E&P’s 25 Under 35 2015

E&P's 25 Under 35 2015

This year’s list of 25 Under 35 features a senior systems architect, a video producer, a consumer experience director, and a digital marketing specialist, showing us how workplace positions have evolved over the years in the newspaper industry. But you’ll also find reporters, editors, advertising directors, and circulation managers among our young professionals, again showing us that these traditional roles still play a big part in the success of our business. Climbing the ranks now requires a multitude of skills not seen in previous generations, and these talented men and women are certainly equipped with them.

So, let’s breathe a sigh of relief. It may be a challenging time for everyone working in newspapers right now, but with leaders such as the ones here willing to take the reins, we’ll be all right.


Sara J. Bass, 33
Circulation operations manager and audience director
The Hutchinson News
Hutchinson, Kan.

Education: (currently attending) Fort Hays State University, bachelor in business administration, management; Hutchinson Community College, associate of science, registered nurse

Sara-BassSara Bass has been circulation operations manager for The Hutchinson News for about two years. Even though she got her start at the News, she spent much of her newspaper career with the Wichita Eagle circulation department. At the News, Bass has restructured bundle-hauls and motor routes, and identified efficiencies to generate substantial expense savings.

According to publisher and editor John Montgomery, Bass has improved service so that it consistently is close to the paper’s benchmark of one complaint per thousand circulation, and although her title is operations and much of the sales is handled by a corporate team, she has proven to be a skilled marketer, sharpening promotional activities, growing digital circulation, and developing email marketing as a new sales channel.
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Stay positive, energetic, learn as much as you possibly can and have fun. If you work in circulation, take a close look at your hauling expenses. You could be sitting on a goldmine (I was able to find a small fortune in savings). Ditch the medieval management style and lead by example, be a coach. For real change to happen you must be able to diagnose problems down to the most microscopic detail and be willing to gain the perspective from every faction involved. Put yourself in their shoes and then take a look down from the balcony. Ask yourself if what you are doing would motivate you to make a change, then adjust your actions accordingly. One person cannot change everything, but a team can make real progress.


You’re also a registered nurse. How would you breathe new life into newspaper circulation departments?

The first step to performing CPR is assessment. You have to gather data, both objective and subjective, so you can determine the baseline; the numbers are very important, but don’t discount your gut feeling. Circulation both from a medical standpoint and a newspaper standpoint are very similar. Both require a certain amount of maintenance and preventative measures to stop a small scratch from becoming a real bleeder. There will always be those days when you walk into a level 1 trauma, but don’t lose perspective. In many cases, using a solid plan with the right team, you can slow or even stop the bleed. And just how advances in healthcare have changed the landscape of the medical field, technology has changed the way that we look at a traditional circulation department. It’s really about building total audience by protecting print, embracing digital and working toward marrying the two together to maintain “homeostasis.”
Joe Battistoni, 32
Director of digital advertising
The Times Media Co. of Northwest Indiana
Munster. Ind.
Education: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, bachelor of arts, political science

Joe-BattistoniJoe Battistoni joined The Times Media Co. in 2014, and according to publisher Chris White,  Battistoni has been “an absolute game-changer,” taking (their) digital sales operation from one of the worst performers in (their) peer group to the top of the list in only six months.

“Through expanded training efforts, a change in go-to market strategy, an expanded product line and lots of energetic leadership, Joe created a true culture change that has had positive ripple effects throughout our organization,” White said. “Every day, Joe leads from the front and makes great things happen.”

Prior to his time in Northwest Indiana, Battistoni worked for the Chicago Tribune Media Group for nine years.

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

Don’t fear making the big mistake. The biggest fear young professionals should have is not taking big enough risks to truly effect change. Publishing is in transition, and its success will come from young leaders shaping the future with new innovations, and we all know that comes with perfecting our practice and learning from our mistakes. News organizations are tremendously complex; the more you can expose yourself, the more you can learn and eventually improve. You can never predict where your next big idea will come from.

What’s the best lesson you can share on selling digital?

Evangelize digital every chance you get. There is nothing more exciting than the explosion of digital. Whether it’s audience growth on your own site, capabilities and function of your organization or the newest social platform—everyone wants to talk about it, and we are lucky enough to sell it. Every organization will have their fair share of skeptics, but avoid those people, and continue to prove them wrong with consistent results and constant innovation. Have fun, take no prisoners, and let the magic happen.

Brandon Bowers, 35
Today’s News-Herald
Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Education: San Joaquin Delta College

Brandon-BowersBrandon Bowers has worked at daily newspapers in California, New Mexico and Arizona since he was 16 years old. His career started in 1996 as a high school news clerk at the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin. He later worked as a reporter at the Bulletin and went on to serve as editor of the Turlock (Calif.) Journal. Bowers worked for six years as the first online editor for the Merced Sun-Star, where he helped the paper develop strategies for social media and multimedia, and helped grow online traffic from about 600,000 monthly page views to more than 2 million.

As editor of the Carlsbad (N.M.) Current-Argus, print circulation numbers surged thanks to new editorial initiatives and a focus on good design. Digital numbers also consistently showed a 30 percent growth over the prior. Bowers also served as interim publisher in May and June 2013 while a search was conducted for the position.

Bowers has been editor of the Today’s News-Herald in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. since summer 2014. He also serves as editor of the weekly Parker Pioneer and the quarterly magazine Havasu…Arizona’s Coastal Life.

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

Relentlessly pursue new ways of doing things. Always think about ways to enhance or change what you’re doing, but learn how to quickly identify when those things aren’t working and make the necessary adjustments. Constantly seek reader feedback, whether it’s online, over the phone, or in some sort of organized group setting, but don’t be scared to go with your gut when there’s a decision to be made. Learn your community’s passions and adapt your newspaper’s coverage accordingly.

How would you encourage other small community dailies to go “digital first?”

Small newsrooms can make big impacts online. It doesn’t necessarily mean working harder, but it does mean changing workflows and, perhaps, priorities. Start with the low-hanging fruit: Review and adjust your plans for breaking news coverage and let that shape your approach to developing a digital plan for other areas. In Lake Havasu City and at other newsrooms I’ve managed, we publish breaking news as soon as it’s verified, even if that’s just a sentence or two. Require reporters and other news staffers to use social media in the reporting process. Use free or inexpensive digital tools to enhance what you’re already doing. Video is easier than you think — it’s great if you have the time to shoot and edit a highly polished news feature video, but small newsrooms often simply don’t have the resources. However, you can use your smartphone or the video function on your camera. We’ve used the Tout app at several of my newsrooms, which allows us to shoot up to 45 seconds of video and immediately post it online. It’s great for breaking news and sports, but there’s no reason it couldn’t also be incorporated into lifestyles or even opinion.

Scott J. Bryan, 32
Hickory Daily Record
Hickory, N.C.
Education: Stratford High School

Scott-J-BryanAs editor of the Hickory Daily Record, Scott J. Bryan serves as the newsroom leader for a department of 10. In addition, Bryan served as a member of the North Carolina Community Group’s digital growth strategy group and chaired his paper’s audience development committee. He also is a member of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors.

Bryan was instrumental in doubling the paper’s website’s page views and quadrupling their social media strategy in a 12-month span. He launched Barrel, the HDR’s new craft beer, wine and liquor page, which features a Twitter account, weekly column, stories, and, in April, launched a special section dedicated to craft beer.

Prior to joining the HDR in November 2013, Bryan served as the associate editor at the Index-Journal, a family-owned newspaper in Greenwood, S.C. A 14-year veteran of the newspaper industry, Bryan started his full-time career as an 18-year-old sports writer at the Aiken (S.C.) Standards. He’s been a sports writer, sports designer, sports editor, news designer, associate editor and now editor. He’s the youngest winner of a South Carolina Press Association award as a 16-year-old at the weekly Goose Creek (S.C.) Gazette.

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

Be passionate. Far too often in this industry, we live in a constant state of doom and gloom. That’s understandable. Not all jobs are perfect. Not all professions are perfect. But if you come to work every day with the goal of being the best journalist possible and producing the best product possible, you can go home at night proud of what you’ve accomplished. Nobody wants to work with people who are checked out or who don’t care about their work. A passionate approach to journalism is contagious, and if you share that passion with your co-workers, bosses and readers, you’ll find success is easier to obtain.
If you could go back in time, what lessons would you share with your 18-year-old self who is just starting his full-time journalism career?

Don’t be resistant to change. I think journalists must understand the newspaper business continues to evolve. It’s natural to be resistant to change. Once you master a task or skill, you want to use that to your advantage. The next step is developing that skill and improving it. Learn as much as you can from folks around you who have worked in this business and apply those practices in your career, but also be on the lookout for what other folks in the industry are doing and how that could affect the future. The last bit of advice I’d give an 18-year-old me? Take a chill pill.

Bryan Chester, 33
Advertising director
The Columbia Missourian
Columbia, Mo.
Education: University of Missouri, master’s in education, higher education; Columbia College, bachelor of arts, business—marketing; University of Missouri, bachelor of arts, sociology

Bryan-ChesterBryan Chester started working at the Columbia Missourian in 2008 as an account executive, and as advertising director, he was responsible for differentiating the revenue streams and introducing Google Consumer Surveys to the newspaper’s website.

“Since Bryan took over the advertising department, The Missourian has already seen digital advertising revenue double,” said Dan Potter, general manager. “Bryan is passionate about the future of media and is aggressively seeking new and innovative strategies to curtail the decline of the print industry.”

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

Avoid the sentiment that newspapers are already dead and instead focus on the role technology can play in shaping the future of media. Contrary to popular belief, this is an incredibly exciting time to work at a newspaper, especially one like the Missourian which is willing and able to take risks on new and innovative ideas. Instead of buying into the doom and gloom rhetoric that is plaguing the industry, view these challenges as opportunities to both sustain and grow your newspapers brand.

What are the most exciting advertising trends for newspaper right now?

The shift toward converged selling across a multitude of platforms. Whereas in years past advertising representatives were extremely limited in their offerings, basic print display and limited static Web placements, we are now seeing a shift toward comprehensive advertising packages. These packages offer a combination of both print and Web advertising, but go further than traditional bundles by offering video pre-roll, social media management, direct-to-consumer messaging, as well as much more. By differentiating product offerings and leveraging their assets, newspapers are able to expand their reach to become comprehensive agencies and in turn provide a stronger ROI for their clients.

Casey Cordato, 31
Classified supervisor
Columbia-Greene Media
Hudson, N.Y.
Education: Hudson High School

Casey-CordatoAs newspapers compete against the Craigslists and eBays of the world, publisher Mark Vinciguerra found an employee who could drive the classifieds business forward. As classified supervisor, Casey Cordato and her team took over the business service directories, created new content such as a Pet Page, revised and increased rates, streamlined rate structures, and began handling the obituaries. According to Vinciguerra, Cordato and her team increased revenue by nearly 5 percent versus 2013. With the weeklies, classifieds went up more than 16 percent versus the prior year.
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Believe and know your product inside and out. Set goals. Learn all positions if possible in the industry as each department ties with one another somehow. The industry is never ending. You will never be caught up, there is always something to do. Keep up with the newest trends, technology, social media, etc. Never lose your hunger, drive, passion and dedication. You must love what you do to succeed.
If you could create a classified ad promoting newspapers, what would it say?

Newspapers Provide—Reach, Portability, Quality, Reliability and Results

Sean Ely, 28
Senior video producer
Chicago, Ill.
Education: Michigan State University, bachelor of arts, journalism

Sean-Ely2Before Sean Ely joined RedEye, the daily publication put out by the Chicago Tribune aimed at 18 to 34-year olds, the paper’s videos received about 1.3 million views. When Ely came on board, he optimized the entire process, from workflow and content to SEO and equipment. As a result, RedEye had more than 1.6 million video views in the first quarter of 2014 alone.

In 2014, Ely led a small film crew that followed a local up-and-coming hip-hop artist for two months, documenting the real struggles artists face—financial, emotional, and creative. A documentary was released “Netflix-style,” and an event promoting the video was so popular that people had to be turned away at the door.

“Sean’s fun, optimistic approach, his on-camera talent, and his considerable technical expertise bring professional, polished, video content to our organization,” said Amy Guth, publisher and general manager.
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Don’t follow the rules, don’t envy other people and don’t settle. Find a niche or beat that isn’t being capitalized on and pounce. I refused to listen to people who said “this is how it should be,” and I created my own version of video journalism. There’s no reason to strive to be the next “insert successful person’s name here.” You earn greatness when there isn’t another person doing the same thing. You stood out and made it happen yourself. Risky? Terrifying? Absolutely. But there’s nothing more lethal for one’s career, in my opinion, than simply fitting the mold and putzing through it.

How do you determine what will make a great video or documentary story?

I make content I would personally want to watch or share. You could say, selfishly, I make videos for myself. I don’t shoot and edit simply because I have the resources to do it. The market is oversaturated and filled with “suck,” as I like to call it. Quality over quantity, every time. I try to produce video that has a recognizable heartbeat with just as much personality as a real, breathing human being. Drive your viewer to act and feel a specific way—great journalism at its core, right? Each piece should have three things: emotion, strong relationships and unfaltering swagger. If not, what’s the point?


Megan Finnerty, 35
Trend and lifestyle reporter
The Arizona Republic
Phoenix, Ariz.
Education: Purdue University, bachelor of arts, communications

Megan-FinnertyIn the newsroom, Megan Finnerty performs a dual role as a reporter and a live event host and facilitator with the Arizona Republic. Finnerty is also the co-founder and host of the Arizona Storytellers Project. Her role requires her to strategize with the marketing and advertising departments about how to maintain the editorial integrity of the project while increasing sponsorship dollars and opportunities.

Last February, she hosted a 75-person Strong Women, Strong Drinks event in partnership with Arizona Cocktail Week, that featured a book conversation with Anna Holmes and Kate Harding. Several years ago, she also founded a cocktail competition, which she still emcees, in partnership with Local First Arizona. Designed to promote her nightlife reporting beat at the time, it still draws hundreds of cocktail enthusiasts, even though she has moved on to different beats.

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

Don’t think of it as a newspaper. Is that too obvious? I don’t know anyone who works at a newspaper. We all make videos, speak at live events, appear on TV, write for the Web, cover stories with social media, etc. Print is a part of what we do, but I haven’t thought of myself as a newspaper reporter for years. Beyond that, my advice is feel your feelings. Your feelings will guide you to the heart of the story. Examine why you feel something. Then, talk about those feelings with the most critical, insightful people you can find. Then hold your ideas up to intellectual scrutiny. Push through all that and write the most emotionally resonant, intellectually sophisticated, obviously true and compelling story your talents and time allow you to produce. In between listicles.

If you could book any three guests for an Arizona Storytellers Project night, who would they be and why?

Bono, because I’d listen to him talk about anything, and because I’ve been in love with him since I was 13. Sandra Day O’Connor, because she has so many more stories to tell. Your neighbor, which is to say, everyone has a story to tell. That’s the thing 60 nights and more than 360 storytellers have taught me.

Kat Hughes, 34
Executive editor
Observer Media Group
Sarasota, Fla.
Education: University of Wyoming, master in business administration; University of Missouri, bachelor of journalism

Kat-HughesKat Hughes oversees editorial content of five newspapers and all the online content across multiple platforms. Currently, she’s overseeing a comprehensive redesign of the newspapers.

“Kat is an organized, dedicated, thoughtful and responsive editor. She edits through collaboration,” said deputy managing editor Mark Gordon. “She inspires reporters with her work ethic, positive attitude and commitment to excellence.”

The Observer Media Group has won multiple awards for content and design in the past four years under her watch. “She focuses the staff on thinking about everything that goes into a story, from the reporting to the pictures to the layout,” Gordon said. “She understands the value of a hyper-local media company, both for print and online.”

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

Don’t be afraid to push your organization to try new things and expand the way it thinks about content. In this media environment, some rules need to be broken to produce truly creative, relevant content that readers will love. Be bold. It will probably be the thing that sets you apart from the rest.

What has been your most favorite part of the newspaper redesigns so far, and why?

My favorite part of the redesign is the freedom it gives us. When you’re trying to be innovative, templates can kill you. In our new design, we can showcase stories and photos in a way that allows them to shine. It marries presentation with content. After all, isn’t that what great design is all about?
Deirdre Long, 31
Digital marketing specialist
The Anniston Star
Anniston, Ala.
Education: University of Alabama, master of arts in community journalism; East Tennessee State University, bachelor of science in mass communication, concentration in journalism

Deirdre-LongDeirdre Long is an editor turned digital marketing specialist for The Anniston Star. She started her career with the Star in 2006 as part of the inaugural class of the Community Journalism Master’s program the paper offers in conjunction with the University of Alabama. After being hired in 2007, she has worked as a page designer, graphic designer, entertainment editor, features editor, and in July 2014, she moved into advertising.

In advertising, she manages a new digital marketing division of the Star called BizBuzz, which provides website design, social media management, SEO, email marketing, online advertising (on AnnistonStar.com as well as Facebook and Google ads) as well as some non-digital marketing services, such as promotional products and direct mail. In the seven months since she began in her new role, her division has grown from a team of one to three.

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

Keep up with media, technology and communications trends, and be a multimedia journalist. Newspapers are sometimes slow to adapt to the new ways that our readers are communicating. Social media in particular can be very helpful in disseminating news and information. Know how to do a little bit of everything—take photos, shoot video, even knowing basic HTML can go a long way.

Why did you decide to move from the editorial side of journalism to advertising?

My move to advertising was an unexpected, but welcome, change. I approached the Star’s advertising director, David Bragg, last summer with an idea for the paper to create new revenue by offering our advertising clients help with digital marketing — helping manage social media pages, website design, online advertising, email marketing, etc. In my work on the editorial side, I had become aware of how many small businesses we have in our area with little to no presence on the Internet. I did not expect to do this new job — I was just passing on an idea — but at the end of my pitch, David asked if I would like to be the one to spearhead this new campaign.

As a millennial, the Internet has been a part of my life since grade school. On the news side, editors are in charge of posting their section’s stories to the paper’s CMS and social media accounts, so I’d been using those platforms as part of my job regularly. Taking the next step of using that knowledge to help our clients just seemed natural.

Ryan Martin, 27
Managing editor
The Elkhart Truth
Elkhart, Ind.
Education: Washington University in St. Louis, master in business administration; University of Missouri, bachelor of arts, journalism

Ryan-MartinAs managing editor of The Elkhart Truth, Ryan Martin is responsible for producing a daily newspaper, elkhartruth.com, flavor574.com (a quarterly digital food magazine) and a daily three-hour radio show. He also works as digital director of the Truth’s parent company Federated Media. In that role, Martin has been charged with building a digital content network across four markets.

Martin has a history of growing website and social media audiences, leading journalists through lasting digital change, and working across departments to build new brands and products. His redesign of elkharttruth.com has been recognized by three different media associations, and his social media strategy has led to audience growth of 160 percent on Facebook and 70 percent on Twitter in the past year.

Martin has worked with the Hoosier State Press Association, serving on a digital panel at a recent press association meeting, and has been a judge for newsroom contests. He has also worked with a Missouri Journalism School capstone class on capstone projects.
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

It’s a challenging time in the newspaper industry, but those challenges bring plenty of opportunities for young professionals. Take advantage of those opportunities by constantly pushing yourselves and your teams to do better work today than you did yesterday. None of us began working at a newspaper because we expected it to be easy; in fact, for many of us, we joined this industry because we believe we’re uniquely positioned to solve those challenges and serve a greater good. When you’re faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle—launching a major website redesign, rapidly growing a social audience, identifying a mobile-first strategy or anything else—remember that you’re in your position for a reason. And don’t forget that a lot of folks are working on similar problems and projects across the industry. That support network is immensely helpful. We’re all in this together.
How do you keep your audiences engaged on social media?

Don’t talk to people. Talk with them. Think of social media as a party where you’re a host. Build conversations around the content and make the experiences as memorable as possible for your users. Because when I scroll through a feed filled with hundreds of voices, news outlets and brand messages, it’s my personal connection to you as the host that will remind me to stop and join another one of your conversations.


Amber McDonald, 30
Digital audience manager
Tampa Bay Times
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Education: University of Delaware, bachelor of arts, English and journalism

Amber-McDonaldSince Amber McDonald became digital audience manager two years ago, social media referrals to the Tampa Bay Times website have grown by 400 percent to almost 10 million annually, according to publisher Joe DeLuca. In addition to her role as digital audience manager, McDonald chairs the company-wide social media operating team and has successfully facilitated the development of social media marketing initiatives, training and development efforts, and introduced new tools and strategies to present content and grow audience and brand through social media channels.

“I believe Amber represents the unique combination of skills, innovative thinking and leadership that we need to proliferate and build on in our industry,” said DeLuca. “Not only does she have a clear vision of where we need to go with our social media efforts, but she has the leadership ability to facilitate alignment and ownership across the organization.”


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

Listen to the generations that came before you, and learn from their experiences and leadership, but don’t be afraid to share your ideas to influence the use of digital best practices within your department. If you feel passionate about something related to your work that you believe will achieve a strategic audience or monetization goal, don’t take no for an answer. Be fierce, but be measured in your approach. When you try an idea, be thorough. Begin with a brief proposal to create buy in. When the idea launches, communicate its launch with key stakeholders. When the project comes to an end, report stats and outcomes to the same stakeholders. Also, don’t operate on assumptions, operate on data. Get to know the digital leaders and staffers in your company and understand the analytics around your digital publishing, digital marketing and digital advertising tools and how those analytics can be acted on in a strategic way to achieve a goal.

What’s the best way to get a larger audience on social media?

In some ways this will truly depend on the platform—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, et al. So, know your platform and the audience you’re sharing with. In general, compelling and engaging content is by far the best thing you can do. Quality content presented in a variety of ways with consistent post frequency is the number one best practice. A few other key things to do: Make sure content is formatted for the social platform you’re sharing to; know the voice of your brand; establish your social accounts as a place for reliable and valuable content; use data to determine successful content types and post frequency; and make it as easy as possible for readers to connect with your organization on social media.

Nicole Ott, 30
Marketing and digital director
Casper Star-Tribune
Casper, Wyo.
Education: Black Hills State University, bachelor of arts, mass communications and Spanish

Nicole-OttIn the last 18 months, Nicole Ott has won a President’s Award for Innovation from parent company Lee Enterprises for her development of a series of initiatives that boosted digital retail advertising revenue. The growth was achieved through a focus on products, structure, sales tools and training. The award was shared with the paper’s advertising director.

Ott was also responsible for redesigning Trib.com, which has been honored by the Wyoming Press Association two years in a row. She also has helped turn the annual Wyoming Women’s Expo, which is sponsored by the Casper Star-Tribune, into a profitable venture and one of the most talked-about community events.

“Perhaps most importantly, though, Nicole understands journalism, too,” said Jason Adrians, editor and interim publisher. “She works hand-in-hand with the newsroom to determine audience priorities and needs, and she respects journalistic integrity while, at the same time, finding new ways to engage our audience that we couldn’t even dream about just a few years ago…As our industry grows and evolves, we must have people who are willing to grow and evolve with it. Part of that evolution means truly having a firm grasp on ‘both sides’ of our industry.”

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

First, I encourage young professionals to research and stay educated on new industry trends and strategies. Today, newspapers have more options for disseminating news and providing marketing solutions for advertising customers. Knowing what works best will ensure success for your company and advertising customers.  Secondly, I recommend finding a mentor who is an expert in the industry. Lastly, I suggest building strong relationships with the experts in your workplace. These relationships will allow you to better understand the mechanics of the industry, build collaborations that will ensure success, and provide you with unlimited access to valuable resources.
If you were the marketing director for the entire newspaper industry and you had an unlimited budget to work with, what kind of campaign would you put together?

One of the reasons I love working in the newspaper industry and in particular for Lee Enterprises is because we offer more than print and banner solutions to our advertising customers. Newspaper companies are now full service advertising agencies. Using the latest successful marketing strategies, I would define my target audience(s) and develop a multimedia campaign with two components: one focusing on retaining our current audiences and another focusing on growing our audiences. The campaign would start with our core newspaper print product, then branch off into several digital solutions. These solutions would include banner advertising on newspaper websites, audience extension, search engine marketing, email marketing, and a strong mix of social media advertising such as a contest. The two components would have similar yet unique creative aspects, complimenting each other. Overall, the campaign would highlight the many benefits of having a subscription to our products including unlimited access to unique content, entertainment offerings, and the most accurate and up-to-date information in our market.

William Randall, 34
Chief operating officer
The Frederick News-Post
Frederick, Md.
Education: Hood College, master in business administration; University of Maryland, bachelor of science, business

Will-RandallWilliam Randall is a fifth-generation newspaper owner. As a member of Randall Family, LLC, he is chief operating officer for the Fredrick News-Post and FNP Printing and Publishing, and also serves as vice president and chairman of the board. Randall and several other family members oversaw the construction of a new building with a state-of-the-art printing facility. As manager of the commercial printing press operation, Randall oversaw a 25-fold increase in the company’s commercial printing activities to the point where commercial printing now contributes about 40 percent of the company’s overall revenue.

“In this turbulent time for the industry, it’s heartening to see a fifth-generation owner step up to take on the challenge of steering his family’s newspaper company into the future,” said Geordie Wilson, publisher. “Will brings a laudable commitment to the community and the journalistic service the News-Post and its predecessors have provided under more than 130 years of family control.”
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Ignore the naysayers. I hear a lot of industry veterans bemoaning what we as an industry have lost, and I have even observed some of them recommend against working in the business. No, our margins are not as high as they once were. Yes, our business is challenging. But no, our industry is not dying. The physical newspaper is merely a vehicle and I firmly believe that there will continue to be a demand for what we, as local media companies, do well.  The vehicle will no doubt change and the business model will no doubt continue to evolve, and we need a combination of industry veterans and young professionals to figure out how to best navigate these uncharted waters.


What are some unique challenges to running a family owned newspaper company?

Living up to the legacy. My family has been running this business for five generations now. The employees and the community rightly expect a lot from us. I owe the community a lot for the generations of support it has shown my family’s business, and I owe our employees a lot for the hard work they have been doing for my family for years.  Every decision I make is made with the backdrop of helping to ensure that our business can continue to serve the community and be fair to our employees. Not only are we family owned, but we are a single property operation, which presents some challenges.

Laura C. Ray, 26
Digital media sales director
Savannah Morning News
Savannah, Ga.
Education: University of Kentucky, bachelor of arts, integrated strategic communications with an emphasis in account management; dual degree in psychology

Laura-RayFor Tony Bernados, vice president of sales for the Savannah Morning News, whoever was serving in the role of digital media director had to embrace change, challenge the status quo and keep a constant pulse on emerging technologies. He found all of those traits in Laura Ray.

“Laura demonstrates superior organizational skills and an impeccable, deep understanding of digital advertising,” he said. “It truly is a luxury to have so much confidence in the person that occupies such a critical and essential role for our company.”

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

There is no “secret sauce” to success in this industry, in my opinion. However, there are a few things that can undoubtedly propel you in the right direction to be successful.

Knowledge is power: Never stop learning. Soak up and absorb as much as you can in every scenario. Get as much hands-on experience in all areas of the business, no matter how far outside of your comfort zone they may be. Circulation, editorial, sales, production, they all work simultaneously to keep the ship sailing. Understanding those facets of the business will help you evolve in your niche more than you could ever expect.

Be ready for change: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the world of media and information consumption is changing rapidly. Immerse yourself in, and embrace the changes happening in the industry. It can be very easy to find yourself in a vicious cycle of doing things the way they have always been done. Don’t. Be the change that happens in your organization and be open to the inevitable changes that are going to happen.

How do you develop fresh ideas in digital sales, especially for an industry that is constantly moving?

Digital media has changed the game for publishers, consumers, advertisers, agencies, and more. And chances are, it will never stop evolving. We are truly in the infancy of this era. Coming up with fresh ideas in digital sales revolves around one common denominator—the customer. It’s always about the customer. What do they need? Which aspects of their business need the most assistance in ways that my organization can influence? Where are their potential customers consuming information? Focusing your digital sales and service model around your individual market and the businesses within it will keep you in demand and adapting to the needs of the landscape. It requires us to do a number of things that are not only vital for creating fresh digital ideas, but also for being successful in this industry.

Emily Reed, 23
Advertising account manager
Del Norte Triplicate
Crescent City, Calif.
Education: College of the Redwoods, associate’s degree, general studies

Emily-ReedAccording to Del Norte Triplicate publisher Cindy Vosburg, during Emily Reed’s first two years at the paper, she was cross-trained in almost every position within the advertising department because she showed “such an appetite for learning.” She rose through the ranks, starting at the front counter working with classified customers while she finished school.

“When the opportunity arose to promote Emily into the outside sales desk, she quickly learned the true success of a good salesperson was selling ideas and exceptional follow-through,” said Vosburg.
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Don’t be afraid to speak up, use your voice. Share your ideas and express interest in all the resources around you. Knowledge is power. Understanding how different areas of the newspaper tie in together to make our product is key. Don’t let your age get in the way. Be fearless—have confidence in yourself. Gain that confidence by knowing your client’s needs. Probing questions are so important. Businesses love a follow through on appointments; their trust will take you from the young newbie to a salesperson with solid customer service.

What is the key to working outside sales for a newspaper?

The key to working outside sales is to be working outside sales. Go see your customers. It is important to build relationships with the people you work with. Don’t underestimate yourself or the community you’re in. Stay passionate, and be consistent. Our job is to sell ideas, services and products. Stay creative with ideas, catchy headlines such as “Show your Purse-O-Nality” for a women’s boutique. It’s not always easy being creative on demand (especially if you’re on deadline) so again don’t forget to take advantage of all your resources. Always say yes and do whatever it takes.


Brian Rossi, 31
Senior systems architect
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh, Pa.
Education: University of Pittsburgh, bachelor of science, computer engineering

Brian-RossiIn his position as senior systems architect, Brian Rossi’s most recent accomplishments include a free user registration for the paper’s digital products, conceptualizing and leading a team of engineers to develop the Top App in order to drive registrations, and leveraging the data warehouse via a recommendation engine. According to senior IT program manager Jill Kirsch, the data warehouse and free user registration was a project Rossi championed because he identified its value and had the vision to understand the impact it would have for the Post-Gazette.

Additionally, his work has spanned outside the walls of the newspaper. “One example is with our content management vendor, Libercus. Brian explained why our company needed a service API and that other publishers would be more likely to purchase their software since they had a service API,” Kirsch said. “Brian is now championing and leading a charter for (parent company) Block Communications on a common platform for targeted advertising, plus identity management. This would span across BCI whose portfolio of companies includes newspaper, cable and telecom … Brian stays ahead of technology trends to ensure the Post-Gazette is a leader in user experience and design rather than a follower.”

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

When searching for inspiration, analyze wildly successful technology companies outside of the newspaper industry. Figure out why they’re winning and how it applies to your company’s values, culture, and business models. Have ideas and pitch them to the executive leadership of your company. They may tell you that your ideas aren’t going to come to life right away or ask you to reimagine them a bit, but that’s okay.  Eventually they’ll give you a chance to bring some of them to life. Have big ideas that can be fulfilled with a series of small wins.

What is the most important, current technology trend newspaper publishers need to keep an eye on?

Leveraging data as an asset.  Specifically, exploiting first and second party data for predictive automation, advertising and personalization.  Data can tell stories, expose valuable insights and feed machines that learn.  Targeted advertising, marketing automation, personalization and predictive modeling all require data.  Understanding customers and users is paramount to success.

Since creating content is core to publishers’ purpose, the problem to solve is how to increase margins per piece of content created.  By automating distribution channels, companies can increase performance metrics significantly, giving users more relevant experiences that cause them to engage, share and purchase more frequently.  Personalization and automation go hand-in- hand.  It’s not reasonable to think humans can hand curate personalized experiences for millions of individual users; however, machines happen to be pretty good at it when fed the right data.  Therefore, I think publishers will have to rely more on semiautonomous machines for a competitive advantage.

Lizz Schumer, 27
The Sun
Hamburg, N.Y.
Education: Goddard College, master of fine arts, creative writing; St. Bonaventure University, bachelor of arts, journalism and mass communication

Lizz-SchumerUnder Lizz Schumer’s tenure, The Sun changed from a small-format paper into a broadsheet, with a new layout, larger, brighter photos and a renewed focus on hyper-local, community news, sports, event coverage and features. While subscription numbers had been dropping sharply, they have stabilized in the past year and are now projected to stay steady as the paper continues its revitalized presence in the community.

When Schumer started last March, the paper’s Facebook page had a couple hundred followers. Today, there are almost 3,000 and that number grows weekly. She revamped the paper’s social media presence by hiring a reporter who also shoots video. As a result,  the average post views have increased from approximately 100 to 1,000, with the occasional viral share. She also instituted live-tweeting during important meetings, added video as an online option, and enhanced community interactions through a lively, consistent Facebook, Twitter and online conversation with readers.

Under Schumer’s leadership, the paper completely revamped its arts coverage with the installation of the “Sounds of the Southtowns” weekly music feature and increased attention to  local school productions and their new theater-in-residence. In response to readers’ requests, Schumer also brought back the “social news” page that previous editors had canceled, started a “Getting to Know Your Neighbor” local business feature, and a “Your Stories” resident feature, which profiles the interesting characters that make up their community.
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

In the newspaper industry today, it’s important for young journalists to remain flexible and keep our skills relevant. It’s not enough to put out a print product once a day, once a week, etc. We have to be able to communicate with our audience via social media, video and community interaction, as well. As the editor of a weekly community paper, I’m also a photographer, videographer, social media manager, reporter and copy editor. We’ve got to wear many hats as the number of heads in the newsroom falls. Young newspaper professionals are not just print journalists anymore; we’re multimedia journalists.

Who was your favorite community “character” featured in “Your Stories?”

Small towns are full of characters, but one of my favorites is Norm Zintz, who started a hot dog cart in the village of Hamburg. Several days a week during the summer, he rolls his cart up and down Hamburg’s Main and Buffalo streets, selling dogs and burgers to the locals and mostly, striking up conversation. If you want the scoop on what’s going on around town, Norm’s got it, along with stories of his wilder years as a teen in the 1970s, his adventures in plastics engineering, and more. He also runs an entertainment and promotion company in the area in his spare time and is just a fascinating guy. He said he started his cart because his doctor told him to exercise, and he hates running, a motivation that’s stuck with me since we talked over “dogs with the works” about a year ago.


John Sloan, 31
Growtix senior vice president and general manager
Deseret News/Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake City, Utah
Education: East High School

John-SloanJohn Sloan has worked for the Deseret News/Salt Lake Tribune since he was 21. He started as a digital programmer, was promoted to director, then to vice president, and today is senior vice president and general manager.

In 2007, Sloan developed internal systems to replace more than $1 million in annual recurring fees. In 2008, he launched a successful event called GEEX (gaming and electronics expo). In 2009, he developed and implemented a freedom of speech website called Utah’s Right which exceeded 1 million page views within six months. In 2010, he developed a state-wide legal notice site that was applauded by key state legislators; his website reversed a law that eliminated legal notices from print newspapers. In 2011, he personally built iPhone and iPad apps for the newspapers, driving huge growth in app downloads. Then, in 2014, he created, developed and launched GrowTix, a national event management and ticketing system. In its first 12 months, GrowTix has supported 56 events, processed 260,000 tickets, taken in $7.6 million in revenue, and generated $320,000 in service fees for the newspaper.

It’s no wonder Utah Media Group president and CEO Brent Low called Sloan “a self-made visionary, natural leader and innovator in the newspaper business.”

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

Don’t let the history of our industry define the future. Think independently of traditional models when it comes to consumer behavior because we live in an on-demand society where you are now very much a choice. Social media is the homepage and launchpad for most of your audience, and they are vocal and involved. If you are not having a two way discussion with your audience, you are doing it wrong. Our industry has been greatly disrupted in the 10 years I have taken part, so look for opportunities to be the disruptor. Leverage the trusted brand you work for to create unique products, events, audiences and try new ideas. It is a prime time to reintroduce the newspaper industry to an evolving digital society—find a way to connect with your audience, and if you fail—try again. Most great things happen by accident or through iteration.

If you had to live with only three mobile apps, which ones would they be and why?

Facebook, because I am constantly connected from a social perspective with people I love, work with, and work for. Reddit-Alien Blue, because second to Facebook, this is a social distribution engine of a large variety of information. Staying on top of topics and general information on a daily basis is why I love Reddit. Spotify, because as a music lover and developer, the need to have a wide music library on hand wherever I am is crucial.

Michelle Stark, 27
Food editor
Tampa Bay Times
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Education: University of South Florida, bachelor of arts, mass communications and international relations

LARA CERRI | Times blueapron

Michelle Stark began her career at the Tampa Bay Times as a copy editing intern five years ago. After graduating from college, she became a full-time staff member in 2011, where she worked in the features department, and designed and edited the daily 2B entertainment page. In 2013, Stark began writing about television for the paper and online. She also helps with the Things to Do social media accounts and edits the paper’s Things to Do site. In addition, she writes, assigns, selects and edits stories for the weekly Taste section in print, and creates new recurring features for the Taste rotation, in print and online.

Jeanne Grinstead, deputy managing editor, described Stark as “digitally savvy.” Her plans include putting food content into short, instructive videos, particularly ones that are easy to share on social media.

“(Michelle) wants to expand the print and digital audience, bringing a fresh eye to how we gather, display and promote food content,” Grinstead said. “She plans to take steps to involve our audience more in the content and attract a new generation of foodies to the Times.
What advice do you have for other young professionals in the newspaper industry?

Embrace opportunity and make potentially challenging situations work to your advantage. Diversify your skills, and always be eager to learn and take on tasks even if you’ve never done them before. This industry is in need of fresh, innovative ideas, so be confident in yours and don’t be afraid to push people out of their “that’s how it’s always been done” mindsets.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?

Cheese (goat, cheddar, Gouda, Brie—the list goes on), preferably with a side of crusty bread. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a carb fanatic, and I’d take a good cheese plate with its opposites-attract pairings over most dishes any day.


Blake Stubbs, 34
The Record

Moville, Iowa
Education: Northwestern College, bachelor of science, communications

Blake-StubbsSince college, Blake Stubbs has always been involved with newspapers. As a student, he covered sports and worked weekends writing and editing for the Moville Record.  He joined the paper full-time in 2003 after graduating. He rose in ranks from reporter to sports editor, news editor and became editor in 2009.

In 2014, the Moville Record was purchased and consolidated with three other community newspapers and changed its name to the Record. The weekly newspaper with a circulation of 1,300 now served 13 northwest Iowa communities with a combined circulation of 2,500. Stubbs was largely responsible for redesigning, developing and producing the new newspaper. Since the consolidation, the paper has grown in circulation and is producing 16 to 24 pages each week.

“In a time of pessimism for our industry, Blake’s optimistic contribution, (his) confident, positive outlook, and his love for the profession sets him apart and makes him a perfect leader for the future,” said Kent Baker, publisher of Baker Newspapers, Inc.

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

Don’t give up on the printed newspaper. It’s true that the industry has to take advantage of new technology to remain relevant, but the printed paper will always have its place. You can’t put a Facebook post on the refrigerator, and there are no Tweets in a scrapbook.

Where does your passion for journalism come from, and how do you keep your staff motivated when times are tough in the industry?

I enjoy the opportunity to celebrate others’ accomplishments. One of the main objectives of a community newspaper is to be an advocate for its town and highlight its positives and the positives of its people. It is still a big deal for someone to see their photo in the paper or have a story written about them, so being able to have that impact is exciting. I’m fortunate to work with others who are also committed to the community, want to see it succeed and are motivated to play a role in that success.

Josh Sweigart, 34
Investigative team reporter
Dayton Daily News
Dayton, Ohio
Education: Wright State University, bachelor of arts, mass communications


Josh Sweigart has been part of Cox Media Group since 2007. In 2011, he joined the group’s investigative team and has since won several writing awards for his work. His investigative reporting of the Veterans Administration and medical malpractice claims in 2014 garnered national attention and was cited by national news outlets prior to the fallout from lengthy wait times at VA medical clinics. He wrote 50 in-depth A1 stories last year, many on issues affecting veterans.

According to Brian Kollars, investigative team manager, Sweigart has also fully embraced the group’s mission to deliver quality cross-platform content for newspaper, television, radio, and online. “His primary duties are in print, but it’s not unusual to see him editing video or recording spots for radio,” he said. “Josh constantly looks for ways to upgrade his skills and has introduced our newsroom to DocumentCloud, interactive maps and QR codes. He’s capable of producing his own graphics and doesn’t hesitate to offer advice to other reporters, who oftentimes seek out his expertise.”

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

Be bold. Take chances. The rulebook has been thrown out, and new tools allow us to tell stories and connect with our audience in ways more powerful than ever before; harness that, embrace it, and don’t be afraid to create journalism unlike anything ever seen. While the outlook of the industry is daunting at times, remember that the product of newspapers isn’t paper; it’s meaningful content. And with today’s technology we can reach our audience with more engaging stories, more targeted advertising and a generally more powerful product than ever before. Never compromise your ethics. And keep a sharpened pencil with you in winter, because pens suck in the cold.

How important do you think it is for a young journalist to be a jack-of-all-trades in today’s industry?

Modern tools have made it possible to tell stories like never before, and journalists should attempt to harness every tool at their disposal. You may have strength in a certain area, such as writing or photography, but you’re selling yourself short if you don’t make an effort to harness every storytelling tool available. The best stories I’ve seen usually involve some data analysis, quality writing, engaging photography and audio/video, and elegant online presentation, including data visualization. In today’s newsroom, resources for each of these elements are stretched thin. So if you want your stories to shine, you may have to do much of this yourself. If you can do that, other opportunities open up to you. I work in a converged newsroom, where our newspapers, television station, radio station and all of their websites work together. I have seen reporters who never considered careers outside of their specialty blossom in new roles.

Matt Teli, 34
Recruitment advertising manager
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta, Ga.
Education: Georgia Institute of Technology, bachelor of science, management

Matt-TeliAs recruitment advertising manager, Matt Teli manages $3 million a year in total digital advertising and on his watch, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been the top Monster.com partner in total revenue for three years running, exceeding $1.7 million in 2014.

“Matt has a firm handle on his recruitment business and has one of the sharpest business minds on our sales management team,” said vice president of sales Eric Myers. “He leads the pack understanding the details of his business, staying ahead of changing market conditions and making adjustments quickly as needed to stay relevant in the marketplace.”

In the four years since the paper’s inception of its Top Workplaces event, Teli has grown revenue by 36 percent and will eclipse $225,000 this year. Going into its tenth year, Celebrating Nurses honors extraordinary local nurses and through strategic planning and maximizing sponsorship opportunities, Teli has grown revenue over the past five years by 57 percent and is projecting 2015 revenue at $305,000.

“(Matt) was a master seller himself and has been able to make that rare transition to master sales coach,” Myers said.

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

Be proud of your organization and of what you do. Newspapers have a unique opportunity to cover local stories and provide investigative journalism like very few others can. Our communities rely on us to keep them informed, and local newspapers are the credible source for this information. Future investment in our industry is in the digital form, but the journalism that our properties produce transcends the medium at which it was intended to be consumed. Know your business like no one else does, be the expert in your space, and find your style and own it. And the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given and I will continue to pass on: elevate yourself by elevating others.

If you could recruit anyone to come in and coach your sales team, who would it be and why?

Without question, I would recruit Hall of Fame baseball manager Bobby Cox to come in and coach my sales team. Bobby led the Atlanta Braves to 14 consecutive division championships, a feat that will likely never be repeated. He was also known around the league as a “player’s manager,” who would do anything to protect his team and players, even if it meant being ejected from games more than any other manager in major league history. He is a motivator, a mentor and a teacher. I treat sales a lot like the game of baseball. Each team needs its role players, one can have a bad day and can come back the next and try again, and I push my team to play hard all the way until the end of the game.


Allen Vaughan, 35
Consumer experience director
Springfield News-Leader
Springfield, Mo.
Education: Northeastern University, master of journalism; Drury University, bachelor of arts, business administration

Allen-VaughanEven though Allen Vaughan left the Springfield News-Leader in 2009 to start his own digital magazine, he returned five years later as digital editor and brought back with him a host of new ideas. He quickly moved up to one of the top spots in the newsroom as consumer experience director where he now oversees all production and community engagement.

Executive editor Paul Berry said, “Vaughan’s effect on current news operations has been substantial. He’s increased reader interaction through social and commenting channels, working to create lively, meaningful engagement with readers. He’s also pushed for greater community engagement from our news staff on social and in person.”

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

Be disruptive, take some risks and never stop learning. Learn how to do things that make you uncomfortable. If you’re great with words, pick up a camera and learn some photo shop tricks. If you’re great with photos, learn how to write better. I believe everyone in the journalism industry should know how to come up with a story idea, report it, conceive it, use digital CMS to enhance it, use social media to spread the word and understand what that piece of content does for your business.

What made you come back to the Springfield News-Leader, and what skills did you bring with you to help the newspaper?

Advertising sales had plateaued and we were looking to diversify revenue streams with events, subscription models, etc. Every day was challenging, and we were spending a lot of time and energy trying to keep ourselves afloat. A friend of mine at the News-Leader reached out and said there’s a job that would be perfect for me. I didn’t ever want to leave newspapers, but they were clearly not interested in speaking to my generation (in 2009). I never thought I’d go back. So when I heard they were not only interested in reaching the audience I had been building, but wanted to put (parent company) Gannett’s resources behind it, it seemed like the right place at the right time.

As for skills, I stumbled upon the thing that helped me the most: understanding how to run a business. It gave me a perspective I would have never understood otherwise. Not only was I unleashing creative content in an engaging way, but I was also head accountant/janitor/sales manager. It made me excel at time management and helped me see things in the world differently: the politics of everyday life, how the business side and the editorial side blend, and what work ethic really is, just for starters. I reference audience a lot. That’s because they are the ultimate scoreboard. If you build an audience, the dollars will come.


Andrea Vick, 32
Local sales manager
Austin American-Statesman
Austin, Texas
Education: Texas State University, bachelor of arts,  public relations

View More: http://lindseystump.pass.us/vick-familyAndrea Vick is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper industry. Vice president of advertising Scott Pompe described Vick as “the consummate sales professional,” who rose through the sales ranks at the Austin American-Statesman.

“As the top salesperson for our property, she represented Austin at the Cox Media Group President’s Cup in 2012 and 2013,” Pompe said. “Andrea was promoted to sales manager in 2014. She is innovative, smart and customer focused.”

Last year, Vick led a hyperlocal project to expand community penetration and has spearheaded a transactional data driven, research- first initiative to earn client business, resulting in $750,000 for 2015.

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

Be proud of your industry and your role in shaping it. There is no one else that can say they produce a new product each and every day, and deliver to more households than any other local news source. We provide a great service to our subscribers and advertisers with our products, and even as we evolve as an industry, that will not change, just adapt and evolve as well. Embrace it and you will do well.

What has been the greatest challenge in your position, and how did you overcome it?

My greatest challenge stepping into management was having colleagues, who had been my peers on the sales staff for the past nine years, now reporting to me. It has taken some getting used to for all of us—as it is tricky to take the “friend” hat off and put the manager hat on during difficult discussions, but I have learned a lot during the last 10 months and made a lot of progress in gaining respect as a manager. However, although it is challenging, it also provides some of the best wins to see the sellers you worked beside previously and competed against internally succeeding and hitting their goals. I have always been a competitor at heart and wasn’t sure that I would get that same satisfaction from wins if they weren’t “mine,” but I was wrong. Some of the best wins I have been a part of have been those that my team has brought in, and there is nothing like it.

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