E&P’s 25 Under 35, 2012

By: Kristina Ackermann and Nu Yang

E&P's 25 Under 35, 2012

As the pace of progress continues to march steadily on, newspapers across the country have realized the immense value of the younger generation. Unafraid of change, at ease with digital multitasking, and able to learn new job skills overnight, these enterprising professionals are on a mission to secure the future of our industry.

This year’s honorees in our 25 Under 35 feature were selected as much for their resumes as for their extracurriculars. While multimedia skills are now a requirement in the newsroom, these young leaders stand out as role models, leaders, volunteers, philanthropists, and passionate human beings. Their contributions to their companies and communities have won awards, sparked policy change, increased revenue and pageviews, and reinforced the role of the newspaper as a watchdog and community ambassador.

The future remains bright for the newspaper business, and these 25 rising stars are here to prove it.

Jimena Catarivas Corbett, 34
General manager, La Raza (Chicago)

Minnesota State University, mass communications and international business; Loyola University Chicago, masters in higher education

Catarivas Corbett is the first woman to hold the position of general manager since La Raza opened its doors 41 years ago. A native of Montevideo, Uruguay, Catarivas Corbett directs all day-to-day operations and manages the paper’s multimillion-dollar budget. Under her guidance, La Raza’s readership increased by 21 percent from 2008 to 2011 — without increasing distribution.

The Spanish-language weekly holds a strong connection with Chicago’s Hispanic population, and Catarivas Corbett embodies this connection. She is a member of the Latino advisory committees for the Ravinia Festival and the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network. She also volunteers her time at Youth for Understanding, a nonprofit international educational organization with programs in 64 countries.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
C. Corbett: Newspapers need to evolve with readers, and for this reason young professionals need to be able to adapt to new demands. In many instances we are the ones in the organization that need to drive change. In addition, young professionals need to learn how to be newspaper entrepreneurs and understand all the aspects of the business. Newspapers are not only about journalism. Newspaper professionals across all divisions need to be able to understand the business from the marketing, production, circulation, HR, and financial perspective in order to be successful.

What is one thing that Spanish-language newspapers do better than English newspapers?
C. Corbett: We produce content with a unique perspective that can’t be found elsewhere and resonates with our community. Our content is distinctive. In our most recent edition, the cover story was about the emotional problems suffered by many young, undocumented Latinos. But we didn’t just write the story. We also provided resources for people to turn to if they suffer or know someone that suffers from that problem. Our entertainment lead was about the group Los Intocables, and our sports section highlighted the retirement of boxer David “El Cachorro” Diaz. You just can’t find those stories anywhere else.

Meg Boyer, 30
Advertising director, Steamboat Pilot & Today (Steamboat Springs, Colo.)

Education: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, journalism

Since stepping into the role of advertising director in 2010, Boyer has completely revamped the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s stable of ad initiatives. Boyer conceived and implemented a daily deals program, a social media management program, and a Best of the Boat awards program. General manager Scott Stanford said the daily deals brought in more than $100,000 in the first four months, while the social management service increased 2011 revenue by 20 percent. Boyer also took the initiative to update the paper’s commission sales structure, giving her reps more incentive to sell digital products — a move that resulted in a 43 percent growth in digital revenue.

Apart from her work in advertising and editorial, which has been recognized by the Colorado Press Association, she serves as co-chair of the annual Routt County United Way fundraising campaign and helped the organization reach its fundraising goal for the first time in five years.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Boyer: Don’t be afraid of change. Our industry is evolving so quickly that we have to be willing to react and adapt as new challenges arise. At the Steamboat Pilot & Today, our print readers and advertisers are still our most valuable, but in the past six months, we’ve introduced a deals site and social media management, and we’re always working to improve our existing websites, mobile sites, and smartphone apps. Who knows what services we’ll be offering next?

What has been the most memorable ad campaign that you’ve been involved with?
Boyer: Launching our deals website, hotsteamboatdeals.com, was a blast. We promoted it in the newspaper, online, and at events in town. Ads counting down to the launch ran on the front page of the newspaper as well as on our social media sites. We could not have predicted how well-received the program would be. It’s also been rewarding to watch the success of our social media packages.

Rebeccah Cantley, 32
Managing editor,
Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat

Education: Marshall University, W. Page Pitt School, journalism and mass communications

Cantley has worked for a daily newspaper since she was 17 and has performed nearly every newsroom task in the years since. Her talents as a writer and editor have taken her to Meulaboh, Indonesia, to report on the December 2004 tsunami and to Sudan in 2005 to report on the civil war. She continues to write an award-winning weekly column tackling community issues, through which she has become known as a local advocate for victims of domestic violence.

One of Cantley’s biggest priorities is interacting with readers. Each year, she serves as host and judge for the Big Bend Regional Spelling Bee and the Best & Brightest Awards, an academic competition for local high school students. “We need young leaders who are committed to innovation and finding ways to stay relevant in our audiences’ lives, and that’s what I hope to do,” Cantley said.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Cantley: You won’t find a more difficult — or a more rewarding — career. On the difficult days, remember that your work does make a difference, although you might not immediately see its impact. Also, learn all you can about digital and new media, which present an ever-changing learning curve. We, as an industry, have to become better at getting out in front of technology we can use to disseminate news and information and to engage our audiences.

What was the greatest takeaway from your international reporting projects?
Cantley: The understanding that even with fewer resources, local news organizations can still do big projects. The international reporting I did, while disseminated across Gannett, was primarily done for a community newspaper, The Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times. In Indonesia and in Sudan, I had the opportunity to tell international stories in a way that made them relevant to a local audience by focusing on our community members who worked in those countries or who had other strong ties to them. Those are the projects your readers don’t forget.

Ryan Christiansen, 28
Director of digital sales, The Denver Post/Digital First Media

Education: University of Northern Colorado, journalism and mass communication

From Christiansen’s early days as a local ad sales rep, supervisors saw that he enjoyed his work and was willing to go above and beyond to be the best. “I was fortunate to watch Ryan grow as a salesperson and a leader. Ryan did all he could to ensure that my team was the best it could be,” said Signature Offset regional sales manager Erik Hall. “I always knew Ryan would be leading sales teams, and now (he) is helping Digital First Media realize and meet its CEO’s vision.”

Christiansen is credited with helping to keep the team motivated and leading the charge on new initiatives. His natural confidence is helping Digital First Media meet its aggressive online goals.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Christiansen: There has never been a more exciting time to be in this industry. We have to reinvent and revolutionize ourselves so that we can compete in the changing landscape. In order to adapt, you must embrace change and empower those around you to do the same. The industry is moving faster than ever, and it is essential to keep your energy level high and not to forget to celebrate and recognize success. Do not be afraid to be an individual and express your thoughts or opinions, but more importantly listen. Last but not least, play in the space you work.

What is your favorite news site that isn’t a Digital First Media site?
Christiansen: I enjoy the Pulse app on the iPad. It aggregates all of my favorite news and information sites from ESPN to Advertising Age.

Jason Hahs, 30
Promotions coordinator/advertising account executive,
The Keene (N.H.) Sentinel

Education: SUNY Potsdam, Crane School of Music, music business

After starting as an advertising sales assistant six years ago, Hahs has worked his way up to his current dual role in promotions and advertising. He has taken an active role in improving the paper’s image in the community by introducing a new logo and slogan while increasing involvement in local events. The Sentinel’s partnership with nonprofits has strengthened its perception as a community sponsor. On the advertising side, Hahs has taken the bold move of introducing front-page ads promoting the coupon savings inside the paper and reports it as a “wonderful success.”

“My circulation director has reported increased sales and sold out drop boxes,” Hahs said. “Other ads focusing on such special online features as the New Hampshire Primary and our award-winning Haunted House feature, among others, have helped boost traffic to those online sections during the appropriate time-frame. Most have included quick response codes to help boost our mobile site numbers as well.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Hahs: Listen to everyone with an open mind and an open heart. Learn from their ideas, stories, and goals. I’ve never met a person who didn’t have a great idea, a great story, and even greater goals. They have helped and will always help shape me as a person.

How long have you been playing the tuba?
21 years. A highlight was playing at Carnegie Hall with the National Festival Orchestra under Lukas Foss in February 1999. I continue to teach a select number of students privately.

Tim Schmidt, 32
Editor, Warren County Record (Warrenton, Mo.)

Education: Culver-Stockton College, communications

Schmidt began working at the Record as sports editor in 2003. Through his efforts, he was able to establish an entirely separate B section devoted solely to sports. He enhanced the layout and created several new features still in use today, including athlete of the month, team of the week, and weekly football previews for area games.

Schmidt earned the Best Sports Section award from the Missouri Press Association in 2005 and was voted a third-place finisher in 2007 and 2008. He has also been recognized on eight different occasions for his award-winning feature stories on both a statewide and national level.

Since Schmidt became editor, the Record’s circulation has grown from 2,600 to 5,448. “Few newspaper editors, whether at a weekly or daily publication, possess the innovative drive and work ethic displayed by (Tim),” said advertising manager Jana Todd. “He views his leadership position as more than a job and takes considerable pride in the product that he places into the hands of our readers.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Young journalists need to possess an innovative spirit to continually stay motivated to deliver a good product. You need to take pride in your work and find ways to improve your publication. Sometimes leaders like to stay inside the proverbial box, but new ideas need to be expanded upon. A saying that I learned years ago that still holds true today, “You’re only as good as your last product.”

If you could play for any professional sports team, which sport or team would it be?
Having been in Missouri all of my life, I grew up wanting to play for the St. Louis Cardinals. The team consistently has great teams and has the best fans in baseball.

Bridgit Space, 32
Single-copy sales and marketing supervisor, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio)

John Carroll University, marketing

A leader in creating exciting and effective promotional campaigns, Space has won numerous state and national awards for single-copy promotions at The Plain Dealer. Her ideas are both unique and actionable, and her clients testify that they understand the true value of the newspaper because of their relationship with Space.

“She understands the importance of effective visuals, exciting ad design, and developing strong business relationships with clients to help them achieve their goals,” said Michael Ferry, assistant circulation director. “Her ability to organize the promotion from start to finish allows her to see the promotion all the way to a successful conclusion.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
You are never too young to be a leader, so model yourself as the person that your colleagues can turn to for advice and insight by becoming an expert in your field. Do not be intimidated to speak up, even though you might be the youngest person in a roomful of colleagues. You were hired for your creative insight and imagination, so do not be afraid to share it with others. Look at every experience as a learning opportunity, even if you fail. It’s usually the unsuccessful experiences that end up being the ones from which you learn the most.

What is your current favorite TV commercial?
The JCPenney campaign that carries the tagline “Enough. Is. Enough.” The first commercial ran as a teaser to promote their revised pricing and new logo. It was intriguing enough to make me want to seek out more information on the launch of their new image for the brand. I think that the newspaper industry can learn from this campaign, which sends the message that it is perfectly fine if your brand is old, but never let it get stale. You should strive to constantly capture your audience’s imagination.

Luann Dallojacono, 26
Editor, Long Islander Newspapers (Huntington, N.Y.)

Georgetown University, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service

Dallojacono has been the sole editor of Long Islander Newspapers since July 2008, overseeing full production of the chain’s four weekly publications and monthly special editions. As the digital age has taken its toll on the newspaper industry, Dallojacono has responded with a targeted emphasis on the roots, history, and personal stories of the community she covers. She also started a series called Spotlight on Local Businesses that highlights one locally owned business in the paper each week.

Under Dallojacono’s leadership, the paper has won eight awards from the New York Press Association. She also serves as chief mentor in the newsroom and has put an emphasis on team reporting, allowing the paper to cover more in-depth stories in compelling editorial packages. In true community spirit, she serves on the advisory board for a local nonprofit that helps runaway teens and is also a member of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce’s young professionals committee.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
The best life advice I was ever given was: “Be comfortable being uncomfortable.” To me, that means developing the ability to adapt under any circumstance, expect the unexpected, and remain confident in my skills when the tide changes. Newcomers to the newspaper industry should realize that they are entering a field that is facing dramatic pressure to adapt to changes in the ways readers obtain information. I have learned that being versatile and flexible in your approach, style, and technique is critical to being successful.

What have you found to be the best way to motivate interns and new reporters to get excited about the job?
The best teachers I have ever had were the ones who inspired me; who awoke a resolve deep within me to be better. Taking my cue from them, I have found that the best way to motivate interns and new reporters is to inspire them. I remind them that their words matter; that their stories have the power to reach people on a deeply personal level; that “changing the world” is not a meaningless, impossible cliché in this business. I share stories of how Long Islander Newspapers has made tangible change in the community and show them how that power is now, literally, at their fingertips.

Jason Cross, 33
Group publisher, News Media Corp. (Watsonville, Calif.)

Education: Northern Illinois University, marketing

As group publisher, Cross is responsible for all operations at the Register-Pajaronian (a three-time- per-week newspaper), the Paso Robles Press (a twice-weekly newspaper), the Atascadero News (a twice-weekly newspaper), and four weekly newspapers: King City Rustler, Greenfield News, Soledad Bee, and Gonzales Tribune. He is also publisher of the quarterly publication Equine. He started several specialty publications including Vino and North County Life.

Cross is a member of the digital and promotions committee for News Media Corp. Before becoming publisher, he worked in several positions within the company including in the mailroom, graphics, circulation, IT, and advertising.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
This business moves so fast in every aspect of its operations that you need to be knowledgeable in as many facets of the business as possible in order to truly be an innovator and valuable asset to your company and your customers. As newspapers continue to move toward digital products, we need to be well versed in this new medium and know how it affects newspapers now, but more importantly five and 10 years down the road. A few components that have helped me with my success include working for my staff and not the other way around, practicing patience, and having a vision.

If you were given a monthlong vacation, what would you do in your free time?
First, I would disconnect myself from my Mac and iPhone. I would definitely go to Maui with my wife and daughter. After a few weeks, I would move our vacation to Europe and spend time visiting all the rich history and culture. Introduce my daughter to crepes and remind her that every fountain we see doesn’t require $10 in quarters. Then, I would return to California for the last few days and hit a nice hotel along Pacific Coast Highway and just have a few peaceful days with my family and finish up with a day ride along Hwy. 1 on a Ducati 848 EVO to get me ready to hit the ground running.

Dan Hellbusch, 33
Vice president of audience & business development, U-T San Diego (formerly the San Diego Union Tribune)

Education: University of San Diego, computer science and business administration

Hellbusch started his newspaper career at The Orange County Register as a real estate advertising manager and helped the Southern California paper achieve the best year-over- year interactive revenue growth of any major metro newspaper. He joined U-T San Diego as director of interactive sales and was one of the founders of the paper’s Daily Deal program.

In his new position as vice president of audience and business development, Hellbusch is building on his success in the deals business to develop new business models leveraging the strong audience reach and large advertiser base for U-T San Diego.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Work like it is the day before you are about to leave on vacation. That feeling of trying to get everything that is important done in a timely fashion goes a long way.

What was the last Daily Deal coupon you purchased?
The last one I purchased was $50 for $100 at Donovan’s Prime Seafood in downtown San Diego.

Zak Keefer, 26
Digital reporter/content producer,
The Indianapolis Star

Education: Indiana University, journalism; currently working on masters in journalism As a full-time student and part-time digital reporter, Keefer guided the Star’s coverage of Super Bowl XLVI, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Keefer covered breaking news and compiled features and enterprise stories on all events surrounding the Super Bowl — coverage that drew more than 33 million unique visitors to indystar.com over a seven-day span.

Keefer’s stories, videos, and photos were posted in print and online by USA Today and the Asbury Park Press in addition to the Star. He has already won several awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and Hoosier State Press Association for writing and design. Once his masters degree is complete, he plans to return to full-time work for the Star.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Learn to do everything. A reporter is no longer simply just a reporter anymore — the job requirements stretch much, much further than 500 words to file on deadline. The advent of Twitter and the burgeoning online world require reporters to expand their skill sets. A lot of the Super Bowl-related success we had at The Star was due to our reporters doing the extra things — Tweeting, blogging, taking photos and videos, and constantly engaging and entertaining our online audience. If a young journalist can do all of these things, they’re much more marketable to future employers.

If you could go back in time to cover any other Super Bowl, which one would it be?
It would definitely be Super Bowl XLI in Miami in 2007 when Peyton Manning and the Colts finally got over the hump and won the big one.

Brooke McCluskey, 34
Marketing manager, Hoosier Times Inc. (Bloomington, Ind.)

Education: Southeast Missouri State University, marketing

McCluskey started her career early — she’s been on a newspaper staff since the 7th grade. After 20 years of hearing that the newspaper industry is dying, she’s found her niche in marketing and is dedicated to turning that message around. She established an email marketing program so successful that other newspapers have asked her to help them imitate it. With 10,000 active and opted-in members, McCluskey uses her database to drive real revenue to the paper’s products: website, online auctions, contests, coupon site, and others.

Hoosier Times Newspapers’ main site, heraldtimesonline.com, has been a paid-access site since 2003, yet still manages to boast 3.6 million monthly pageviews. “I strongly believe that people will always be willing to pay for news if it is fresh, relevant, and in a handy format,” McCluskey said. “Small hometown newspapers remain in the perfect position to provide this and should never be ashamed to charge for it.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Don’t believe the gloom and doom about newspapers dying. Believe in your generation’s ability to preserve one of the most honorable and valuable professions in the world. A decade ago, the newspaper industry seemed a bit less interested in the ideas of younger people. Today there is a new-found respect for innovative ideas, social media, and cutting-edge content platforms. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry.

What was the first story you wrote for your 7th grade school paper?
My first published newspaper story was about unusual pets owned by other kids in my class.

Matthew Lehman, 28
National digital business manager,
Digital First Media

Widener University, business management

Described as “a digital-savvy workaholic” by his peers, Lehman first worked in online advertising at the Philadelphia Inquirer before being promoted to national digital business manager with Journal Register Co. and Digital First Media. Since assuming his new role, he has transformed the company’s approach to national advertising sales, finding innovative ways to present layered national campaigns across a variety of company newspapers.

Journal Register Co. consumer marketing manager Michael Weekley credited Lehman’s ability to reach out and discover new revenue possibilities as a reason the company is in a great position for success. “His business acumen has helped him forge new digital sales opportunities, raising the CPM of bulk inventory with smart partner relationships,” Weekley said.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Immerse yourself in all things digital. Attempt to learn and be involved in anything and everything digital, whether it be social, mobile, email, or display. Don’t just be well versed in these areas — become the expert. Develop your skill set and knowledge base so you are well-equipped and fully capable of successfully taking on any challenge.

Before joining the newspaper industry, what was the most unusual job you had?
During my college summers, I worked for a company that tested and certified fire hoses. Each day, our team would travel to different firehouses along the East Coast and test every length of hose in the station to ensure it was up to code. It wasn’t a bad gig on a hot summer day.

Jared Semet, 28
Online sales manager,
Pottstown (Pa.) Mercury

Education: West Chester University, marketing and Web technology

In this ever-changing media landscape, Semet has taken advantage of every opportunity the Web has presented to capitalize on the Mercury’s engaged online audience, delivering online packages that include award-winning interactive maps, video guides, and contests. Journal Register Co. consumer marketing manager Michael Weekley described Semet as “the epitome of a digital go-getter” and noted that despite his obvious talent, Semet is always quick to credit those around him.

Semet has helped make the Mercury an online sales leader, and his successful online strategies have been replicated elsewhere. He has been a speaker on many online sales topics and is known to be supportive and helpful in educating the sales staff on how to achieve optimal efficiency on new projects.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
In order to be successful in today’s newspaper industry you have to set yourself apart. Creativity and ingenuity is an invaluable asset to have in the industry. I’d also recommend having a fearless attitude; identify an exceptional opportunity and go for it. All new initiatives represent an opportunity for success, whether it is measured in revenue, audience development, or simply a learning experience used to develop future best practices. In this fast-paced industry, complacency may get you through the day, but persistence and exceptionality is what it will take to inspire this new journalism generation.

What was the last YouTube video you watched?
I was putting together our latest online reader’s contest in which we are giving away Philadelphia 76ers tickets, and in order to help me get into the right frame of mind I watched the video of Allen Iverson’s 2002 “Practice” press conference. It’s a must-see classic.

Lara Neel, 33
Visual editor, The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

Education: Amherst College, physics; Ohio University, masters in visual communication

When Neel was hired to replace a retiring photo editor at the Journal Gazette, her supervisor decided to call her a “visual editor” in recognition of the changing demands of the newspaper business. Editor Craig Klugman said from 2010 to 2011, Neel and her staff more than doubled both the number of videos posted and the number of views those videos received. The number of photo galleries and the number of gallery pageviews also more than doubled under Neel’s watch.

Neel’s staff photographers have produced award-winning work in still photography and multimedia. Klugman said Neel encourages her staff to think about assignments differently and credits her skills as a manager and motivator for improving the Journal Gazette’s visual media and keeping the workplace upbeat.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
The main thing is to stay flexible and find ways to maintain your passion for the work. Most job skills can be learned, but if the passion and flexibility aren’t there, it can be a real challenge to keep going. This is advice I got from Terry Eiler at Ohio University, and it has pulled me through the tough times and made my good moments even better. If you let others completely define everything you create, think about, or cover in a day, you will lose your way.

What is your favorite photo you’ve ever taken, and what was the story behind it?
It’s an image I took in Sioux Falls (S.D.) of a grieving mother. She had just lost her son, who was an active-duty soldier in Iraq. At first, the family didn’t want to talk with us, but they ended up letting me spend the afternoon with them, as they went through the mourning cycle of laughing about better days and crying because they missed him, and back again. As I was leaving, I turned and made a photo of Rita (the mother). Her face showed her turmoil, her sadness, but also her pride in her son’s life.

Will Sullivan, 31
Director of mobile news, TheSt. Louis Post-Dispatch/LeeEnterprises

University of Toledo, communication; Northwestern University, new media

Sullivan was previously a 2010-2011 Donald W. Reynolds Institute journalism fellow at the University of Missouri, where he studied mobile, tablet, and emerging technologies. Before that, he was interactive director of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch where he led the organization’s mobile, social, and multimedia initiatives. Sullivan’s work has won more than a dozen professional awards from organizations.

His website, journerdism.com, was recognized by Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab as one of the 10 best “future-of-journalism” blogs. Sullivan also frequently offers strategic and technical consulting in emerging technologies, as well as hands-on training at organizations, universities, workshops, and conferences around the world.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Never stop learning. Seek out great bosses and mentors, and pay it forward by mentoring others. Thank and spread encouragement profusely. Go with your gut.

Besides your own blog, what are the first three blogs you visit every morning?
Nieman Journalism Lab, TheVerge, and Lifehacker.

Anthony Ronzio, 32
New media director, Sun Media Group (Lewiston, Maine)

Education: Syracuse University, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, magazine journalism and history

Sun Media Group publishes the 35,000-daily Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine, plus several weekly and trade publications throughout the state. Where the company differentiates itself from the pack is its software development firm, Celsius Technology Group. Celsius is pioneering new digital-first content management systems for small publishers. With professional experience at dotcom startups and award-winning papers, Ronzio fits right in.

Ronzio, however, is not your typical introverted techie. He has served as president of the Maine Press Association, where he led efforts to forestall laws that would remove public notice advertising from newspapers. He also helped pass Maine’s first shield law for journalists. His work in digital media includes not only bringing in new revenue and audience for Sun Media, but building the tools to help other publishers benefit in the same way.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
My advice to others like me is not to adhere to any doom-and-gloom forecasts about the newspaper industry. The news content business is vibrant; it’s the newspaper business model that needs adaptation. This means there’s tremendous opportunity in this industry for entrepreneurial young professionals who can help guide it into the future. Yes, what’s historically passed for the newspaper business is going away; the possibilities of what can be created going forward, however, are exciting.

How do you explain to your parents what you do for work?
My parents, an insurance executive and a small businessman, are not entirely sure what I do for work. But they read newspapers on computers and tablets now, so they understand where the industry is going. Most of all, they know that I’m now doing the job I’ve always wanted, so that makes them — and me — very happy.

Adam Playford, 24
The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post

Education: NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, computer-assisted reporting

The job title of “reporter” doesn’t really do justice to what Playford does at the Post. As a writer, database expert, analyst, social media maven, and Web innovator, his expertise is indispensable in the newsroom. Post content editor Nick Moschella said Playford was instrumental in searching the enormous WikiLeaks database and enabling the paper to cover the stories that pertained to their local audience.

Another key project was an online interactive election page in 2010 that tracked all local and state races, giving readers all the candidate information they needed to cast their vote. A similar presidential primary state map displayed county-by-county results in real time. When he’s not busy being the office techie, he digs deep in his watchdog reporting and is always at the ready for the latest breaking news story.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Do what you’re passionate about, but if what you’re passionate about is doing great journalism, get comfortable with computers. You don’t have to be Excel’s best friend, but you’d better make it a wary ally. You’ll still need to know how to nag sources and cover murders and sweat out a story on deadline. But good reporters have had a laser-like focus on public records for years. These days, that often means data; to be great, you’ll need to know how to use it.

Your nickname in the newsroom is “journalist of the future.” What do you imagine the role of real journalists in the future will be, say in 50 years?
I have no idea what journalism will look like in 50 years. Fifty years ago, microwave ovens were a crazy science experiment. Today I carry a computer in my pocket. What I do know: If we want to compete now, we need to be better at the craft of putting news online. That means hiring more people who are fluent in the technologies that power the Web. It means more programmers in newsrooms and more journalists who can program. It means thinking hard about how we present our content and not always letting vendors do that thinking for us. Storytelling is eternal and will never go away, but we need to get better at delivering our stories digitally.

Derek Sawvell, 29
Managing editor,
Wilton-Durant (Iowa) Advocate News

Education: University of Iowa, management; masters in health and sports studies

Although Advocate News publisher Bill Tubbs has mentored many journalists who went on to distinguished careers (including a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner), he said none have held a candle at their young ages to what Sawvell has accomplished in his two years at the Advocate News.

“He is, by every measurement, the complete package as an editor, a news reporter, a columnist, a photographer, a business manager, and an ambassador for his community and employer,” Tubbs said. “He stands out from his peers in every way and represents the future of community journalism.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Believe in your product. I never lose sight of this week-to-week when creating our next issue. You have to believe in your newspaper. In order to make it the best it can be, you have to put in the time, effort, creativity, photo taking, and writing skills to make it shine. From a managerial perspective, it helps immensely to have your staff also believe in your product just as much. If they believe in the product as much as you do, teamwork will help make the presentation that much better.

What was the strangest interview you ever conducted?
I would have to say the time I interviewed the family of a 17-year-old girl who was killed in an auto accident while on her way to school for volleyball practice. The accident occurred on a Sunday, and by Wednesday I was at her visitation. Her father asked me if I was going to write about the accident, and within a couple of days, I was sitting in their basement talking to the parents and older sister.

It was strange due to the fact that all of us — myself included — were still in shock with the death of this child, but that’s what you’ll find in this business. These kinds of stories are never fun, but if we can write something that helps the community with the grieving/healing process, I feel we’ve done our job.

Claire St. Amant, 26
Assistant managing editor, People Newspapers (Dallas)

Education: Baylor University, professional writing and journalism

Before joining People Newspapers in 2010 as a reporter, St. Amant spent time with the Peace Corps in the Ukraine. Within a year of being hired, she was promoted to assistant managing editor. Managing editor Dan Koller applauded her ability to spot trends in police incident reports and turn them into enterprise stories ranging from restaurant robberies to car burglaries.

St. Amant can also find interesting, amusing stories in the least likely places. For example, while looking up the address of a source on Google Maps, she noticed a listing for an escort service — a highly unusual business for the tree-lined streets of one of their communities. Her investigation produced an entertaining story, as well as a policy change at Google.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
St. Amant:
No matter what position you’re in, always be thinking about how you can add value to your publication. If you’re a great writer, don’t file your stories and stop there. Consider how using video or social media could enhance your coverage and elevate your paper above the competition. Educate yourself about the business side of the industry such as circulation, advertising, and marketing. The more you understand about how your publication operates the better you and your company will function in the long run.

How do you feel the Peace Corps may have prepared you as a journalist?
St. Amant:
In addition to providing a deep well of story ideas to pull from, my time in the Peace Corps put everything in perspective. When you have to hand-wash your entire wardrobe, grind meat for dinner, and boil all your drinking water, there isn’t much that seems tedious or beneath you anymore. As a journalist, this translates into being willing to cover stories that need covering, not just the ones I’d like to write. Sometimes, those humdrum assignments can lead to much more interesting ones if you pay attention and ask the right questions.

Kristen Swing, 31
Executive editor,
Jonesborough (Tenn.) Herald & Tribune

Education: Syracuse University, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, magazine journalism

In just over four years at the helm of the Herald & Tribune, Swing has reinvented not only the paper’s design, but also its content and focus. Her hard work has paid off with recognition and awards from the Tennessee Press Association.

In a move to position the paper at the front of the community’s consciousness, Swing developed a highly successful magazine called Happy Tails about animals and the people who love them. She is also actively involved with the American Cancer Society and has chaired the organization’s Bark for Life fundraising event, honoring the contributions of canine caregivers. Herald & Tribune publisher Lynn Richardson commended Swing for her commitment to the industry, her integrity, and her community spirit. “It is rare to see such excellence at a small weekly newspaper,” Richardson said.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Don’t ever assume the size of your publication is in direct proportion to the impact it can have. If you make sure every story you write, every page you design connects with people, it is amazing how far-reaching you become.

You’ve done some volunteer work for animal charities and started a magazine for pet lovers — do you have any pets of your own?
I do have one dog. Her name is Nelly. She is a 7- year-old black cocker spaniel. My husband and I adopted her in 2005 from a local animal shelter. I first spotted her there while covering a story as a reporter. She had been abused before being dropped off at the shelter, but you’d never know it now. She is so spoiled, it is ridiculous.

Dawn Philips, 35
Tampa advertising manager, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times)

Education: University of South Florida, mass communications — advertising

In the highly competitive market of Tampa Bay, Fla., Philips has led the Times advertising team to unprecedented double-digit growth — even before the aid of the paper’s title change. Philips has been a key factor in developing the paper’s consumer marketing,distribution, and digital strategies and has attained measurable results at a time when others are making excuses about the economy being in a slump.

Publisher and vice president Joe DeLuca said Philips is considerably talented and,most importantly, an innate leader. “She has selected and developed a talented and capable team, set high standards and expectations, and done it all with a passionate style of leadership that continually motivates and inspires her staff,” DeLuca said.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Remember that your work in the newspaper industry impacts your community. Whether by helping local businesses connect with customers or by telling a story that leads to positive change, newspapers are an integral part of our society, and we as young professionals should be talking this way. New digital media will not replace older traditional media; it will only add to the quality of what we can deliver both for advertisers and readers.

So what’s in the new name for the Times?
As the sales manager for the St. Pete Times in Tampa, I spent a lot of time telling our story and trying to convince advertisers that we were more than the out-of-town paper. We were widely admired for having a superior newspaper, but we lacked an emotional connection to many communities outside of St. Pete, including Tampa, because of our name. Since the name change, we have seen a significant increase in the number of new subscribers taking our paper, especially in Tampa and the surrounding communities. We’ve been told by advertisers that they see the name change as good for their business, too. We did not suddenly grow to cover all of Tampa Bay on Jan. 1, we’ve been growing for awhile now, but the perception of where and who we reach has finally caught up to reality because of the name. It’s pretty amazing.

Emily Walsh, 32
Associate publisher/multimedia, The Observer Newspapers (Sarasota, Fla.)

Education: Florida State University. Walsh said, “I didn’t finish, because I got bored and wanted a real job.”

Walsh is associate publisher of the newspaper group that includes the Longboat Observer, Sarasota Observer, East County Observer, and Pelican Press, and she has led the company’s charge into the digital age. Her efforts have been recognized by Suburban Newspapers of America (now called Local Media Association), including awards for best site architecture and overall design in 2010, and best Web-print combination advertising campaign.

Walsh has spearheaded a multimedia package for advertisers that includes website, print, social media,video, and SEO. She is also the newscaster for the editorial department’s daily news video, another one of her initiatives.On top of all that, Walsh finds time to volunteer in her community and works with organizations including Girls, Inc., Cancer Support Community, Community AIDS Network, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, and Sunshine from Darkness.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Learn every part of the business: reporting,editing, layout, design, sales, digital … If you want to be publisher one day, you’ll automatically have credibility because you’ve done every job in the business. That being said, I’ve never delivered newspapers, and that’s one part of this industry that still fascinates me — it’s so complex!

How does your volunteer work fit into the “big picture” of your career?
I grew up watching my mom perform puppet shows at the local library for disadvantaged kids. As a preteen I went shopping with my dad at Christmastime for items for a family he had adopted through Junior Achievement. The first volunteer work I did was to teach a ballet class for little girls who would not ever have had that opportunity otherwise. But through my community volunteer work I’ve realized, as my parents taught me,that as part of the community newspaper it’s not only our job to provide our community with information, it’s also to be a part of it, making a difference and making it a better place. There couldn’t be a better reward than that.

Tyler Walsh, 30
Multimedia editor, Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) Free Press

Education: Red River College, creative communications — journalism

Since he was hired as multimedia editor in 2008, Walsh has developed a team of well-trained videographers and has taken the Free Press to producing full-length documentaries, livestreaming local events, and covering elections with a combination of technologies that meld the best of TV and print. Deputy editor Julie Carl said Walsh has excelled in developing his own skill set as well as training others in the field so he doesn’t have to be a one-man show.

Walsh’s work doesn’t end at the Free Press either. His involvement in the 22-minute documentary “No Running Water” about remote native reserves where many homes do not have indoor plumbing has resulted in Canada’s federal government pledging $5.5 million to retrofit those homes.

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Innovate. As a young professional in an online position at a traditional newspaper, I’ve carved my career out of being innovative. It’s really a race to keep up with the changing technologies and not be afraid to try — and fail. On the video side, we’ve gone in many different directions since I started four years ago. We started testing livestreaming video three years ago, and now it’s a key part of our online product. I now regularly shoot, edit, and upload video with my iPhone. Both of these newsgathering options came from exploring the technologies and being innovative.

Your editor said you have a “bag of tricks” that you carry everywhere. What’s in the bag?
Ha! What isn’t in the bag? Everything I need to be ready to shoot, edit, upload, and post a video as fast as possible, or livestream from a breaking news scene. I carry it with me everywhere. Here’s a list: Macbook Pro, Sony Handycam, wireless mic kit, GoPro camera, monopod, USB Passport drive, notepad, pens, batteries, lots of cables, and all my iPhone gizmos — Fostex AR-4i, PED 3 tripod, iRig Microphone.

Rex Barber, 31
Assistant news editor/online,
Johnson City (Tenn.) Press

Education: East Tennessee State University, mass communication;currently working on masters in professional communication

Pegged as the Johnson City Press’ first mobile journalist, Barber took on breaking news, remote location reporting, and Web posting, then learned video production and editing on the job without professional training. He has regularly appeared on camera and has produced several documentary-length videos, in addition to his continuing coverage of higher education.

In 2011, Barber coordinated a 100-page magazine insert commemorating East Tennessee State University’s centennial, which was accompanied by a three-part documentary streamed online and circulated to the public on DVD. In January, Barber was promoted to his current position, which requires oversight of the Press’ website and online staff. News editor Sam Watson said Barber “has met the call again and again in the rapidly evolving environment of newspaper journalism.”

What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?
Keep in mind that the industry today changes as rapidly as technology does, and technology changes every day. When I first began working as a reporter, we did not use social media,nor did we devote the amount of attention to our newspaper website that we do today. It is important to keep up with changing technology and embrace it and figure out how it can benefit your job and your readers.

If you were given a million dollars to create your own full-length documentary film, what would it be about and why?
I have thought many times that it would be interesting to do a full-length documentary on the history and culture of my area of the Appalachian region (northeast Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and western North Carolina). I think this region is unique and full of people who have a distinctly American tale to tell. The point would be to capture as many nuances of this region, as much heritage, as possible to provide a permanent record of what life was like in the past and what it is like now in an area that was once considered the first frontier of America.

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One thought on “E&P’s 25 Under 35, 2012

  • April 9, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Can you provide some background on the selection process? It’s an interesting group. Thanks,


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