E&P’s 25 Under 35 2017: The Next Generation is Ready to Take the Baton

By: Nu Yang and Sean Stroh
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This year’s eclectic group of young newspaper professionals is made up of men and women who all believe in the power of the press. They come from different backgrounds, work in different markets, and serve in different positions, but they all play a crucial part in delivering information and the truth to their communities. Whether it’s a small, weekly paper or a large, daily publication, these men and women are working hard to ensure the success of the newspaper industry. They’re selling ads; they’re writing investigative pieces; they’re balancing budgets; they’re making sure the printers are working; they’re updating websites with breaking news—they’re the leaders guiding us into the future of publishing.

 

Allison Altobelli, 34

Director, advertising sales and product strategy, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta, Ga.

Education: University of Maryland, master of business administration; Springfield College, bachelor of science, business

In her current role, Allison Altobelli directs and executes multimedia revenue initiatives and oversees the multimedia operations fulfillment teams at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Having only joined (AJC) in April 2016, she has already demonstrated considerable impact not only to the bottom line, but to her peers and direct reports, as well,” said Eric Myers, multi-market vice president of advertising, of Cox Media Group (the paper’s parent company).

Altobelli began her career at the New Haven Register in Connecticut in 2004.

“I had hired Allison straight out of college at the New Haven Register and she took a small training territory, but in three months it was a large regular sized account list that was producing gains of 50 percent over previous year,” said Dan Kollar, revenue development manager with Gatehouse Ohio.

After completing her MBA, Altobelli transitioned from a selling role into product strategy at the Washington Post where she became responsible for new product development, sales initiative pricing models, the alternative daily publication, and the preprints category of business. In 2015, she served as director of targeted products with the Philadelphia Inquirer before joining the AJC.

“Preparing today for the future of the media landscape is the foundation of Allison’s desire to win,” said Myers. “Her contributions to this industry have been paramount to our current and continued existence for many more years to come.”

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

“I work in the newspaper industry” is how I proudly answer the question “What do you do?” But, there were times in my twenties when snarky responses about the impending, inevitable death of my industry planted seeds of doubt in my mind. Had I made the right career choice? Will I be out of a job soon? Over the past five years, the newspaper industry has grown leaps and bounds. Our advancements in tech, diversification of products, and streamlined efficiencies have positioned us for a long and sustainable future. Our local brands are unmatched.  Our audience reach is unrivaled.  For those coming up in the industry, our time is now and tomorrow belongs to us.  Be proud of what you do, be respectful of our history, and come to work every day excited for what’s yet to come.

How can newspapers succeed in a multimedia world?

The genesis of revenue growth is our ability to deliver our clients’ message to the right buying audience, regardless of platform. Our print publications, combined with owned and operated sites, reach extension, search and social products, and a discernible live event strategy, provide us access to a wider, and more targetable, audience than ever before. As a result, our opportunity to monetize that audience has expanded. The most significant challenge we face in this industry is a perceived reputation for lack of ingenuity. To overcome that challenge, we must educate consumers and clients alike that, though our foundation for greatness stems from our print publications, our reach and advertising solutions span well beyond our legacy products.

 

Annah Backstrom (center) looks on as Sen. Ted Cruz prepares to take questions at the Des Moines Register’s Iowa State Fair Political Soapbox during his run for president.

Annah Backstrom, 32

News director, Des Moines Register

Des Moines, Iowa

Education: Michigan State University, bachelors of arts, journalism

Prior to becoming news director last November, Annah Backstrom made her presence felt as the Des Moines-Register’s political content strategist. At the Iowa Caucuses, she and her team generated more than 60,000 unique visitors to the paper’s website. Backstrom also created a political trivia night that had many political operatives in attendance as well.

At the Iowa State Fair, she managed the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox, where presidential candidates gave speeches to crowds often numbering in the thousands. She encouraged reporter Jason Noble to create the Three Tickets podcast, which received national acclaim and more than 350,000 podcast downloads in a 10-week span.

“She is exactly the type of young mind/old soul that start-up digital properties would love to steal from legacy newspapers/news organizations,” said Allen Vaughan, consumer experience director of the Register. “But her passion to uphold the legacy of the Register and still innovate has kept her here.”

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

The answer isn’t “yes” if you don’t ask. Raise your hand for projects, even if you think they are out of your league. Ask for opportunity. I attribute some of my success to just being willing to try new things that scared me. It’s okay if your boss tells you “no,” too. Don’t be afraid of that. You’ve shown them that you have an appetite for more than what you’re doing, and they will remember that down the line. It’s not only okay to be an advocate for yourself, it’s imperative for your growth. Be versatile. Be able to report at the capitol and at a county fair. Learn how to write a public records request and a compelling seminal moment lede. Take photos and learn how to edit video. Don’t be “too good” for a story, particularly when you’re just starting out.

Most importantly, don’t let the tools you have available as a journalist overshadow the core responsibilities of journalism. Yes, try to understand the Facebook algorithm. Expand your multimedia skills. Learn who your readers are and what they are looking to you for. But know that none of those things mean anything if you can’t report a story.

How does a “young mind/old soul” mentality help you in today’s industry?

I got my first job in a newsroom about 17 years ago, tearing clips with a pica pole and answering phones at The Muskegon Chronicle in my hometown. Smartphones didn’t exist and the internet was something you went to the library to use. But I got trial-by-fire experience in the real workings of a newsroom: Talking to angry readers, getting ideas shot down by editors, and looking for a way to make my work stand out.

Obviously, a lot has changed for newspapers in the past two decades. But what hasn’t changed is our responsibility to our communities and to our readers. Those first years at the Chronicle (and of course journalism school) gave me a foundation rooted in the core tenants of our craft that easily translates to our evolving digital world. So yes, I have digital skills that didn’t matter (or exist) 20 years ago, but they aren’t worth anything without my traditional foundation.

 

Justin Beam, 31

Director, performance revenue solutions, USA Today Network

Phoenix, Ariz.

Education: Bowling Green State University, bachelor of science, business administration, minor in sports marketing

 Justin Beam originally joined the Gannett/USA Today Network team as sales manager, large local accounts at The Arizona Republic. During his time there, he published a series of white papers which focused on innovative strategies for gaining new advertising partners. Ultimately, the papers created a successful model in the Phoenix market, leading the way to regional expansion.

In his current position, Beam focuses solely on innovation within the performance modeling space for the USA Today Network as director of performance revenue solutions. Prior to joining the group, he worked as an account executive for the Washington Examiner, eventually becoming the director of advertising.

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

Find more than one mentor who embodies a change agent and/or has been responsible for leading change in a specific area of the business. Doing so will indirectly allow you to build a unique skill set that is relevant to the future of our business, increasing your organizational value. A mentor also provides you with someone to talk about and develop new ideas.

Once you have identified the right organization and leaders from whom you choose to learn, you must develop a progression plan. Provide specific benchmarks allowing your success to be clearly defined while also allowing for flexibility along the way. The right mentors will ensure the plan fits with the future of the business unit you’re involved in or aspire towards.

Think outside the box, then execute. Innovative thinking is a standard requirement for the future leaders of our industry. Innovation is only as good as execution. Build your plan to include specific benchmarks against execution, not just good ideas.

 What is the most overlooked revenue source for newspapers in 2017?

The most overlooked for 2017 and beyond resides within various performance driven revenue models. The power of the print audience is best displayed with true ROI and amplified when you combine technology with predictive media analytics. This space is ever-changing and continues to offer growth and innovation opportunities.

 

Meg Boyer, 35

Publisher, Summit Daily News

Frisco, Colo.

Education: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, bachelor of journalism

Meg Boyer made an immediate impact after joining the Summit Daily News and Colorado Mountain News Media (CMNM) team early last year, according to CMNM general manager James Morgan. Whether it be digital analytics, reach of the legacy print product or audience engagement through content changes, the Daily News saw across-the-board positive advances under her direction.

Over the past year, the Daily News has explored in-depth issues such as affordable housing and skier safety, while collecting 16 awards in the Colorado State Press Association’s “Better Newspapers Contest.”

Boyer also initiated a monthly community meeting hosted by the newspaper, which has since grown from a small gathering to a popular event that draws more than 150 local residents.

“She has brought extraordinary energy to her role and created a sense of excitement not seen previously at this operation,” Morgan said. “Most importantly, she has challenged her peers and elevated their game.”

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

Keep your chin up, especially in times like these when our industry is under attack. Remember the work you do is impactful and important, even if it’s not always recognized as such. At the same time, we can’t allow our strong feelings about the role of journalism in a democracy to cloud our collective need to constantly evaluate and improve our work, to acknowledge plainly and loudly when we’ve fallen short, and to look outside the industry for leadership and inspiration in charting our future course.

 What has been the most rewarding aspect of serving as publisher?

I’m fortunate to work with an incredible team of people. We are committed to the news industry and to the community. We’re similarly committed to learning and growing every day, to taking risks, and to meeting our readers where they are—on their phones, tablets, computers and in print. Working with talented journalists, passionate marketing experts and a committed leadership team is by far the most rewarding aspect of my job. I’m the luckiest.

 

Jana Boyum with her husband, Justin, at their wedding in January

Jana Boyum, 26

Creative director, Fillmore County Journal

Preston, Minn.

Education: Winona State University, bachelor of arts, graphic design

When Jana Boyum started in May 2013 fresh out of college as a graphic designer with the Fillmore County Journal, she had never worked for a newspaper. But publisher Jason Sethre said it soon became apparent Boyum had a special talent.

“She took on any project, small or large scale, and made it better than any other member of the team,” he said. “Since joining our team, her portfolio and responsibilities have grown along with our revenues.”

When Sethre promoted Boyum to creative director in 2014, he told her that he wanted to see local faces and names in the Fillmore County Journal every single week. “I wanted to turn our local people into celebrities on the front page,” he said. “She started creating cut-outs in Photoshop with high school kids in action moving across the masthead.” As a result, this feature has resonated with readers.

“(Boyum) is a perfectionist and always seems to come up with new ways to make the presentation of our content better. We challenge each other at times because I may not initially accept her design concepts as the best way. Eventually, we find our way to the finish line,” Sethre said. “And I can honestly say that I believe businesses and customers in general do business with us because of the talent on our team. That talent is driven by Jana…she makes everything we do better.”

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

Don’t be afraid. Give yourself permission to imagine and think differently. Try new angles. Learn all you can everyday and keep being curious. Research and investigate other newspapers and media, as things are constantly changing. Gather new ideas and work with team members, businesses, and others with different viewpoints, experiences, and tastes. Rely on each other to achieve a truly successful product. Work harder than your competition, put the extra effort into executing each project, and enjoy knowing you can make a positive difference.

What do you enjoy most about designing for newspapers?

I love my job because it gives me the opportunity to express and explore my own ideas through my design. Being able to bring my own style, creativity, and innovation to the mix is so much fun. It’s rewarding to create and build teams and products that change the way we do business. Living in a small community and helping businesses succeed through my own hard work and design is a wonderful thing. I have always had a passion for design, technology, art, and illustration, and I get to fulfill that passion as the creative director for our company. It’s amazing to showcase our local talent through my work.

 

Giles Bruce, 34

Health reporter and editor, The Times of Northwest Indiana

Munster, Ind.

Education: Northern Illinois University, bachelor of arts, journalism

According to Times of Northwest Indiana editor Bob Heisse, Giles Bruce never turns down a fitness challenge presented by a reader. Last year, Bruce gathered a group of them for the paper’s first weight loss challenge, “Lose 16 in ‘16.” Contestants kept in touch though Facebook, and shared stories with Bruce on how they were cutting back or falling short. At one point, Bruce even shared his own story of losing weight several years ago, and in December, nine of the readers met the original goal of losing 16 pounds. Bruce is currently assembling a new class for 2017.

Not only is Bruce a “top health care reporter,” Heisse said, but he’s on top of everything from Obamacare to medical advances. He’s also co-editor of the paper’s Get Healthy magazine, and the main writer for the weekly health and fitness section. Bruce was also rewarded last year with a Health Journalism Fellowship from USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism. As his project, Bruce traveled through Indiana examining why the state has such a high infant mortality rate.

“He’s digitally savvy, taking photos and videos, working social networks with video previews, and making sure his stories get out on various platforms to be read by everyone,” Heisse said. “His work is highly respected by his sources.”

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

“If you’re passionate about journalism, stick with it. You might have to take jobs you don’t want or move around the country or cover beats you don’t want to cover, but eventually your persistence will pay off. If you’re not passionate, go into PR like everybody else.”

What is your favorite junk food?

Sixlets

 

Neil Burk, 27

Editor, The Paper of Montgomery County

Crawfordsville, Ind.

Education: Wabash College, bachelor of arts, rhetoric

 

It didn’t take long for Neil Burk to come back to a job he says he loves.

Following a brief tenure at a position with considerably higher pay outside the newspaper industry in Washington, D.C., he returned for his second stint as editor of The Paper of Montgomery County. Publisher Tim Timmons described Burk as having a “quality that is rare at any age.”

Burk’s work has been recognized by the Hoosier State Press Association and is consistently one of the top award winners as part of the paper’s in-house monthly newsroom contest. Despite working on a shoestring budget, he was able to create a “small stringer army” that greatly enhanced its sports and news coverage, according to Timmons.

“He just finds ways to get things done, and done well,” Timmons said. “But more importantly, he finds ways to achieve.”

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

First, don’t let yourself continue to travel down the wrong path just because you have invested a lot of time and effort. It’s easy to find a comfort zone doing things that aren’t moving your career or abilities forward and be lulled into continuing those habits down a path to failure. That said, I think it’s especially important in our industry to have a roadmap and plan to succeed. You should be able to explain to yourself and others why you’re doing the things you are in the way you are. Just don’t be afraid to take the fork in the road if your roadmap isn’t taking you to successful destinations.

The second thing is a simple formula. Your career really comes down to ability, aspirations and achievements. Ability is what you can do, aspirations are what you want to do and achievements are what you’ve done. The latter will only ever be the sum of ability and aspirations, but you have full control over both of those elements.  If you aren’t striving to be better and working to get better, your achievements will be stagnant.

 So far, what has been your proudest moment in your journalism career?

The first time I won a state award I was ecstatic. I actually found out while I was taking a break from newspapers exploring the business world on the east coast. I would say that’s my proudest moment, but what I pride myself on is staying involved in our little community. I have the pleasure of working for a company that prides itself on being a steward for community involvement, and I’ve been able to participate in fundraisers and other events for non-profits regularly. It’s important to me to get to know the difference-makers in our city and towns and to participate in efforts to improve the place we call home.

 

Shira T. Center, 33

Politics/assistant metro editor, The Boston Globe

Boston, Mass.

Education: Northwestern University, bachelor of arts, political science

 

Shira T. Center was front and center of the Boston Globe’s coverage of the presidential election as the lead editor on the paper’s two most visible political franchises: Live Political Happy Hour and Ground Game. She worked with reporter Joshua Miller to turn his afternoon newsletter, Political Happy Hour, into a revenue-generating live event and webcast. The series featured interviews with top lawmakers in Massachusetts while drawing large crowds and interest from advertisers. For Ground Game, Center oversaw reporter James Pindell’s experiment covering the election across all social media platforms. As a result of Center’s “on-the-ground philosophy,” Miller says the paper was the first mainstream outlet to report on President Donald Trump’s burgeoning appeal to voters.

“A font of ideas and anchored in our constantly evolving digital reality, she has an uncanny ability to spot business opportunities and work with departments across the organization to bring them to fruition,” said Miller.

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

Lean into your unique skill set. Some of my colleagues and bosses have two (even three) times as much experience as I do, and I am humbled by their abilities and knowledge every day. I try to focus on the strengths I bring to the table—especially those skills I know will be the most valuable in the longterm for this newsroom.

Leave your ego outside. I hate that millennials have a reputation for being entitled and less engaged employees, but a lot of people in management see anyone under age 35 in that mold. Be aware, and always strive to be the exception to this (often unfair) stereotype.

Finally, pick your battles. Figure out which projects really matter to your success and that of your news organization, and knock them out of the park. And try to avoid anything that even has a whiff of “We’ve always done this thing…” Those are not the kind of projects where you can make your mark, and they’re rarely any fun.

Where do you see the future of political journalism heading?

I’m more optimistic about the future of political journalism than ever. There’s a silver lining to President Trump’s antagonism toward the news media: It has forced us to push and promote the greater-good mission of our journalism.

I believe the future of political journalism, from an editorial and publishing perspective, will embrace this mission in a more public fashion. Our readers should know that, but we can’t take their support for granted. With the value of journalism under assault, it is incumbent upon us as professional journalists to demonstrate the value of our work. This approach is important not only for national politics, but also in our local coverage.

 

Kristen Czaban, 30

Managing editor, The Sheridan Press

Sheridan, Wyo.

Education: Northwestern University, bachelor of science, journalism

 Kristen Czaban’s leadership as managing editor has been essential in the expansion of the paper’s Destination Sheridan magazines, growing from one edition to four annually, according to publisher Stephen M. Woody. The magazine revenues are now second in overall income to the newspaper.

Despite inheriting what Woody describes as a “moribund and clunky website,” Czaban has managed to develop it, and other digital and social media initiatives, to grow the paper’s social media traffic by nearly 88 percent and its mobile traffic by 61 percent. Additionally, the Inland Press Association has regularly recognized the Press during Czaban’s tenure for investigative reporting, explanatory reporting, editorial leadership and page one presentation.

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

Never lose your curiosity. No matter your role at a news organization—production, journalist, sales representative, etc.—your curiosity will push you to do your job better. Some of the best story ideas can come from a journalist wondering how something works or why something is done a specific way. Curiosity prompts innovation, something our industry will continue to need for years to come.

What lessons have you learned from your older colleagues?

Hire well and add some fun and camaraderie to your workplace. A good hire can add fire to your staff and give everyone an extra boost of energy. When a new employee can see things with a fresh perspective and offer suggestions, it gives everyone an opportunity to re-examine long-held processes. Good hires get staff members excited about the future and what they can accomplish together.

Along those lines, adding fun and camaraderie to the workplace is crucial, especially for today’s young professionals, who want to feel like they are making a difference and connecting with the people around them. The people I have worked for and with who are older have made a point to have some fun. We have regular potluck lunches because it gives us all an opportunity to gather around a desk or two and get to know each other. My publisher, Stephen Woody, also introduced the Press to turkey bowling. There are always prizes, always laughs and always jokes that last through the year.

 

Phil Devitt, 30

Managing editor, Hathaway Publishing

New Bedford, Mass.

Education: Roger Williams University, bachelor of arts, communications

 

As managing editor of Hathaway Publishing, Phil Devitt oversees four newspapers that serve eight communities in southeastern Massachusetts, and he leads a staff of six editors and reporters. As editor of The Chronicle, one of the papers in the Hathaway group, he puts together a weekly print paper with only freelance help, which requires him to write, take photos, shoot video, put content on the web and share that content on social media.

Devitt is also spearheading an effort to revamp a community journalism class to be offered by his company, SouthCoast Media Group, with a focus on digital storytelling. The free class would incorporate the perspectives of journalists of various backgrounds. Devitt also speaks frequently at high schools and at his alma mater, Roger Williams University, to students interested in journalism.

“At high school career days, I talk generally about the profession, stressing that rumors of print’s death have been greatly exaggerated,” he said. “I tell them that print journalists these days must be equal parts digital journalist— that online journalism can satisfy our need to know ‘now’ and our need to click and interact with others, and print journalism can add the depth, context and rich writing people want to curl up with on the couch and revisit over and over again.”

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

Do it all. Most of us have no choice but to do it all these days, but the challenges come with advantages. Taking on various roles makes you a valuable player and helps you master the skills that are needed in our business now more than ever. If this sounds overwhelming, and at times it certainly can be, remember that compelling storytelling is at the heart of what we do. Aside from thorough reporting, quality writing is the root of any good piece of journalism, whether it’s delivered in a traditional print story, a video, a podcast, an interactive timeline or any number of other formats.

Lead by example. Don’t expect anyone on your team to do what you ask of them if you’re not willing to do it, too.

Finally, remember that we’re all in this together. Nobody has all the answers but we can all work together to find them.

You have the quote “Shared grief is lessened; shared joy is multiplied” taped to your desk. What does that quote mean to you?

It reminds me daily that the stories we tell are all about real humans, even the ones dense with data and seemingly devoid of life. Increasing focus on budgets, revenue, page views, circulation and other matters makes it easy to forget sometimes. Our work, if done right, is a public service to the people who entrust us with their stories and the people consuming those stories.

 

Maria Luisa Figueroa, 34

Research and information specialist, The Modesto Bee

Modesto, Calif.

Education: San Francisco State University, bachelor of arts, communication studies

Maria Luisa Figueroa began at The Modesto Bee as a newsroom assistant processing content and assisting with research and archiving. Having a background in writing and digital content creation, she joined other projects and was a feature blogger/columnist when she attended the second inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009. This paved the way for her to contribute in various special sections as a writer and photographer while still assisting the newsroom in her daily duties. Eventually, Figueroa moved into her role in advertising where she implemented a number of community events, marketing opportunities and digital outreach projects.

In early 2016, Figueroa rejoined the editorial department as the lead research and information specialist. In addition to her specialized news research duties, Figueroa has brought her marketing and community engagement skills to create new efforts to move her paper forward. Namely, Figueroa developed and manages the paper’s Bee Amplified program, a branded effort to engage the community through a series of programs, discussions and panels bringing together local experts and leaders in various fields on a specific topic.

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

Be vocal and knowledgeable about the changing news landscape. I have been lucky enough to be a part of The Modesto Bee as we transitioned toward a digital-focused news approach. Our publisher, Ken Riddick, saw the opportunity for our community to be a part of the conversation about issues facing us here in the central valley and to approach this goal in way unique from our regular news reporting. He created “The Bee, Amplified” which allows us to lift news beyond the page and present it in a multi-faceted way that includes a live event, a dedicated special section and social media engagement through live video and commentary.

It also helps to have great leadership that you trust and allows you to be creative, and I am always learning from our editor, Joe Kieta, and opinions editor, Mike Dunbar, who encourage and support me and these efforts. Every day, it seems there is a new way or tool that allows us to best deliver news to our community. By keeping up with technology as it changes and expands, it is important to continue to learn and adapt and always be talking about ways to best to engage the community in our products.

Who would be on your Amplified dream panel?

I would love to present a panel of Modesto’s most famous, to hear from the likes of actors Jeremy Renner and Timothy Olyphant, listen to advice from Olympians Suzy Powell-Roos and Erin Cafaro, learn about business innovation from The Gallo Family, Royal Robbins and Pluot inventor Floyd Zeiger, and visit a galaxy far, far away with George Lucas. With many more famous sons and daughters from Modesto, the possibilities seem endless.

 

Sarah Holmes with her husband, Derek, and their two sons: Colin (in white T-shirt) and Linus. Derek also serves as editor of the Gabriola Sounder.

Sarah Holmes, 34

Publisher and owner, Gabriola Sounder

Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada

Education: Augustana University College, bachelor of arts, drama and concentration in rural development

As a fourth generation newspaper publisher, Sarah Holmes became publisher of the Gabriola Sounder at age 25. Her father, both uncles, grandfather, and great-grandfather all owned and ran newspapers, primarily in Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as an independent printing press in Wainwright, Alberta.

“Sarah is one of those people you meet in the industry who is in it because she loves newspapers,” said Kerry Slater, British Columbia and Yukon Newspaper Association special projects manager. “Ink is in her blood, and when she speaks either to her friends and family—or to fellow industry members—you can hear the passion she has for community newspapers.”

After graduation, Holmes spent five years working in the pre-press section of Star Press in Wainwright, while her husband worked as an editor for the Wainwright newspapers. When they purchased the Gabriola Sounder, Slater said islanders were initially skeptical of the “new people” taking over the newspaper, but Holmes was quick to prove them wrong.

“Holmes has grown a reputation in the community for being tough, but fair, and genuinely having her customers’ interests in mind when selling them advertising,” Slater said. “She sees the bigger picture, and understands what it means to be a part of the community. Should revenue stay on track, Holmes will have the debt of purchasing the Sounder paid off before she is 40.”

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

You have value. Don’t let advertisers, or society wear you down on your price. Trust your readers’ feedback and the integrity of your newspaper. It’s tough, keep going. Think creatively for your customers and anticipate their needs, problems, or concerns.

Understand how your clients do business and what their priorities are—either to clear out items, increase services, or sell high value items. Knowing that can change your approach, so listen to your advertising clients.

Keep a close eye on your accounts receivable, you need to get paid. Remember: you have value.

Respect your readers, follow up on news tips, take great photos, get names of those photographed. And follow up on the big stories, let the community know what happened after all the other media has left town.

Care about your community. Be an involved citizen. You will be able to draw more connections in your community that the average person will be able to see, share that knowledge. But don’t burn yourself out volunteering for all the great organizations that your newspaper covers.

Growing up in a newspaper family, what are some of your favorite memories?

It was full of adventure, community mindedness, and hard work. I remember going to the Canadian Community Newspaper Association and the provincial conferences. It was at these conferences that I began to view our industry as an extended family.

I remember the hot waxer, the dark room for developing negatives, burning plates. Cleaning an inky sink, and loading printed newspaper bundles and delivering newspapers in the company truck at 16 taught me the value of hard work and the beginning of customer service.

Innovation was also part of growing up in the newspaper industry. Tagging along with my dad to a Valentine’s Day Bull Sale was turned into a great adventure—watching as photos were taken with digital cameras, edited with Photoshop and placed in Quark pages. That’s something we take for granted now. Being a part of both sides of the technology shift has had tremendous value.

 

Eric Lubbers, 33
Director of innovation, The Denver Post

Denver, Colo.

Education: Chadron State College, bachelor of arts, American history and journalism

As director of innovation, Eric Lubbers has been a partner in many of The Denver Post’s strategic initiatives in the newsroom, from consulting on a staff reorganization to developing a push strategy on mobile apps. According to managing editor Linda Shapley, he is also the go-to person in the newsroom for mobile and phone related issues, and is always willing to share expertise to help others be more effective in their jobs.

In October 2015, he led the revamping of a daily newsletter that was floundering in subscribers’ inboxes. In its place, Lubbers introduced the “Mile High Roundup,” a compilation of the day’s news and what editors are reading, told in smart, funny and Colorado-friendly voice. Since its implementation, the newsletter has maintained a 50 percent click-through rate and has quickly become a key element of the paper’s advertising effort focused on millennial readers.

“Not only is he an evangelist for smart digital storytelling, he is a tireless advocate for journalism that matters, at a time when it is most needed,” Shapley said.


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

There’s never been a better time to be an authoritative, sincere presence in your communities, but don’t be afraid to be human in your coverage. Find your voice (and you can absolutely have a voice even if you’re not a writer), avoid clichés and you’ll become invaluable to your audience. They’ve already figured out most of the old tricks of the trade and can discover the basics of most news from 1,000 different sources. It’s up to us to respect that and find out how to be useful in a way that no one else can replicate.

 How would you describe the newsroom of the future?

Not far off from the newsroom of today. Each individual newsroom should embrace its unique flavor and explore new avenues of creation and distribution outside of the standards of print, web and traditional social — think email, push notifications, events and other direct and personalized channels. Marry that new, personalized distribution with the high standards of real journalism and we can really help people separate signal from noise.


Emilie Lutostanski, 29

Digital product manager, Community Impact Newspaper

Pflugerville, Texas

Education: Texas State University-San Marcos, bachelor of arts, journalism

In her position as digital product manager, Emilie Lutostanski played a significant role in Community Impact Newspaper’s digital evolution in 2016. According to David Arkin, chief content officer, she was the lead driver behind the organization’s new digital strategy which put a premium on breaking news, creating lists and utilizing social media.

Lutostanski also led a new data strategy which included the introduction of a new real-time analytics tool that every Community Impact newsroom now uses. In order to help newspapers better understand how the tool could be used to guide their coverage decisions, she went out and conducted her own one-on-one meetings with members of the group’s newsrooms.

“Emilie is a digital leader in our company and has done a great job not only raising our product game but she’s worked hard to help all areas of our digital business evolve through great metric reporting and coordination on initiatives with sales,” said Arkin.

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

Equip yourself with knowledge to do a variety of tasks outside of your comfort zone and formal education. Teach yourself to code, volunteer for special projects, become a subject matter expert, experiment with new tools, and learn about every aspect of the business. While no one can be certain what the newspaper industry will look like in 10, 20 or 30 years, having a deep understanding of operations and a tool belt of professional talents will enable you to anticipate challenges, innovate to improve products, and better inform readers.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when implementing your company’s new digital strategy, and how did you overcome it?

Creating and consistently executing plans for advancing the digital strategy at 22 newspapers throughout Texas has been a challenge. Many internal processes have been completely overhauled, and it’s an evolution we’re still working on every day. Traditionally, the company has been very print-focused. Only in the last few years have we built a digital team. Shifting our newsroom’s mindset from print-first to a cohesive hybrid of web and print has been key to our success so far, and we are just getting started.

 

Julian March, 28

Local news editor, StarNews

Wilmington, N.C.

Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, bachelor of arts, journalism, reporting

When Julian March came to the StarNews seven years ago as a summer intern, he would cover anything and everything editors threw at him, said Sherry Jones, managing editor. By the time he was ready to graduate college, she had to find a way to hire him. Though the only opening was a day cops reporting position, March accepted the challenge and exceeded expectations.

In early 2016, he was promoted to local news editor. In this position, March has revamped coverage of Brunswick County and seen online readership soar. The initiatives he oversaw at the paper in 2016 include organizing a weekly page in the Sunday print edition devoted to Brunswick County news, reinvigorating its Facebook page, and spearheading the StarNews Media Commemorative Cup project.

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

Always maintain a sense of curiosity and willingness to listen to people. There aren’t many professions that have the privilege of telling regular people’s stories, be it celebrations or everyday life or situations marked by heartache or anger. I’m reminded of a black and white photograph of my grandmother (who spent nearly six decades as a reporter and editor) wearing a skirt and heels in the middle of a field, smiling up at a farmer on a horse. All these years later I don’t know what the story was, but I can see the curiosity in her face.

Whether you work in a newsroom or on the revenue side, educate yourself on the business of journalism. Everyone should have a basic understanding of the business model, how it’s changing in line with national trends and what effect that has on the future.

Be open to new opportunities for yourself and suggest taking on projects you believe in. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. I am fortunate to work in a newsroom that embraces the importance of our digital presence alongside the printed newspaper. To me, it is an exciting time to be in journalism—we have constantly evolving technology and tools to aid our storytelling.

What journalism advice do you give to your summer interns?

Treat your internship like an audition. Prepare for it and then show up and work hard. An internship offers a limited amount of time to make an impression, produce work you can be proud of and experience a community. Look for opportunities to pick up extra assignments or pitch a project. Newsrooms are busy places, and interns that seek out stories or projects end up with a better body of work.

Cultivate relationships with colleagues—ask them questions, join them for lunch or step into their office for a conversation. They can offer valuable lessons and tips on the profession and those relationships will enrich your experience and build contacts you can return to for advice.

Turn in your best work. Immerse yourself in your assignments, not just for a quality final product, but to learn more about the world.

 

Jake Mienk, 34

Senior publisher and regional sales director, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.

Palestine, Texas

Education: Northwood University, bachelor of business administration, business management

Jake Mienk began his newspaper career as a retail account executive at the Tyler (Texas) Morning Telegram in 2005. He joined Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. in 2012 as regional advertising director for three daily newspapers in east Texas. He was named publisher at Palestine in 2014 and expanded his responsibilities to include Corsicana in 2015. In addition to his publishing duties, Jake was named regional sales director in 2016 for five of the company’s newspapers in east Texas. In February, Mienk was named a senior publisher for CNHI with added responsibility for the company’s newspapers in east Texas.

CNHI regional executive Henry Bird said in 2016, Mienk bucked an industry trend. “While many newspapers were reducing publishing days, he added a day to the publishing cycle of the Corsicana Daily Sun. The move has not only been a financial success on the advertising front, but paid circulation at the newspaper is up over prior year.”

Prior to Mienk becoming publisher in Palestine, the newspaper was facing financial difficulties and had lost much of its connection with the community. Bird said by the end of Mienk’s first year, the paper was back in the black and had become highly regarded by subscribers for its lively content and willingness to tackle tough subjects. He also completely renovated the printing facility at Palestine.

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

It’s important to align yourself with a mentor and learn everything you can. A good mentor will be someone who is well respected in the industry and has more experience than you do. Knowledge is priceless in the newspaper industry. Utilize them, ask questions and absorb all you can because their understanding will help you succeed in this business.

Secondly, always surround yourself with passionate and positive people. Negativity will get you nowhere in the newspaper world. People who are passionate about the newspaper business will do what it takes to succeed. Without a doubt, there will be ups and downs, but if you and your team keep an open mind, be creative and remain positive, you’ll find your way through the weeds and will become a better newspaper because of it.

Where do you see the industry in five years?

Growing, however, the growth will be determined by the individual newspaper’s quality of journalism. The newspaper’s role in the communities we serve is more important today than ever before. We must continue to earn our reputation for accuracy and fairness and bond ourselves closer to our communities through reader engagement and feedback. The higher standards we set for ourselves in journalistic principles, immediacy, prominence and relevancy, the more growth we’ll see.

 

Paul Myers, 28

Editor and vice president, Sun-Gazette

Exeter, Calif.

Education: California State University-Fresno, master in public administration and bachelor of arts, public administration

In October 2015, the Sun-Gazette, a 115-year-old newspaper, was about to declare bankruptcy and shut down operations. Paul Myers had just been promoted to assistant editor in June 2015 and been working closely with Reggie Ellis, Sun-Gazette president and publisher, to solve the company’s ailing finances.

“We worked long nights, after long days, to apply for business loans to stabilize our finances while we continued to transform the company from a sleepy, small town weekly into a more regional publication to broaden our subscription and advertising base,” Ellis said. “We shut down entire departments, cut staff and consolidated positions in order to survive long enough to get the loan. When we received the loan on Feb. 1, 2016, Myers was promoted to editor.”

Throughout 2016, Ellis said the paper continued to make adjustments, launched new products that diversified revenue, and there are more projects on the horizon. The paper is also just two full-time people away from being back to staffing levels in the pre-housing crisis era.

“In just one year the company has taken a $30,000 loss and turned it into a $50,000 profit,” Ellis said.

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

Always be learning. So much of what we do as journalists is learning about the world around us. But as editors we have to not only learn about what our communities are doing, what our governments are doing, but what is happening in our own newsrooms as well. Supervising reporters and photographers is undoubtedly a tough job, but to best run our newsrooms we have to learn how our staves learn best.

Currently, journalism is in a time of revolution.  Now, more than ever, editors need to be able to continue to keep a quality journalism culture alive. And the way to do that is to keep your reporters motivated by learning what makes them want to do quality work for your publication, and then teaching them how they can best do that.

Why is community journalism so important?

The day when reporters and journalists can no longer report the news, will be the same day that local government corruption will begin its golden era. At the national level, larger media outlets are qualified to pore over documents and put a check on government power, but they are not looking into the minutia of local government for the citizens of small towns and cities. They may borrow stories and cite sources that smaller print publications have already uncovered, but they are not printing city council Brown Act violations. And they certainly are not running with stories that expose gross misappropriation of local taxpayer dollars. So while watching one of the mass media outlets may be entertaining, albeit on a more abstract level for most citizens, community journalism is about telling readers what is happening in their own backyard.

 

Daniel Norselli with his daughter, Madeline

Daniel Norselli, 34

President, Democrat & Chronicle

Rochester, N.Y.

Education: Rochester Institute of Technology, master of business administration; Northeastern University, bachelor of science, leadership 

 Daniel Norselli began his career with Gannett in 2012 as digital director of the Democrat and Chronicle Media Group. A year later, he was promoted to senior digital and retail director and received the Gannett Chairman’s Award. After a brief stint as president and publisher of the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri, he returned to the Democrat & Chronicle as vice president of sales. Last August, he was promoted to his current position.

According to Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president of news, Norselli’s achievements include increasing digital marketing services from $100,000 to more than $1.3 million in 2013, and overseeing the launch of a successful pilot program on sports awards at the News-Leader, resulting in over $200,000 in incremental revenue and Gannett-wide expansion of the program.

Most recently, he inspired his advertising team to exceed both total and digital revenue goals, increasing this category year over year by more than $1 million, producing the most digital revenue ever in Rochester.

“His passion and enthusiasm for the digital media business—both its complexities and potential—are grounded in his desire to make a lasting impact on his team, organization, community and industry,” said Magnuson.

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

The newspaper industry has huge opportunity, especially in the digital arena. A young leader must be fearless, relentless about challenging the status quo and be willing to experiment and innovate. Think like you are in a startup and run the business with a refuse to lose mentality.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

I have three young children and most of my time is spent with them and my wife doing family activities. In my free time, though, I enjoy playing golf and playing sports outdoors.

 

Josh Peterson, 30

Publisher, Manchester Times

Manchester, Tenn.

Education: Coffee County Central High School 

Josh Peterson started at the Manchester Times in 2005 as a part-time sports writer and has since worked his way through the ranks of the newspaper—moving to full-time sports editor, editor in 2010, and in 2015, he was named publisher of the weekly paper. During his time as editor, Peterson led the Manchester Times to its first Tennessee Press Association’s General Excellence award in 2013.

Since being named publisher, Peterson has worked to help restore the importance of print news media in the Manchester community. He has worked to form a readership panel that meets every other month and consists of community members. Peterson also implemented the Manchester Times Press Pass subscriber rewards program.

Peterson is also putting a heavy emphasis on newspapers in schools. He helped restart the local high school newspaper by picking up the printing costs, helped an elementary school start a school paper and was recently the keynote speaker at community Literacy Night.

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

Be fearless but respectful of the institution of quality print journalism. The future of the industry is dependent upon innovative, forward-thinking young journalists to carry the torch. And while I’ve built my career on pushing the envelope and questioning the status quo, it’s important to remember what’s in that torch that we are carrying and the answer is integrity and tradition. Whether you are working at a major daily or a community newspaper that serves as the heartbeat of some small community in rural America, this job isn’t all that complicated—pursue the truth.

If you could compare your newsroom to any sports team, which one would it be and why?

The 2003 World Series champion Miami Marlins (Florida Marlins then) come to mind. That was a team that had some veteran leadership, but the core of that team that shocked the powerhouse Yankees was young, up-and-coming talent, and I feel like we have that in our building. Our news editor, Leila Beem Nunez, is 23, and she is talented and growing all the time. Our sports editor, Demarco Moore, is the same age, and he has helped us integrate more video in our coverage and he has helped to build our social presence. Our lifestyles and education guy, John Coffelt, he is our veteran piece to the puzzle who helps guide some of this great young talent we have. We don’t have a huge budget just like those Marlins didn’t, but we have talented, hard-working folks who I would take over anybody. And where we may lack in some areas we will make up for it with good work ethic, communication and team chemistry.

 

Photo by Byron Hetzler

Alee Quick, 28

Digital editor, The Southern Illinoisan

Carbondale, Ill.

Education: University of Missouri-Columbia, bachelor of journalism and bachelor of arts in Spanish language and literature

When Alee Quick joined The Southern Illinoisan team in 2014, the newspaper was behind the digital curve, even for a small paper, according to investigative reporter Molly Parker. Since then, Quick has revolutionized The Southern’s online presence and digital outreach and grown online readership as a result. Not long after arriving, she led redesign efforts for The Southern’s website as a member of parent company Lee Enterprise’s digital team.

“Her knowledge and approach have enhanced reporting capabilities in the field. Alee has trained the news gathering staff to think more critically about digital, interactive elements that can improve stories. All of these things have enriched the reader experience,” said Parker.

Additionally, Quick writes a column and serves as a member of the editorial board. She manages the daily news budget and co-edits stories for online and print. She supervisors obituary writers and is part of a management team that works with reporters on story development and editing. She additionally helps budget and edits the paper’s quarterly Life & Style magazine, and serves as lead editor of the newspaper’s Scene 618 entertainment guide.

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

Say yes to everything (unless it will cause you great bodily harm). Take care of yourself (don’t eat takeout at your desk every day). Make time for fun (go to happy hour; go on a hike; slow cook at home). Advocate for yourself (don’t rely on others to fight for you).

You’re known as the human search engine in your newsroom. What’s the craziest question a colleague has asked you?

A discussion about food is sure to get people buzzing in Southern Illinois. One of our most beloved local food carts is referred to simply as “the hot dog lady,” for the woman who serves up weenies and Italian beef from her cart in the parking lot of a major shopping center during the lunch rush. We ran a story about the “hot dog lady’s” plans to open a brick and mortar restaurant called “Chicago It Up.” And the Chicagoans in our newsroom exposed us to the very serious art of the Chicago dog. We found that everyone—from Chicago or not—is pretty particular about what toppings are acceptable on a hot dog. Our editor at the time wondered, “What does a person’s hot dog topping preferences say about his or her personality?” Basically, she wondered, “If I were a hot dog, what kind of hot dog would I be?” So, I created a quiz in which people could answer a series of questions to find the answer to that pressing question. The options: Chicago dog, for the most meticulous among us; Southern hot dog, which is covered in coleslaw, for people who love the variety of life; corn dog, for life’s most mysterious characters; chili dog, for risk-takers; and pig in a blanket, for the creative and crafty types. Me? I’m a Southern hot dog.

 

Brittany Rought, 28

Sales manager, The Sun Newspapers

Cherry Hill, N.J.

Education: Chaminade University, bachelor of arts, communications, minor in business administration

 

In 2016, Brittany Rought led her group through significant change in culture and work environment to produce a team record for the week of Thanksgiving, surpassing 11 previous years of Black Friday Gift Guide issue sales figures of $96,000 for The Sun Newspapers. She has also set record highs for the company for three consecutive years in a row. Rought began her career with The Sun Newspapers in 2011, growing her territory 166 percent over the course of her first six months on the job.

According to publisher Joe Eisele, Rought always emphasizes cultivating new business, renewing more than half of expiring contracts, and winning back former customers each and every week.

“Her attitude, consistent positivity, and infectious smile are the reasons why her group turns annual profits, and makes her communities believers in our products,” he said. “Brittany is a lightning rod in our company and I personally don’t know where we would be headed without her.”

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

Get involved. Be the face of your product within the communities you service. I learned early on that in this industry if you want to become successful you have to build relationships with clients and the communities you serve. Become active in the business associations and participate in community events like festivals or town celebrations. This will not only gain you access to new business and potential clients, but it allows you to connect with the readers.

What are the key traits of an efficient newspaper sales manager?

A sales manager should be versatile. They need to be able to juggle the company’s objectives while managing their group of sales representatives and helping them achieve personal sales goals. A sales manager should be confident in their decisions, but not be afraid to ask for help when needed. It is important to continue learning especially in this ever-changing industry.

 

Rayline Sebay, 34

Circulation/advertising operations manager, Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque, N.M.

Education: J.B. Castle High School

Within three years of starting her career in the newspaper industry as an office clerk with Oahu Publications, Rayline Sebay had already worked her way up to operations manager of the publishing company. When Sebay joined the Albuquerque Journal nearly a decade later in 2013, she was able to quickly put her experience and skills to use as the paper’s circulation operations manager.

In 2016, Sebay accepted a new role as operation manager for both circulation and advertising departments. One of Sebay’s first tasks was to oversee the paper’s conversion to a new circulation system, which required her to lead the group working with accounting, circulation, IT and system developers to ensure proper set up.

According to circulation director Robert Rivera, Sebay remains the paper’s systems expert and information source for all departments. She has also helped the advertising staff better understand their system and package setups.

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

Don’t believe the stigma that newspapers are dying. The industry as a whole has changed and will continue to evolve as more young professionals come up with innovative ideas. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with your bosses. Think outside of the box, and work hard. Constantly question why things are done the way they’re done, and don’t just accept it because it’s always been done a certain way. Understand the “why” and not just the “how.”

How do you stay organized as an operations manager of both circulation and advertising departments?

It’s important to prioritize. I come into work every morning and make a “To-Do” list in order of priority. Sometimes, priorities shift so keeping a list helps me to stay focused. I also add everything to my email calendar so I don’t need to remember things on my own.  I keep my email inbox clean and organized. As I read my emails, I move my finished emails out of my inbox, and leave my read mails that need to be followed up on in my inbox which helps to remind me what still needs to get done. By keeping up with those three things, and a lot of prayers, I’m able to stay organized and focused.

 

Bridget Sibthorp-Moecker, 35

Regional digital director/digital product manager, Central Illinois (Lee Enterprises)

Decatur, Ill.

Education: Illinois State University in Normal, bachelor of science, graphic design

From the very first day Julie Bechtel, president and publisher of Lee Enterprises’ Central Illinois Group, met Bridget Sibthorp-Moecker , she was impressed, not only with Sibthorp-Moecker’s “contagious” smile and positive work attitude, but with her ability to plan fun, morale-building events.

Sibthorp-Moecker joined Lee Enterprises at the Decatur Herald & Review in Decatur, Ill. in May 2005. Since then, she has taken on more responsibility and been promoted multiple times. Currently, she serves as regional digital director for three properties in Central Illinois.  She also recently assumed a new role at the corporate level as a digital product manager specializing in classified initiatives.

“Although Bridget is our local digital expert, she also has a great appreciation for our printed product,” Bechtel said. “She has a foot in both worlds and respects each.”

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

Don’t give up. There is plenty of room for go-getters and creative thinkers in this business, and there’s no limit to your potential if you’re willing to challenge yourself. Do soak in the knowledge from your more experienced leaders and peers, but keep your eyes and heart open. You can only achieve your full potential if you’re brave enough to assert yourself, and passionate enough to try things.

How do you stay motivated working in an industry that has seen its ups and downs?

Simple: I remember why we’re here. Our purpose is to collect and distribute news with accuracy and clarity. For hundreds of years, newspapers have been recording the history of our communities for future generations. Now we’re tasked with distributing this news quickly and in several forms. The execution is more complicated now, but our mission is the same. As technology changes and our audience shifts to new platforms, we have to challenge conventional thinking. While this time in our industry is challenging, the opportunity to reinvent ourselves is a beautiful gift. So let’s experiment. Let’s find ways to be resourceful and explore the depths of our imagination. Our “job” is to rethink journalism and set it up to thrive.

 

Trent Spiner, 31

Executive editor, New Hampshire Union Leader

Manchester, N.H.

Education: Franklin Pierce University, bachelor of arts, mass communications

As New Hampshire Union Leader executive editor, Trent Spiner manages a staff of 40 reporters, editors, and photographers. How did he land such a big job? He asked for it, said director of marketing Katie McQuaid Cote.

“During his interview for another editor position, the then 28-year-old Spiner learned the executive editor position was being filled too. He asked the publisher to be considered for the position instead, and it worked,” she said.

Spiner started at the paper as a correspondent, and spent some time in the newsroom of local ABC affiliate WMUR, before returning to the Union Leader as executive editor.

In his two years leading the newsroom, Spiner has led many initiatives. He introduced Parse.ly to the newsroom, and led efforts for a recent reader survey. In August 2015, Spiner helped lead an effort to host and produce the Union Leader’s Voter First Forum. Later in the presidential primary campaign, Spiner advocated for the Democratic National Committee to host a last-minute, unscheduled debate between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Spiner also secured a grant from the New Hampshire Endowment for Health to fund a one-year reporter position to cover aging in the state. To date, the paper has produced more than 30 stories focused solely on New Hampshire’s aging population. Legislation has been filed at the Statehouse to address some of the issues highlighted in their coverage.

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

Set aside time every week to connect with someone you’ve never met or haven’t spoken to in awhile. Constantly strengthening your network is critical whether you are a new graduate looking for your first job or you have spent a decade at the same organization.

It is even more valuable for people who have spent time in the business, even if you’ve stayed at the same company. I purposefully make time in my schedule every week—even for just an hour—to reach out to someone I should’ve already met or haven’t spoken to in a few months. I also make sure to trade cell phone numbers. When there’s breaking news or a reporter needs help connecting with the right person, that network already exists.

What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from covering this past election?

Make sure you are taking time to listen to your community. In the same vein as my advice above, it was clear some national news organizations relied too heavily on polls and their own perception of the election’s storyline instead of what was happening on the ground.

Our team covered hundreds of political events. We conducted dozens of interviews with people who were seeking the presidency. We made those available to the public through Meerkat, Periscope, Facebook Live and other social media platforms for instant feedback. We broke a lot of news in the process. But as an editor, I thought it was also important to get out from behind my desk, whether that meant starting early at a breakfast stump speech with a candidate or going home late to catch a town hall. Much of what you hear will be anecdotal but will ensure your coverage accurately represents your community.

 

Photo by Mark Gutman/Daily News

Tiffany Towner, 30

Managing editor, The Daily News

Batavia, N.Y.

Education: Pennsylvania State University, bachelor of arts, journalism

Tiffany Towner has been working as a journalist for the past 10 years. While studying journalism at Pennsylvania State University, she worked at The Daily Collegian, a student-run newspaper. After three semesters covering various beats as a reporter, she graduated and got her first job as a reporter at The Daily Review in Towanda, Pa.

During her nearly eight years there, she rose through the ranks, from a reporter, to copy editor, to assistant news editor, to managing editor, and eventually to editor-in-chief at age 28.

A year ago, Towner decided to further her career by accepting the position of managing editor at The Daily News in Batavia, N.Y., becoming the first woman to hold the title.

“In just her first year, Tiffany has completely transformed the newsroom of The Daily News from a stuffy, slow and unmotivated staff into a team of fully engaged multimedia journalists who now enjoy what they do and working with their teammates across a variety of platforms,” said Daily News publisher  Michael Messerly. “Tiffany has pushed her news team to increasing their individual story counts while transitioning into constant use of live video and other digital platforms.”

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

Don’t let your age hold you back. Don’t let it keep you from going for that promotion, or from speaking up at a meeting, or approaching your boss with a new idea. You’ll get told no sometimes, but you have to use rejection, learn from it, and push on from it. Young professionals may not have all of the experience of older generations, but do have different skills and a unique point of view. Keep up on new technologies and how they can help your company, but also listen to and learn from those who have been in the industry for many years. You should never be done learning. Avoid becoming complacent; always have goals (small and large) for yourself and for your company, and strive to achieve them.

What digital initiatives should newspapers be taking advantage of right now?

Facebook Live is a great tool for newspapers. We’ve done a lot over the past year with it and had great success, from being the first to report from the scene of breaking news incidents, to live-streaming sports games, and even creating our own live series and talk shows. From there, streaming devices offer a great opportunity to deliver newspapers’ video content to the viewers. We’re looking forward to creating our own channel, filled with live and produced video content, on devices like Roku and Fire Stick. The gaining popularity of smart home devices (like Amazon Echo and Google Home) also provides a new opportunity for papers to record their news daily and have it be read aloud to listeners. Finally, make sure you’ve got an intuitive website that’s constantly updated and a user-friendly app. It just comes down to watching how people are getting their information and entertainment, and seeing how your paper can be a part of it.

Published: April 3, 2017

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