old manufacturing building into a contemporary, open, streamlined workspace.

One of her biggest accomplishments took place in 2006 when she took the reins of the creation and launch of the company website, and over the last 10 years, she has worked on expanding and updating the company’s daily and weekly newspapers as needed. As chairperson of Revolution 2015, a company-wide initiative for digital growth, the company’s digital revenue grew 53 percent and page views increased 40 percent.

“With Liz’s leadership abilities and knowledge, the Record-Journal is well equipped for the future,” said Eliot White, president and publisher.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Get excited about all of the opportunities and embrace change. This is an exciting time in our industry to try new ideas and grow in new ways that weren’t possible before, so have fun experimenting to figure out what works best (and what doesn’t) to grow our digital audiences and our digital revenue. We are reaching more people now with the combination of print and digital than we ever have before and there is unlimited opportunity for growth, so let’s be innovative, collaborative and creative to discover the best solutions for our companies to grow and thrive in a quickly changing industry and world.

 As you lead your company into its fifth generation, what is a message you would want to send back to the first generation?

Thank you for establishing the foundation of this 149-year-old company, which has provided incredible relationships with our local community, readers, businesses and employees. Although many things have changed, our underlying mission is still to support our community, keep the public informed and help local businesses grow. Personally, I am very grateful, honored and excited for the opportunity to work as the fifth generation of this company, especially in an industry that makes such a big impact on a daily basis. I love coming to work every day.

 

Michael Reneau
Michael Reneau and his wife, Julie

Michael Reneau, 28

Editor, The Greeneville Sun, Greeneville, Tenn.

Education: Bryan College, bachelor of arts, communication studies

Michael Reneau had big shoes to fill when he became editor a year ago. He was taking over a role that had been filled for decades by a member of the Jones family (owners of the Sun). But Brian Cutshall, director of online operations, said the Sun “(had) confidence in this young editor.” Reneau manages 12 newsroom employees and leads the news operation at the six-day-a-week paper, but he often ends up working the full week.

“He garners great respect from his employees and peers,” Cutshall said. “And he maintains an outstanding, effective working relationship with all Sun departments, including advertising, circulation, printing services and online.”

As a 53-year-old news veteran, Cutshall admits, “Seldom have I seen an individual of any age with such journalistic drive, gumption, integrity and management skill as Michael.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Even though so much about our industry is in flux, our core purpose will always be needed. People will always need information about their communities. People will always be willing to read gripping, entertaining and thoughtful writing. They’ll always be drawn to interesting photographs and visuals.

The trick now is to make your work stand out to readers and media consumers. Every word, every photograph, every bit of information has to justify its existence to your audience. The good stuff stands out, and readers know that.

What aspect of your job do you love most and why?

Along with the fact that each day is different, each responsibility we have at a community newspaper is varied. When breaking news happens, we have to jump on it online and later in print, not only with the words we use but also the pictures we take and data we present. In the same issue, we may have a completely fun feature story or a long profile piece. On a given day, I may be editing someone’s story on a heartfelt reunion between two old Army buddies, while writing an editorial on the importance of public notices.

I love the various facets of our jobs. And I love seeing our staff accept whatever challenging assignment come their way—and growing along the way.

 

Brandi Rivera
Photo and illustration by Paul Wellman

Brandi Rivera, 32

Chief financial officer, Santa Barbara Independent, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Education: Pepperdine University, MBA candidate, class of 2017; University of California, Santa Barbara, bachelor of science, biological sciences

As chief financial officer, Brandi Rivera handles all of the day-to-day logistics, business decisions and work flow. “She brings her background in finance and human resources to the office each day, but it’s her calm disposition, flair for efficiency and creative problem-solving abilities that distinguish her management style,” said director of advertising Sarah Sinclair.

Over the last two years, the paper has switched printers, launched new digital and print products, upgraded its website, forayed into events and ticketing, and made numerous other improvements. And Rivera has been there every step of the way.

While Rivera dislikes the term “millennial,” Sinclair said, “It’s that trademark ability to see things from a digital and forward-thinking perspective that enables (her) to think of ways to put our company ahead of the competition and keep us relevant to our community.”
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

The way in which the world consumes content has changed but the need for quality journalism is as high as ever. Take this as a challenge to try new initiatives and find what works best for your readers. Learn from others in the industry by networking, asking for best practices and keeping up with industry trends. Most importantly, do not be afraid of taking risks or changing something that isn’t working. The old adage of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” will not get you far.

What kind of encouragement would you give to publishers when it comes to “numbers” and “revenue?”

It may not sound like encouragement, but I would remind publishers that the best thing about numbers is that they do not lie. By tracking numbers and revenue, you can see trends and use the data when planning. If your traditional print revenue is declining, find ways to diversify your revenue with special publications, digital products, etc. because the second best thing about numbers is that it doesn’t matter what revenue line they are on, they all contribute to your total revenue, sometimes even with better margins. When it comes to numbers, don’t get bogged down in the statistics themselves; focus on ways to increase the revenue coming in and reduce the expenses going out.

 

Robert Rivera

Robert Rivera, 35

Circulation director, Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque, N.M.

Education: Bernalillo High School

Since beginning his career at the Albuquerque Journal in 1998, Robert Rivera has worked his way up through the ranks, starting as a single copy driver and landing as circulation director 17 years later. Rivera’s role at the paper has increased over time, and with each new one he takes on, he innovates and improves the paper.

As state zone manager, Rivera improved sales, service and collections by centralizing the pickup locations for his carriers. As circulation reporting coordinator, he streamlined Alliance for Audited Media reporting. When he became single copy manager, Rivera cut routes from 20 to eight and consolidated drop locations from six to five. This move saved the company more than $150,000 per year in distribution expenses, and he eliminated coin rack distribution which impacted circulation’s bottom line by more than $500,000, according to Joe Leong, the paper’s vice president and chief revenue officer.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

We work in a fast paced and constantly changing environment. So while you’re along for the ride, hold on tight, learn as much as you can and have the courage to challenge yourself and others. Welcome change and take risks. Take on the uncomfortable situations with confidence. It will benefit you and help you learn and grow as a person.

Remember that we can’t be experts at everything so evaluate other companies that are experts in their field and look to them for their expertise.

How has circulation and distribution changed throughout the years, and where do you see it going from here?

We have always been so competitive to the point that we wouldn’t consider the option of partnering with other newspapers. I have seen a lot of change in this mindset. More and more newspapers are partnering with others for their distribution needs. Since we all have the same goals and objectives, we are stronger as a unit. I would imagine we will see more coordination in the future.

 

Kyla Rodriguez

Kyla Rodriguez, 35

Vice president, digital, Los Angeles News Group, Southern California

Education: Troy High School, studied at Fullerton College majoring in Economics

In her position, Kyla Rodriguez has helped move the Los Angeles News Group toward a digital future. Since being hired as director of social and mobile platforms in 2012 by Digital First Media, parent company of LANG, Rodriguez has increased revenue on social channels by 54 percent and mobile revenue by 41 percent, according to chief revenue officer Tom Kelly. She also pioneered LANG’s e-commerce initiative, which increased search revenue nearly 200 percent.

Rodriguez was later promoted to vice president of digital in 2014. Since then, she’s worked closely with the company’s editorial department on the steering committee of LANG’s audience development team and plays a pivotal role in the company’s recruitment and development strategies.

In addition, Rodriguez teamed up with editors to develop new platforms for newsletters and video. She is constantly innovating in sales and collaboration and “redefines the notion of being multi-talented,” said Kelly.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Don’t be afraid to approach your leaders with ideas that challenge the norm. Be the one who leads the change and innovation your organization needs. One of the most fulfilling experiences that this industry has given me is the ability to create and build teams and products that changed the way we do business.

In digital advertising, the landscape is consistently changing so I have made it my responsibility to stay on the cutting edge of what is new and progressive so that I can share concepts and develop ideas that would benefit our organization and our clients.

When recruiting and developing your sales team, what do you look for in candidates?

I look for individuals with a great heart and passion for the work that they do. Individuals, who drive to exceed expectations and hold themselves accountable to learn, develop and grow professionally. Selling digital advertising takes a tremendous amount of discipline to consistently learn the technology and understand data so that an effective strategy can be developed for an advertiser. I also look for individuals who strive to provide a high level of customer service not just to the clients they interface with but also to the internal operational teams that support them.

 

Andrew Samaan

Andrew Samaan, 30

Creative director, Voyager Media Publications, Plainfield, Ill.

Education: Westwood College—DuPage, bachelor of applied science, animation

Andrew Samaan is in charge of the creative department and manages the creative team at each of the seven newspapers owned by Voyager Media Publications. Known as a “jack of all trades” by his colleagues, Samaan is also in charge of the company’s website, Facebook and other social media sites. A year ago, he served as project leader during a redesign of the newspaper products and helped create a new logo. He was also instrumental in the creation of Voyager Media Studios. His team has designed brochures, business cards and other marketing material for a number of businesses over the years which have helped the bottom line of the company, according to marketing director Laureen Crotteau.

“Whether it’s for a special section, a poster, a T-shirt, website or mobile app, Andrew is ready to take on the project,” she said. “He’s always ready to take an out-of-the-box look at things to ensure the company gets the most exposure in the most positive light.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Be a Renaissance man (or woman). What that means in today’s job market is that employers are looking for exceptional employees that are multi-skilled and multi-talented. Never stop learning. Professionals should aspire to be better than they were the day before. Whatever your craft, never become complacent. Watch your competitors, see what they are doing, and if they are doing something that works, analyze their strategy and then recreate it, but always do it better. Be mindful of what is popular and what is trending in the world, and commit yourself to learn what your readers are talking about. Stay ahead of the curve; what is popular today may not be tomorrow. Most of all, and this is relevant in all business, give your customers what they want.

If you were the creative director for the entire newspaper industry, what would your campaign look like?

I would create a campaign that highlights the various ways readers can acquire news.

The print campaign would highlight each medium within our industry using a bold kicker-like attention getter that reads: “PRINT” with a smaller headline underneath that reads “How do you like your news?” The campaign would continue using the same font treatment but substituting the kicker-like attention getter to the word “Blogged” and the continuity of the smaller headline would remain “How do you like your news?”

The campaign would also touch on all modern channels, such as websites, podcasts, SMS texting, video, social media, e-editions, etc. The graphics for each ad would reflect each medium— the SMS ad would show someone reading a breaking news text alert, while the video ad would show a reader watching a quick clip on a newspaper’s website.

The radio campaign would start with sounds of newsies yelling “Extra, extra!” over a bustling 1875 New York Avenue. A voiceover would creatively explain that however you prefer your news, it is available through various media and would conclude with “How do you like your news?”

The video campaign would start exactly like the radio campaign with sounds of newsies yelling “Extra, extra!” over a bustling 1875 New York Avenue. However, the viewer would be taken on a visual journey through the myriad of ways newspapers have changed over the past century until they are brought a modern day reader leisurely scrolling their tablets in search of an interesting story. The video would conclude with “How do you like your news?”

 

Jolene Sherman
Jolene Sherman and her husband, Nathan

Jolene Sherman, 34

Media sales director, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Mo.

Education: Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, bachelor of science, elementary education

St. Louis Post-Dispatch vice president of sales Ian Caso describes Jolene Sherman as an “extremely talented, creative and impactful sales leader.” And it’s evident: in her role, she has driven local and top account revenue growth year-over-year while also delivering double digit digital revenue gains, according to Caso.

Sherman created a new business development division in 2011 that brought in more than 2 million dollars in its first two years of existence. Next, she moved into the management of local territory sales and delivered 26 percent growth in year one and 14 percent in year two. She was also a key figure in the launch of Amplified Digital, Lee Enterprises’ (parent company) digital agency where she managed local sales efforts in 2013 and 2014.

Sherman also has taken the lead in developing and administering the training program for new hires along with the ongoing training curriculum across the company.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Our industry is changing rapidly which is both exciting and challenging. Young professionals have the unique opportunity to help formulate new strategies and steer our industry in a positive and profitable direction. My advice, first and foremost, is to stay educated. Learn from experienced professionals in the industry, keep an open mind to all ideas, take the initiative to learn and study trends, and use data to make informed decisions. Use this knowledge to embrace and impact change, approaching challenges with enthusiasm. Yet, remember that progress takes time and hard work, so remain patient and diligent. Share your ideas and be brave and confident in sharing those ideas. Approach each day knowing that you can make a difference and you will.

What kind of challenges do you face in your position, and how do you overcome them?

The most obvious challenge in advertising sales is revenue growth and finding solutions to make growth possible. Helping my team members achieve their individual goals, and subsequently ensuring our clients’ goals are met, is my number one responsibility. Thus, when our clients grow, we grow.

To help our clients, we must first ask questions. A mentor of mine once said that the best sales people are naturally inquisitive, and that is so true. As the media landscape continues to fragment, ensuring our clients are confident in our products and strategy is essential. To be confident you have the right solution, you must first really understand the problem.

Secondly, we have to use data to recognize trends and identify new strategies. What worked yesterday may not work today. I challenge myself and my team to reimagine our techniques and our approach. This is especially necessary as we strive to stand out amongst our competition and grow new business.

Lastly, I am very fortunate to work with smart and talented team members, colleagues, and leaders. To succeed, teamwork is critical. Each individual has strengths in particular areas, be it product knowledge, sales processes or creative development.  As we learn from each other and brainstorm strategies, we will continue to overcome these revenue challenges.

 

Daniel Tedford

Daniel Tedford, 31

Digital news director, Los Angeles News Group, and city editor, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News and Whittier Daily News, Southern California

Education: California State Polytechnic University—Pomona, bachelor of science, communications

The first thing Toni Sciacqua, managing editor for the Los Angeles News Group, wrote when nominating Daniel Tedford was, “(Daniel) reinvents every role he takes on.” And in this industry being able to reinvent yourself and your role at your newspaper is the key to success. Since starting at LANG as a reporter seven years ago, Tedford has redefined what it means to be a Web producer, learning and mastering everything from social media to data reporting.

He was tapped to be on LANG’s interdepartmental audience growth team, which led to a nearly 40 percent growth in unique users in 2015. He also trains LANG’s nine newsrooms on best practices for SEO and analytics. Because of his teambuilding skills and audience insights, Tedford now oversees 11 news reporters, assigns, develops and edits stories for print and digital.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Trust yourself. Young journalists are entering a profession with a lot of history. Those in positions above them are experienced, knowledgeable and decisive and are accustomed to functioning that way even though they are just as new to the new media landscape as you are.

You may have to tell your boss you think they are wrong, so learn how to do that in the best way possible. Many young professionals have the instincts and the right ideas for what a news organization should look like now, but they make blanket statements without backing it up. Learn to build your case. Trust your instincts, do the research, listen to opposing voices and state your case. Be heard, not just on Twitter or on Slack, but in the newsroom and the conference rooms, too.

What are the best practices for newsrooms that want to go digital-first? 

Build it into the core structures that are notoriously print-focused, like daily and project planning documents and meetings. When you have meetings to discuss stories, talk about who your audience is and the best way to tell that story (or the best way for that audience to engage with it) on various platforms.

Avoid digital vs. print culture. Digital is a catch-all word that doesn’t tell the full story and isn’t the best terminology for this conversation. Print is one platform with a particular audience who likes to engage with content that way. Within digital there are a host of platforms that should be considered individually, as you would the print product. The homepage, social media, email, app (as well as mobile, desktop and tablet) are all platforms with unique audiences. We should be thinking about each audience’s needs and customize the content and the experience for that type of reader.

 

Melissa Turqman

Melissa Turqman, 24

Senior marketing manager, Whip It Media, Reston, Va.

Education: Marymount University, bachelor of arts, graphic design

Hired right out of college at the age of 22, publisher Richard Whippen said Melissa Turqman was “aggressive and forward thinking right off the bat.” Two years later, Turqman has contributed greatly to the success of her newspaper, The Fairfax Times, in a variety of ways, including the building of an e-edition, which reaches more than 200,000 readers; sending out monthly reader surveys; building an advertising model to augment print with Twitter; collaborating data with Facebook to reach advertisers; and a newspaper and website redesign.

“With her forward thinking ethos, Melissa personifies innovation and leadership,” Whippen said. “Her ability to hone a work culture of innovation across a multitude of mediums has been integral to the company’s success.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Lead by example and be aggressive. Start everyday with the goal to learn something new, broaden your skill-set and exhibit a “can-do” mentality. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to voice your ideas and take risks. Risks lead to great change and without great change you cannot improve and succeed. Whip It Media’s innovative business model has allowed me to take risks on innovative ideas and in turn, strengthen my business acumen. I always live by the rule that if you are not uncomfortable, you are not growing.

What are the most important business lessons you’ve learned since joining the paper?

Learn your business and product inside and out. Become the most valuable player by understanding every facet of your company. From sales to editorial to marketing to accounting, every department of your company is a constituent component of a delicate ecosystem with a vital symbiotic relationship. Do not look at problems as a roadblock, but a chance to gain valuable experience and an opportunity to improve. Learn as much as you can from your team members who have worked in this business and apply those practices in your career. Lastly, never lose your hunger, drive and dedication. You must love what you do to be successful.

 

Natalia Wiita

Natalia Wiita, 33

Advertising director, Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln, Neb.

Education: University of Nebraska—Lincoln, bachelor of journalism, advertising

When it comes to delivering new revenue streams, Lincoln Journal Star president and publisher Ava Thomas points to advertising director Natalia Wiita for leading the way. In 2015, the paper won parent company’s Lee Enterprises’ “Enterprise of the Year” award, the company’s highest honor among more than 50 divisions in 22 states. Thomas said Wiita was also instrumental in two awards for innovation: one for developing high profile events, the second for developing model initiatives to reach more advertising customers.

Recognized for the “Retail Revitalization Effort,” Wiita organized a task force that led to a realigned sales team armed with big ideas and solutions to help businesses reach more of Journal Star’s print and digital audiences.

Also in 2015, Wiita launched Amplified Midwest, a separate advertising division that utilizes a full-service agency approach to create effective marketing plans. Revenue generation from these efforts has nearly doubled each month since its inception.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Embrace innovation. It’s a great time to be a young professional in our industry as we get to help mold the future of the business. In my role, one of the things I enjoy most is being able to create new and innovative revenue streams. Whether that be developing a new product or solution for our clients, building a new events division, or launching a full service advertising agency; as newspapers, we have the benefit of leveraging the large, local audience that we reach to help diversify our product mix and client solutions. That said, I think it’s equally important to identify what we need to stop doing in order to maximize resources for these new revenue initiates. If a product or solution is continuing to lose revenue year over year, it might be time to discontinue it and use the sales intensity elsewhere. Think big and don’t grow too comfortable always doing what you’ve always done.

How would you “revitalize” newspaper advertising departments?

I believe this comes back to diversifying revenue streams and being smart with structure. In fact, I no longer think of our department as merely the “advertising department.” In my mind, we are the “revenue-generating” department, in that we continue to look for additional ways to serve our clients and readers, while growing revenue for the company. For example, with the creation of a new events division and the advertising agency, we have built on our strong foundation of traditional offerings, while also gaining many non-traditional clients.

Additionally, I find that oftentimes structure is overlooked, yet it’s incredibly important to the success of the organization. As many of my counterparts know, I am a proponent of evaluating organization and structure often. This past year, my team and I, along with our publisher, took a very analytical approach to “revitalizing” our department, requiring us to take a methodical examination of our sales structure. We identified our top sales talent and quickly realized that, in many cases, their skill set was mismatched to their client lists. Therefore, we realigned our sales talent based on their skill set and matched that to the proper client lists. This strategy is working well and has given our sales team a roadmap for advancement that was not present prior to the change.

 

Mike Williams
Photo by Juli Leonard

Mike Williams, 34

Managing editor of Triangle.com and Fanstailgate.com; curator of Artsnownc.com, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

Education: North Carolina Central University, bachelor of arts, English

Mike Williams joined The News & Observer as a page designer right before he graduated from college in 2003. In 2007, he was hired to manage the arts and entertainment digital site Triangle.com and also launched two new sites Fanstailgate.com and Artsnownc.com.

“Mike has become a prototype of the kind of person our organizations will need in order to survive and thrive,” executive editor John Drescher said. “He understands the audience and the content that it wants, and how to present it.”

Drescher called Williams “bilingual,” meaning he can speak both newsroom and marketing. “One of the most important attributes of senior executives of news organizations is the ability to understand the different cultures and norms that operate in the diverse departments that must work together. Mike knows how to manage partnerships between news and advertising.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Be an innovator and look to evolve constantly; don’t get stuck in the traditional ideas of how the industry has produced news. You must be vocal and lead the newsroom in the direction of how your peers consume news since they are the customers for the next 30 years. Lastly, never forget your mission is to provide the necessary information for your community to thrive and make informed decisions about their lives.

What “languages” should every newspaper speak?

Similar to the day of Pentecost the Bible speaks of in Acts 2, newspapers must convey information to their community so that “everyone (can hear) them speak in his own language.” So it’s paramount the staff represents that community to achieve the authenticity needed and lessen the burden on breaking the language barrier.

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Published: April 1, 2016

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