25 Under 35

By: Nu Yang and Ed Zintel

25 Under 35

Our nomination form for this year’s 25 Under 35 feature asked for “people who are young, bright, and capable of tackling whatever the changing newspaper climate throws at them. People with business acumen to lead through trying times and vision to implement bold, new strategies to move their newspapers forward.”            

And newspapers everywhere certainly delivered.            

In an industry that many naysayers describe is dying, the men and women featured on the following pages are here to show that newspapers are very much alive and kicking. Just take a look at their accomplishments and you will see they are making great strides in reinventing print, generating new revenue and finding new ways to reach their audiences.            

Famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso said, “It takes a very long time to become young.” The same should be said about our industry. As we pass the torch on to the next generation, we only become wiser. Their commitment to journalism and their drive to find success should inspire all of us.

Sara Konrad Baranowski, 34
Editor, Times Citizen
Iowa Falls, Iowa
University of Northern Iowa, Bachelor of Arts, English; University of Iowa, Master of Arts, journalism with a political science emphasis

Sara Konrad Baranowski rose to the editor position after about a year with the Times Citizen. She previously worked at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Fort Dodge Messenger. As a crossover reporter with the paper’s in-house radio station and now as editor, she has led the convergence effort within the company and has published a book focusing on the topic of newspaper evolution and the different business models being pursued.

In addition to the paper’s success as a whole in the Iowa Newspaper Foundation’s Better Newspaper contests, Baranowski’s reporting, columns and editorial oversight have also won individual recognition on a yearly basis.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Be ambitious. When you have the opportunity to learn a new skill, take it. Learn about your coworkers’ jobs. Read up on trends in the industry and the innovations that are being undertaken by news operations, both large and small. All of this can serve as inspiration and it will give you more confidence to suggest the next great idea. I’m most motivated when I get out of the office and talk with other newspaper professionals about our work. I can count on those friends to motivate and challenge me, and we can collaborate in ways that will serve all of our readers. Finally, never believe that you’ve learned it all. There’s always something new to master and there’s always something that you could be doing better.

With your busy schedule, what is a typical work week like for you?
It’s a balancing act. My husband and I work for the same company, which is great because it means we understand the demands of each other’s job. As parents of 3-year-old twins, we’re thankful for the flexibility of our schedules and the balance in our marriage. When I have to attend an evening meeting, he feeds the kids, entertains them and puts them to bed. When he has to do play-by-play of a high school basketball game on our company’s radio station, I take over at home. Since becoming parents, we’ve had to find ways to work more efficiently. Rather than stay late at the office, I take my laptop home and work on projects after the kids are in bed. I’m proud of the way that we make our lives work because our son and daughter are being raised by parents who are passionate about their careers. The bonus is that they get to grow up around newspapers, which is pretty awesome.

Andrew Chernoff, 34
Advertising director, Seacoast Media Group
Portsmouth, N.H.
Education: University of New Hampshire, Bachelor of Science, communications with business minor

From 2011-14, Andrew Chernoff quickly rose through the advertising ranks, moving from daily deals sales leader to digital sales manager and now as advertising director. In his position, digital sales have grown from $900,000 to $1.7 million and are now 22 percent of ad revenue-industry-leading ratios. According to publisher John Tabor, Chernoff’s background as a television sales rep and regional manager for Pointroll, a digital agency owned by Gannett Co., gives him a strong background in consultative sales, prospecting for new business and assisting others in becoming multi-media salespeople in the local media space.

“He will enable (Seacoast Media Group) to meet and beat the digital competition that threatens all legacy media,” Tabor said.
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Don’t look at yourselves as being in the newspaper industry; look at yourselves as being in the content industry and the solutions industry. Whether it’s “foldable” or “clickable,” newspapers are in the unique and valuable position of being able to deliver concise, local content to the communities they’re located in. They’re also in the unique position to solve many problems for their SMB clients, so know your products, know your competition and deliver the right solutions at the right time. It’s about a long term relationship, not a single sale.

What are some digital advertising initiatives publishers should keep an eye on?
Video, mobile and then more video. As our content becomes readily available and formatted for mobile, publishers will need to find creative and innovative ways to monetize where the eyeballs are, and mobile and video will be the leaders.

The other initiative that intrigues me seems blurry at best depending on whom you ask and what they refer to it as, but that’s native advertising, advertorials, product placement, etc. There’s a lid for every pot, and there’s an advertiser for every story. Be wise with whom you’re presenting too, and in a clearly stated advertisement, the integrating of ads into targeted local content will bring more partners your way as you help them cut through the “noise.”

Ben Cunningham, 31
Senior manager for news production, Lee Enterprises Design Center
Design director, Munster Design Center, The Times of Northwest Indiana
Munster, Ind.
Indiana University, Bachelor of Arts, journalism

In his position, Ben Cunningham works closely with his team of design leaders at Lee’s three design centers. He also is the design director at the Munster Design Center operating out of The Times of Northwest Indiana. In addition, Cunningham leads newsrooms through their adoption of BLOX TCMS, a web-based editorial system for publishing to print and digital platforms and the transfer of the design of their printed newspapers to regional design centers.  

“It’s a multifaceted job that requires deep knowledge of newsrooms, technology and human relations,” said Times Media Co. director of operations Dominic Crews.  “(Cunningham) analyzes newsrooms’ needs, studies their existing workflows and then guides them through implementation of the new system.  

“He knows not only how newsrooms work but how they could work better by taking full advantage of the publishing technology. He works collaboratively with people in news and technology to make that happen.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
It’s important to be curious. Learn everything you can about your operation—if you’re a journalist, focus outside of the newsroom—your colleagues and your community. There are many different avenues and paths that will be opened to you if you can help synergize teams and processes based on personal experience.

What kind of design elements makes a great newspaper?
Design is not just about the elements on a page. You can use design practices to solve problems and communicate effectively. A great newspaper or media company relies on strong design thinking to build production processes and to shape newsrooms. It’s all about creating a unique user experience, not just for the audience of your publication, but also for your colleagues involved in the process itself.

Ben Doody, 28
Connecticut Group Managing Editor, Digital First Media
New Haven, Conn.
Fairfield (Conn.) University, Bachelor of Arts, English

Ben Doody’s role as managing editor of Digital First Media Connecticut encompasses The New Haven Register, The Register Citizen, The Middletown Press, a number of weeklies and Connecticut Magazine. He started with the company at The Trentonian in Trenton, N.J. where he worked his way up in the sports department.

In his current role, he is driving DFM’s Project Unbolt on a local level. The project is designed to free the newsroom of technology, workflows, schedules and job descriptions that are in any way tied to legacy print obligations.

Doody also launched GameTimeCT.com, the state-wide high school sports portal that provides complete state coverage of scholastic athletics in all conferences. He also helped lead DFM’s coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and its long and continued aftermath and impact on Connecticut.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Accept the fact that especially for your first few years in the business, your job is going to take over your life. If you’re concerned about working a 40-hour week and not checking your email or keeping up with the news after you go home, someone else is going to step in who’s just as talented as you are but willing to go the extra mile.

Also, don’t be shy about approaching management about ideas for stories, projects or even a totally new approach to doing something. Most managers are smart enough to know they don’t know everything. They’ll appreciate the suggestions, even if they’re not able to act on all of them. The caveat here is if you’re proposing a solution to something, you have to be willing to help execute it. It’s easy to suggest more work for someone else, but if you have an idea and you’re willing to executive it, that will open a lot of eyes.

Why should newsrooms “unbolt? “
I think most people understand the need to unbolt: We’re going to sink or swim based on how we perform digitally, and that means challenging a ton of assumptions and re-thinking virtually every aspect of what we’re doing. The real question is how you do that and what you sacrifice in order to make it happen.

We should be honest about the fact that print can and will suffer the more newspapers behave like digital-only organizations. What we’re trying to figure out is how to keep the vast majority of reporters and editors totally unbolted while ensuring someone is there to convert all that content to a print-friendly format. We can run some of that stuff in print without making significant changes, but you can’t run a video in print, for instance, and the same goes for a lot of other digital content. The reality is that that handoff might be messy, and on some level, we have to be okay with that. I want a good print product as much as anyone does, but I’d rather get the digital part right and let print suffer than the other way around. 

Tiffany Evers, 30
Editor and graphic designer, NSB Observer
New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Kennesaw (Ga.) State University, Bachelor of Science, communication in the mass media with a focus in news reporting and writing

The NSB Observer was a 100-year-old local newspaper in Southeast Volusia County, Florida before it went bankrupt a few years ago. Publisher Thomas D. Alcorn purchased the paper and gave editor Tiffany Evers the opportunity to start fresh again. Since June 2013, the paper has been revitalized as a monthly, 40-page tabloid that focuses exclusively on community news.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Don’t let the definition of the word “newspaper” limit you. The most important element in any industry is growth. Understand the importance of connecting your online presence with your print paper, while still keeping each one unique. Make it a point to learn something new every day and always continue to work on your craft.

What were some challenges with taking over a bankrupt paper and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge we faced was the idea that we were going to be the exact same paper. Even though the paper had a 100-year history behind it, we started with nothing. The publisher and I came up with a new format and spent months putting together a team and figuring out what works for our audience. The most important thing was to stay consistent to our new approach and accept constructive criticism with open arms. We have grown in ad revenue, writers, staff and circulation with every issue and I plan to continue that path into the future.

Tommy Felts, 31
Managing editor, The Ottawa Herald
Ottawa, Kan.
: Texas A&M University—Commerce, Bachelor’s degree in journalism

Tommy Felts joined The Ottawa Herald’s news staff in 2005 as its pagination editor. In 2009, Felts was promoted to managing editor in an effort by upper management to lead the newspaper down a new path with a renewed focus on design and reporting, as well as digital/multimedia efforts.  

“His leadership was immeasurable as he transitioned his newsroom and creative services teams from a century old evening publication to a morning one when we converted our delivery method from carriers to same-day delivery via U.S. mail, and again when circumstances dictated a reduction in print publishing days from five to three,” said editor and publisher Jeanny Sharp.

She added, “(Felts) boldly accepts new challenges and the many hats he must wear in our small newspaper including video, e-newsletters, social media and more…he literally wears his pride for the newspaper on his personally-purchased company polo shirts daily though he knows wearing it often may invite as many critiques as it does praise from the public.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Embrace the idea of community journalism. Newspapers are at their best when covering the local news that most impacts readers. Not only does a local focus provide consumers with news they often can’t get anywhere else, but it helps build a sense of community among readers.

Don’t ignore journalism industry trends, but don’t follow them blindly either. Today’s newspapers shouldn’t abandon their print products in lieu of online models that appear more cost-effective. The future for our industry likely is in disseminating information to different audiences using different media platforms—that includes a marriage of print, online, social media, mobile technology, email blasts and other multimedia venues.  

What kind of reactions do you get from people when you wear your company polo shirts out of the office?
Identifying myself as a member of The Herald’s staff garners mixed reactions when I’m out and about in the community. Some folks see it as an opportunity to tell a representative of the newspaper about every typo they’ve noticed in the publication, every beef they’ve had with an editorial writer’s opinion and every story we should or shouldn’t have written. More often, however, members of the public are excited to see someone from the newspaper engaging in the community. They use it as an opportunity to offer kudos and news tips, delighted to play a role in the news-gathering process. I’m proud to serve as a conduit between readers and the newspaper, just as I’m proud of the job our team at The Herald does every day.

Mark Francescutti, 34
Managing digital editor, sports and entertainment, The Dallas Morning News
University of Michigan, Bachelor of Business Administration 

In his position, Mark Francescutti is in charge of all things sports and entertainment on the paper’s various digital platforms. Among his accomplishments is the deployment of 50 freelancers each Friday night to high school football games where they record every play of the game and automatically feed to a special app and to the website. A few months ago, Francescutti developed an app in partnership with the leading sports talk radio station in the market and it is already generating 28 million ad impressions a month.

Under Francescutti’s entertainment mantle, he tripled page views in one year by focusing on headlines and photo galleries. Currently, he is supervising the integration and creation of a new mobile app for “go and do” activities in the market by combining an entertainment website purchased with the paper’s legacy entertainment site. Aiding Francescutti in his decision-making is his ability to crunch and search the numbers from data analytic tools.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Win the battle: What’s your competitive advantage? Do and develop the things you do better (that your customer likes, too) and emphasize them. Drop content that doesn’t work. Being a “newspaper of record” has increasingly less meaning to the consumer. We’re in a fight for relevancy. Gone are the days when people came to us. Now we go to them, through social media, different platforms, TV, radio and in-person events. Many of us can’t just be traditional journalists anymore. We have to be marketers and promoters of our content and brand.

Wrestling with change. Be ready to adapt to constant change of platform, business model and editorial direction every year.

Grappling with metrics: Digital offers us the ability to know exactly what our current reader wants or test what they may or may not want. Try different headlines, packaging and ways to tell a story. Test. Analyze results in a variety of metrics.

If you could spend a day covering any athlete, who would it be and why?
I would want to tell a story that few could really tell, that could be following a player who doesn’t allow inside access such as Tiger Woods, but right now, the most interesting story could be Michael Sam and what really happens in the locker room and in his relationships with teammates, fans and management. It would be a chance to cover groundbreaking history. For fun, I’d like to follow Mark Cuban around, not just because I am intrigued by digital business and “Shark Tank,” but because you might learn more from him in a day than from years in grad school.

Jacob Geiger, 27
Director, Work It, Richmond, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Richmond, Va.
Washington and Lee University, Bachelor of Arts, print journalism and European history

When The Richmond Times-Dispatch launched a digital-only product called Work It, Richmond two years ago, the paper needed a leader for the new brand. Enter Jacob Geiger.

“We were looking for a person who relished speaking to groups large and small, a person who was comfortable in the skin of a marketer, and a person who could do an interview for a story one moment and pitch the site to a potential advertiser the next,” said vice president of strategic initiatives Rick Thornton.

Since then, Geiger has made Work It, Richmond a go-to source for small business information in the region, proving it’s possible for a journalist to be a brand-builder by organizing events and pushing creative concepts.  

“We consider (Geiger) to be our in-house media entrepreneur and we’re now getting his help on reinventing channels on our primary website,” Thornton said.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Journalists are taught to be curious. Curiosity is as important inside the company as it is on your beat. Ask bosses and mentors to tell you more about how the company operates. Ask why we do things a certain way. Sometimes you may be able to offer a better process. But most of the time you’ll be learning things that make you a better asset to the company as a whole. Young professionals should also understand that there may be opportunities in company that don’t currently exist on the organizational chart. It’s really fun—but also challenging—to be the first person in a job and to work on defining that role.

In what ways can the newspaper industry ‘work it?’
The industry—especially senior leaders—should understand that it’s possible to develop new products or test new ideas without harming the current products. We built Work It, Richmond using a lot of the principles of the lean startup model, where the goal is getting a product to market quickly and working to upgrade and improve the product after launch. There are low-risk, low-cost ways to try new ideas. If they work, you get new revenue or new audiences. If they don’t work, you and your staff can learn something without breaking the bank.

Danielle Gordon-Broome, 28
Editor, Swan Valley Star and Times
Swan River, Manitoba, Canada
Red Deer College, business administration diploma with marketing major

Danielle Gordon-Broome started in the newsroom at the Swan Valley Star and Times in 2012. Following months of learning and training, she became a news writer. Last September, Gordon-Broome was named editor. Since stepping up to her new position, Gordon-Broome has encouraged the use of social media in the newsroom and increased traffic to the paper’s website. In addition, she directed a massive update and redesign of the newspaper layout that had not been done in more than 15 years.  

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
It’s not your background or education that makes you a good journalist. It’s your dedication, your passion, your creativity and the vision you put behind every piece that will set you apart from the rest. Apply these things every time and there is no way that you can fail.  

With no formal journalism education, what is the most interesting thing you have learned so far about the industry? Like many things, the news industry is always growing, changing and shifting. This is a career that, no matter how much education and training you have coming into it, there will always be more to learn. Just when you think you have it figured out it shifts making every day exciting, different and challenging. But, the nicest thing about this industry is there is no true right or wrong way to put together a journalistic piece. It’s you and your style—that’s not something that can be learned in the classroom.

Gabriela Guaracao, 26
Director, strategy and operations, Al Día News Media
Villanova University, Bachelor of Business Administration

Al Día News Media is a 20-year-old news media organization that challenges mainstream media stereotypes of the Latin American experience. When the company wanted to attract the younger and more educated Spanish and English readers, Gabriela Guaracao was tasked with guiding the paper through various expansion efforts including the major redesign and relaunch of a website that can be toggled from fully English-language to fully Spanish-language. The new website is set to debut in late spring and will have a focus on national content generation. In addition, Guaracao has taken the lead on business, marketing and branding, and all other significant operational endeavors.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Follow trends, always. Be entrepreneurial. Push products and concepts out fast. Be resilient. Learn to be comfortable with change and failure.

Stand up for yourself. There are a lot of tough people in this industry. Some are traditionalists who will fight you for their way, others are simply obtuse who won’t hear anything outside of what aligns with their own thoughts. Judiciously pushing back is important. Defend your ideas, not only for your sanity but for the sake of the advancement of the industry.

For people thinking of getting involved in this industry I say, don’t be afraid. The media industry is not dying; it’s going through a renaissance. It will be the resilient, the hungry and the ones who have the courage to constantly make changes that will come out on the other side with their imprint on the industry. I would also recommend that these potential new entrants get their start at niche news organizations.

Also, find mentors both inside and outside of the industry. You need a combination of both because one type of mentor will encourage you to dream about the future in the industry and challenge you to make your mark. The other type of mentor will provide the kind of respite that is necessary when the metamorphosis of this industry gets too intense.

How can newspapers attract younger readers?
Hire young people, produce smart content that will engage a younger reader and approach existing media channels creatively.

Claudia Laws, 34
Assistant managing editor, Rapid City Journal
Rapid City, S.D.
University of Missouri—Columbia, Bachelor’s degree in journalism

Claudia Laws was recently promoted to assistant managing editor. In addition to directly overseeing the features department, copy desk and news clerk staffs at the Journal, she is the paper’s only online editor who is responsible for the main website, and several community sites and niche digital publications.

Laws also serves on the Lee Enterprises corporate web advancement team and is a key player in developing new and innovative ways to reach readers while also creating new revenue streams. She leads the move to mobile, finding new ways to promote video, participating in development and implementation of new apps and online programs, and meanwhile overseeing daily updates of the site and monitoring of user behaviors and metrics. One major win was establishing, and then acquiring the funds to improve webcams that capture live images from downtown, tourist sites and at the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. She also leads the paper’s marketing and branding committee.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Stick with it and adapt. This industry is changing; it’s not dying. Those of us who remain in journalism have the amazing opportunity tell our community’s stories in numerous platforms, using varied storytelling techniques. The craft, at its heart, has not been altered, but we now have the ability to hand-deliver stories to our audiences wherever they are, whenever they might be there and on the platform that best lends itself to the story. To be able to give a local story to an audience of 500,000 instead of just the 30,000 print readers is an amazing and awe-inspiring responsibility.

How do you teach your advertising sales staff to reach online audiences?
For all employees—be they sales representatives, classifieds representatives or newsroom staffers—everyone in newspaper journalism needs to have the tools to understand the organization’s online footprint. We are a relatively small organization at the Journal, which presents us with some unique opportunities to cross-educate throughout departments. For all new sales staff, I walk them through a brief tutorial of what we in the newsroom do—how we deliver content online, how we determine what content to deliver, how diverse our online audience is and I add particular emphasis to what features audiences seem to gravitate toward. For me, the website is a living and breathing community contributor, and after these training sessions, I hope that our advertising team sees the site the same way.

Patrick Mackie, 29
Advertising manager, The Repository
Canton, Ohio
Walsh University, Bachelor of Arts, communication

Patrick Mackie first joined the company in 2010 as the business development manager for About Magazine, a monthly lifestyle magazine produced by the newspaper. In that role, the magazine experienced a 20 percent increase in its revenue in his first year, and under his leadership, new products were successfully developed.

In 2013, Mackie was charged with the responsibility of overseeing all niche publications for GateHouse Ohio Media, which includes The Repository, The Independent, The Times-Reporter and The Suburbanite. He began this new role by championing Focus on Energy, a 72-page premium edition, published in three daily papers, detailing the growth of the oil and gas industry throughout the region. The project generated more than $120,000 of new revenue under Mackie’s leadership, a 40 percent increase over its initial revenue goal.

Late in 2013, Mackie was promoted to advertising manager for The Repository, making him the youngest person ever hired in that leadership position. He is responsible for nearly $2 million of monthly revenue for the newspaper and its digital product line.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Believe in your product. There are plenty of critics and naysayers regarding our industry. To paraphrase, reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. I am surrounded by a variety of departments all made up of individuals that produce excellent work and are dedicated to their profession. We are successful because everyone from our publisher to our carriers believes in The Repository and the power of our products.

However, be eager to adapt. Have a willingness to reexamine and reshape the product(s). Just because the industry has been around for centuries doesn’t mean our thinking must be archaic.

Lastly, have pride. We create and distribute a brand new product each and every day. That process and the ability to start each day new is incredibly exciting.

What current advertising campaign (outside newspapers) are you most excited about and why?
Recently, I’ve enjoyed being “smellcomed” to manhood by Old Spice. Their  “Momsong” campaigns, featuring obsessive mom songs, are as amusing as they are memorable. It’s no wonder they’ve turned into viral sensations—Old Spice has a legacy of selling commodity products with humor. Thanks to Old Spice, you can be assured that I believe in “my smelf.”

Nick Mathews, 34
Sports editor, Houston Chronicle
University of Missouri, Bachelor’s degree, journalism

Nick Mathews is sports editor at one of the 10 largest newspapers in the country. His team of reporters (13 total) and editors has been recognized nationally for its work by the Associated Press Sports Editors. It’s believed that he is one of—if not the—youngest department heads in history of the Houston Chronicle.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Surround yourself with people who will help you succeed. If you are in a position of leadership, hire people who are smarter and better than you. Let those talented people be talented. Stay out of their way. Do everything you can to remove obstacles in their path to success. Trust them, but hold them accountable. On the flip side, find the right place to work—not just any place. Find a leader you can trust, a leader who will give you responsibility and room for growth. Once you have the right position, don’t allow yourself to relax. Have a goal of being the most driven and the most energetic person in your company. Be the one to set the tone for your coworkers.

What are the greatest challenges in leading a large sports staff in an extremely competitive market for sports?
The greatest challenge is the same for any department at any news organization, and that is to deliver truly unique content for readers. We must avoid the trap of following the herd and worrying about the day-to-day grind. We must focus on enterprise, storytelling and investigative journalism. We have to spend most of our time on stories that will have an impact for days and months – not minutes and hours. All that said, we still must be a vital source for breaking news in our local market. Specifically in sports, we have limited resources with a seemingly unlimited number of teams to cover—from the NFL’s Houston Texans to the smallest team at the smallest area high school. We must pick a small number of the important, core topics—for instance, Texans, Rockets and Astros—and blanket those with resources and coverage. It’s better to be great at covering a few select topics than be average at covering everything.

Leigh Ann Maynard, 32
Publisher, The Manning Times
Manning, S.C.
Williamsburg Academy High School

Leigh Ann Maynard is leading The Manning Times in a competitive Clarendon, S.C. market. During her short tenure as publisher she introduced Clare-A Woman’s Magazine and Clarendon Magazine to Clarendon County. She has distinguished her newspaper from others by pushing her staff to create a newspaper that prides itself on being outside the box while coveting the core values of publishing a newspaper. Most recently, she released an all-new, easy-to-navigate website.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
The best advice I can give is telling them to only join this business if it’s the only thing you can think about. If you wake up in the morning, and all you can think about is being in sales or being in the newsroom, and that’s your passion, then this is what you should do. The hours are long, and this profession will not make you a millionaire. But if you truly love it, this profession will make you happy.            

I’d also tell them to listen. Listen to those that have been in the business longer than you, especially the ones who are successful. I love being around the other older publishers in our network of papers. They have a vast amount of knowledge.

What were the ideas behind the creation of Clare-A Woman’s Magazine and Clarendon Magazine and what have been your greatest challenges so far as publisher?
We are in a network with several other weekly papers, and a few of their women’s magazines impressed me.            

Being the first female publisher at The Manning Times—and having two little girls of my own—it seemed only natural to bring a woman’s magazine to Clarendon County. We have had so many trailblazing women in this county; I knew I wanted to honor them by featuring them in their own magazine. We also feature up-and-coming women. It was just a natural move for me.            

Clarendon was originally a smaller-size magazine, a one-off venture that was to be a guide for our county. The Manning Times had done such a guide annually several years before, but on a smaller scale. I made it a full-size publication and, along with a wonderful team, we designed our new Clarendon. I think it shows our love for Clarendon County.            

My biggest challenge as publisher has been dedication to my ultimate mission: growing our readership and ensuring we continue to be an integral part of our readers’ lives, as we have been for many, many years.

J. Louis Mullen, 28
Owner/Publisher, Green River Star
Green River, Wyo.
University of Wyoming, Bachelor’s degree in English, minor in creative writing 

At 28, J. Louis Mullen purchased the Green River Star, a faltering weekly newspaper in Green River, Wyo. In the course of a few months he turned it into the second best weekly newspaper in the state according to the Wyoming Press Association Better Newspaper Contest. Mullen, the younger brother of Jesse Mullen of Civitas Media, who also was named to the 25 Under 35 list this year, is a versatile newspaperman with outstanding editorial vision. He’s increased his ROP sales significantly since buying the paper, increased staff and returned what used to be an excellent paper to its former self. He was also recently selected to represent Wyoming to the National Newspaper Association.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
You don’t have to be an [expletive] just because you’re ideologically right. The people we write about are brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. We should respect them as if they were our own.            

Ask yourself if you make your newspaper better by posting everything for free to social media. I’d argue that you’ve made Facebook and Twitter better by driving your readers to something you don’t own. There’s nothing wrong with making your newspaper be a great paper first and foremost.

What have been the greatest challenges in bringing your newspaper back to its former glory?
It does feel like the paper took off like a rocket and I think I can say I lit the fuse but look, the fuel was there. It was put there by the Kennedy family, who sold me the paper, and by a lot of publishers who came before me, and by the staff who I think didn’t know how passionate they could be about their community. My biggest issue is always wanting to fix everything immediately but change takes time. That goes for people and the product. For me, I pick a goal and head in that direction. Occasionally we have to correct course, but as long as the ship is steered in the right direction, I can wait.

Jesse Mullen, 29
Director of pagination and copy editing, Civitas Media, LLC.
Miamisburg, Ohio
University of Wyoming, studied journalism and fine arts

Since joining Civitas Media in April 2013, Jesse Mullen has led the transformation of copy desks at eight daily newspapers with circulations between 10,000 and 50,000 while hiring a staff of 20 paginators to create a new pagination hub for the company based in Miamisburg, Ohio. He has worked as an editor, night editor, copy editor, general manager, ad rep and more since his start at a weekly newspaper in Newcastle, Wyo. during high school. Civitas Media has made Mullen a part of the company content committee and he leads a style committee comprised of regional editors, regional revenue leaders, managers, designers and other peers. Mullen says he’s optimistic about the future of journalism and print journalism in particular.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Don’t be complacent. Hold yourself accountable and honestly assess your work, there’s always room for improvement.            

We work in a volatile industry where newspapers rise, fall and reorganize on too regular a basis. Most of the papers you will work for are a hybrid of past organizations that have fought to survive or failed. The last newspaper you work at will probably experience more of the same. If you’re good at what you do and work hard, you’ll land on your feet.

What have been the most difficult challenges in leading the transformation of copy desks at eight daily newspapers?
Hiring capable and passionate people is always a challenge. The travel and the hours can be exhausting but the reward is that all of our papers have a larger pool of talent from which to pull and our reporters are better able to focus on reporting.

We now have dozens of newspaper men and women who are able to dedicate their time specifically to presenting a reader-friendly and engaging product. Weekly editors that used to lose an entire day building the paper, or night editors that had to spend half a shift pulling wire, are better able to edit and report on their communities. In many ways, it’s a return to traditional newspapering.            

Ultimately though, finding a good chair with proper back support has been the most difficult challenge. My team spends a lot of time seated and it’s amazing the difference padded arm rests make.

Tim O’Rourke, 33
Senior news editor, The San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco
Saint Mary’s College of California, Bachelor’s degree, sociology; University of Oregon, Master’s degree in magazine journalism

Tim O’Rourke came to The San Francisco Chronicle in October 2013 in the newly created position of senior news editor. It’s a hybrid position that acts as the intersection of print and digital and reporting and copy editing on the night desk. He’s at once a front page editor, copy and wire desk department head and breaking news editor.            

Since his arrival, he’s helped change workflows that had been in place for years that only held back the newsroom. Before coming to The Chronicle, he was named Copy Editor of the Year for Digital First Media when he was the senior copy desk chief for digital and print content for the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. In addition to being the senior news editor, O’Rourke writes about food and beer for different sections and blogs on SFGate.com and SFChronicle.com.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
In an industry that’s shifting so quickly, you must be selfish about acquiring new skills and unafraid to fail fast and move forward.

What was the single most significant workflow process change you made that improved how the newsroom operated, and, also, tell us why you choose to write about beer and food with your very busy schedule?
With posting speed and traditional standards of quality often at odds, I’ve worked to apply a more commonsense approach to how we treat different kinds of stories, from breaking news briefs that need to get online as quick as possible to in-depth enterprise reporting that deserves an assigning editor’s steady hand and the exactness of a copy editor’s eye.            

I was a writer before I was an editor or a manager, and I miss it. Coming up with stories on Northern California food and libations over the past few years has reminded me again and again why I got into journalism and why I stuck with it through some painful years. The bottom line: It’s fun.

Dan Petty, 27
Digital Director of Sports, The Denver Post
University of Richmond, Bachelor of Science, biology.

A one-time intern, Dan Petty has become a digital leader in what The Denver Post newsroom. Petty was named The Denver Post’s first Social Media Editor in April 2010. In his current role he is responsible for planning and leading digital coverage for sports events, from the Broncos to the Rockies and Nuggets and Avalanche to the Olympics. Petty has increased the amount of live video The Post streams to its website—helping produce events during the Broncos season and the U.S. presidential campaign, including a three-hour live show during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver and a six-hour election night show. He also is part of the team that created and produced The Denver Post’s live sports show. In addition, he’s worked with Denver Post newsroom leadership to help train staff on social media and use of digital tools in reporting—all of which was helpful during The Post’s award-winning wildfire coverage and Pulitzer-winning Aurora shooting coverage.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Don’t be afraid of making changes necessary to make the newspaper better. Constantly experiment, but try to do so smartly, and ultimately don’t be afraid of failure. But know when it’s time to move on and try a new idea for a problem. Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can from the veterans on your staff about how they practice journalism—whether in words and reporting, photography, videography or graphics. Form relationships with them and build that with as many people on the staff as you can—even if you don’t work with them regularly. Challenge yourself to learn something new whenever you can, and take control of your own career and destiny. Don’t expect people to hand you all of the answers. My last two jobs at The Post were ones that didn’t previously exist, because I and others made the case that they were necessary to push us forward and make us a better news organization.

What are the differences between being a social media editor and digital director of sports, and what are the greatest daily challenges you face in the fast-changing world of digital content?
Being social media editor was about focusing my attention on an entire newsroom and working with them to improve and develop one specific tool or area of journalism. The title and role itself is so different now than it was in 2010 when I first started. You still need someone leading the charge, strategizing and planning events, but the job for me in the beginning was much about training—and that isn’t the case anymore. Digital director of sports is more broad in its responsibilities, but much more focused on one area. That’s been an adjustment. I’ve been fortunate to work with most everyone across the entire newsroom in some capacity, but not as deeply as I am now with one department—and one that drives our biggest audience day after day.

Rachel Piper, 27
Managing Editor, Salt Lake City Weekly
Salt Lake City, Utah
University of Utah, Bachelor of Science, psychology

Rachel Piper joined the paper four years ago as a copy editor and then was promoted to managing editor at 25, the youngest ME that City Weekly (Utah’s only alternative newspaper) has seen in its 30 years. Involved in every piece printed in the paper, from wine reviews to 4,000 word cover stories about typically controversial topics, she also oversees and imposes strict editorial quality standards on City Weekly’s 15 special issues per year, including three standalone glossies. During her tenure, she has also taken on five new special issues, which she’s embraced without sacrificing standards across the rest of the paper.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Always say yes—don’t let your fears or worries or presuppositions hold you back. Most people have a map inside their minds of where they want to go and what roads they’ll take to get there, and it’s easy to turn away from things that don’t seem as if they’ll lead to where you want to go. But in my experience at City Weekly, it was the unexpected paths that led to the greatest rewards in the end. I was hired as a part-time copy editor, and copy-editing had always been my goal; I didn’t much fancy reporting for various reasons. But they offered me the opportunity to write two weekly pieces about people with cool jobs and people who’d just bought homes. Most of my hesitation was fear-based. The prospect of badgering strangers terrified me. But I said yes to that project, and all those that followed.

What are some of the important digital projects you are working on for Salt Lake City Weekly?
The biggest thing I’m not working on yet is the launch of our website redesign. I was on the team that designed it two years ago, and it should be going live in the next couple of months, so right now is sort of the calm before the storm of training and tweaking and launching. Other than that, we’re always working on new ways of getting our readers involved and engaged with what we’re doing, whether that’s by doing more online news pieces or re-evaluating the way we do social media. The beauty of digital is that it’s so flexible—so long as we plan things out, we can treat every special issue or cover story like it’s a brand-new beast without going through the complex process that would be involved in a print redesign; we can make constant small changes and improvements without throwing everything out of the window and starting from scratch.

Jessica Puente, 24
Audience Development Manager, The Press-Enterprise
Riverside, Calif.
Baylor University, Bachelor’s degree in journalism/public relations

Hired only 6 weeks before the official launch of the metered paywall on pe.com, Jessica Puente built a member center, a subscriber communication strategy and a newsletter strategy. She also led the training for the newsroom for social and Google search. Her notable accomplishments include raising the newsletter open rate from 12 to 20 in 6 months and she launched a subscriber benefits program.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
There is a lot to do. We’re in a time where you can make up your own job description. If you see something that interests you and that will benefit your readers or the industry, just go for it. Try things. The worst thing you can do is keep business as usual when there is so much room for innovation and improvement.            

Also, it’s always better to work with people who maybe care too much at times, than with people who aren’t passionate about what they’re doing. Look for passion where you choose to work. And not just in the newsroom. I know some very passionate sales, circulation and management people. They make the work we do that much more worth it.

What were some of the toughest issues you faced in helping to build the metered paywall, and what do you see as the most important goals of an audience development manager?
We were very lucky to have a lot of analytics resources and knowledge of our audiences’ behaviors. We use a marketing automation tool called Hubspot that allows us to create smart content on our site and quick landing pages with forms to capture lead information as well as automate communications. There are companies that provide software/services for every budget.             

We work in a funnel system which basically means there are several spots in between a lead, someone who isn’t a subscriber but uses the website, and a subscriber. Not everyone who visits a news website is going to subscribe or pay, but that does not mean these visitors are worthless. The technology is out there, it’s using it effectively that can be a challenge because people tend to be afraid of using it. The second part to that is building a good product for your specific audience. Just like with anything you’re trying to convince people to pay for, you have to give them something useful that they like looking at. You have to show them value.            

Adam Silverman, 35
Associate editor for news and audience development, Burlington Free Press
Burlington, Vermont
University of Missouri, bachelor’s degree in journalism, minors in political science and history

As the No. 2 person in the newsroom at Vermont’s largest newspaper (and website), Adam Silverman has been on the front lines of the overall makeover of the newspaper. Silverman was elevated to associate editor last year due in part to his leadership, dedication and work in helping the Free Press shift from a broadsheet to a compact tabloid about 20 months ago. While the print edition remains a vital part of the Free Press, the newspaper has worked to deliver news immediately to consumers through a web-first focus that relies on social media, video storytelling, frequent story updates during the day and a fresh second-day approach for print that elevates the depth of the reporting.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Be tenacious, fearless and flexible. We have a great public trust as journalists, and it’s incumbent upon us to take that seriously. In an ever-changing industry, our success rises and falls with our credibility and with how we help the public understand that we’re acting on their behalf. Vigorously pursue your watchdog role. Question leaders. Dig deep. File that FOIA. Above all, be curious. We are privileged to be in a position that affords us access to people and information on behalf of our readers, and we should use that opportunity to produce journalism that’s unique and creative, that sheds light, that entertains and, above all, that holds people accountable.

Why did the Burlington Free Press convert from a broadsheet to a tabloid and what were the major challenges in doing so?
The media landscape is changing everywhere, but perhaps nowhere more rapidly than it is for print. As the largest newspaper in Vermont, we began to seek a creative way to distinguish our print product—the newspaper that hits doorsteps and newsstands every morning—from the report on the web, and the change from broadsheet to what we call a “compact edition” enabled us to do that in a particularly unique way. Our website (www.burlingtonfreepress.com) has become the home, now more than ever before, for immediate, real-time news: briefs, updates, stories that are posted and then written through again and again during the day. The print edition, meanwhile, has become the home for depth, narrative and watchdog journalism.

Eric Lane Stearley, 24
Editor, The Paper of Wabash County
Wabash, Ind.
Indiana University, Bachelor of Arts in journalism, minor in business

Taking a job as editor of a small newspaper just before his 24th birthday, Eric Lane Stearley is working to elevate the 37-year-old publication to the next level. Each week, Stearley strives to bring his audience of 16,000 the most current, relevant, and meaningful news stories, paired with stunning images in an updated layout. As chief writer and editor, overseeing a limited staff, Stearley works to share his skills and knowledge with his writers, resulting in far better publication than was available in the area just six months ago. In addition to the printed copy, he has put a focus on innovation, driving readers to the website through social media, keeping readers engaged between Thursday and Tuesday before the next issue gets to their doorstep Wednesday morning.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?  
Don’t underestimate yourself. In the field of journalism, youth has distinct advantages. Always take advice from those with experience, but remember that you bring something unique to the table. Don’t underestimate your community. Great journalism doesn’t have to come from a big city publication, and it doesn’t have to have a global focus. Community newspapers are thriving because of their intimacy and relevance. In my lifetime, I couldn’t tell all of the great stories hiding in my rural hometown. Don’t underestimate the industry’s foundation. All of the innovation in the world cannot replace quality journalism. Platforms and formats can move things forward, but they are also transient. The industry survives because of meaningful, interesting storytelling.

How were you able to increase your newspaper’s social network followers by 40 percent in just six months, and in creating the current website for Wabash WebTV, how has that helped in how WebTV is used?
Every person in an organization works as a link to a unique network of people. Much of our social media growth came through personal invites from each member of our staff. With that said, quality stories still make the biggest impact. Our Facebook page “likes” increased by 6 percent in a single day just by posting a couple quality stories. As a weekly newspaper, social media is our platform for breaking news. When our audience comes across an informative, well written post, they want more, and follow our page. Finally, photos and graphics are a must if you want your audience to stop scrolling and read.            

We bring that full circle, strategically placing notes after stories to let people know that, for example, half of our readers saw photos of the bank robber on our Facebook page before our paper made it off the press. Most social media users are also mobile users, so we’ve started including QR codes in our print edition. Moving Wabash WebTV from a vendor’s site to our own webpage not only allows us more freedom in content and format, but also keeps web traffic on our domain, making it more attractive to advertisers.

Matt Tait, 35
KUsports.com editor/KU football beat writer, Lawrence Journal-World and KUsports.com
Lawrence, Kan.
University of Kansas, Bachelor’s degree, journalism

Matt Tait was brought into the Journal-World newsroom seven years ago after editors saw his strong work at one of the weekly newspapers the company owns. Said sports editor Tom Keegan: “I have watched him grow into one of the key leaders in the newsroom. Very much the modern journalist, Matt has led our transition to digital-first by drawing huge audiences to his blog, ‘Tale of the Tait,’ and by showing others how to do the same with their blogs.” Managing editor Julie Wright said, “Matt never checks to see if there is space in the paper before reporting and writing because he knows there is always cyberspace and an audience that checks back frequently for fear they will miss something. He doesn’t ask how much time he has to finish a story because he knows that in the modern world the answer always is ‘as soon as possible.’ ”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
I think it’s so important for young journalists to be well rounded in all aspects of the business and to understand the value of starting small and grinding, building and earning your way to promotions, more responsibilities and bigger and better beats through hard work and a team-first mentality. Two of the best pieces of advice I ever received were: 1) Show your dedication by doing the little things that no one else wants to do and by taking pride in the way you do them and making them unique, no matter how small; and 2) Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that you’re writing for your readers. If something is important to them you should make it important to you.

What do you set out to accomplish with your Tale of the Tait blog?
The number one goal of the blog when I started it was to provide a place where our readers could get more about the stories, athletes and topics they follow than just the traditional who, what, when, where, why of a basic news story. Because of that, the entries evolved into a more casual and conversational format while maintaining the standard of accuracy, factual content and quality reporting. Beyond that, I always strive to make each blog fun, interesting and entertaining and really try to give its readers the feeling that they’re getting a little more. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through engagement with the readers in the comments section. They really seem to enjoy the interaction and appreciate the fact that their thoughts, opinions and questions become a part of the blog. One of the best tools I use when trying to think of blog entries is to turn any conversations I have about my beat with others into blogs. Sometimes that means I talk to a fan about a certain player and spit out four or five paragraphs. Other times I get more in-depth or detailed ideas from off-the-record chats with administrators, athletes or coaches.

April Trotter, 28
Niche publications editor, York Daily Record/Sunday News
York, Pa.
Pennsylvania State University, Bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in English and biology; Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Master’s degree in communication studies 

April Trotter is a one-woman band. As the editor of the Smart magazine brand, she expands the reach of what was once merely a glossy magazine to audiences on multiple online channels, from blogs to Google+ to Pinterest to Twitter and Facebook. As an assistant features editor for the York Daily Record/Sunday News, she works with reporters to develop award-winning content and packages. And as the regional niche publications editor, she leads many unforeseen special efforts, such as a last-minute tab focusing on breast cancer awareness. Last year, she also led a team of journalists who developed the outstanding Smart Cookies iPad app—a collection of more than 120 local recipes. This was all new work for Trotter and her team, but they taught themselves how to use Adobe DPS to create a stunning presentation. They also produced how-to videos and incorporated them into the app.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Find your niche. And be creative—even if it’s on your own time, at first.            

If you want journalism to be your career and not just a 9-5 job, it’s important to find something in the field that makes you happy. Maybe that’s being a cops reporter or a page designer or managing the company’s social media accounts or manning the breaking news desk.            

As niche publications editor, I plan events, build a brand, direct photo shoots, manage social media and perform a host of other (fun!) duties in addition to traditional editing and story assigning for the magazine. I’m also highly involved in community engagement and guerrilla marketing through the York Daily Record’s other efforts.            

What is the mission of Smart and why do you think it’s so important for a newspaper to have a magazine for women?
Smart began in 2007 as a place for women to share ideas, be inspired and learn about south central Pennsylvania. We want readers to see their friends modeling clothes from a local boutique and learn about what local businesswomen are up to and find ways to decorate their home from their design-savvy neighbors in every bimonthly issue.            

We share the news that matters to women in the 35-55 demographic in a way that ensures they’ll actually read it. And, from a business standpoint, Smart’s target audience allows advertisers to reach those who make the purchasing decisions for their home and family.            

Smart is a challenge in that the position pushes me to think about advertising and marketing and what is working and what isn’t. Building and maintaining the brand requires interdepartmental cooperation and the ability to walk the line between advertising and editorial. It also involves taking a hard look at numbers and strategizing ways to grow them with input from those other departments.

Katherine (Katie) Wilson, 31
Digital Advertising Director, Quad-City Times
Davenport, IA
Kaplan University, Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Accounting

Katie Wilson has not only helped build and maintain an incredibly successful program for the Quad-City Times, she also knows what success looks like for her advertising clients, and works hard to use whatever tools available to her to make that happen, whether it be print, promotions, or other online assets. She’s also incredibly good at building teams. Her team at the paper is close knit and loves working for her, and that is in large part because she understands the importance of communication and keeping everyone involved. Wilson also understands how to manage and motivate a team and leads by example.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Read, listen and watch everything you can get your hands on about the ever-changing digital industry. This is the fastest way to become an expert and stay an expert in the digital realm.  And never be afraid to tell a customer that you don’t know the answer to a question but that you will find it. Ask questions. Learn from other people.

Also, some of the best ideas have come from asking people within our company what ideas they have. We work with very creative people and I think that we often limit their creativity. Ask them if they have revenue-driving ideas. Chances are they have very good ones.

What is the one accomplishment you’re most proud of as digital advertising director, and what do you think are the biggest challenges going forward in digital advertising?
I would say that one of the things that I am proud of is how the Quad-City Times has come to be known as the expert in digital advertising in our area. Businesses come to us with questions and ideas and ask us how to get it done. Our sales reps are not just “sales reps” anymore, they are multimedia consultants. We have adapted to putting together advertising plans that are comprehensive. Not only can we put you in front of an audience, but now we can put you in front of exactly the right audience.            

One of the biggest challenges I see going forward is all of the pure play companies that are popping up.  We will always have competitors for advertising budgets with other media but now we also have to watch out for companies selling new digital capabilities directly to businesses.  These products may be something that we should be offering to our customers, which is why it is so important to stay on top of what is happening and to continue to develop our own digital products for our businesses to use so they can grow.

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One thought on “25 Under 35

  • April 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Thank you for agreeing with me about the editor of the NSB Observer. Tiffany is an amazing young lady and has certainly made a difference in our community. Thomas D. Alcorn Publisher.


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