Emily Walsh, chief digital officer for the Observer Media Group Inc., has been named publisher of the company’s four Sarasota-based newspapers, magazines and website.
Walsh, 36, will serve as publisher of the East County Observer, Longboat Observer, Sarasota Observer, Siesta Key Observer, Season magazine, LWR Life magazine and YourObserver.com. And she will continue to head up the company’s overall digital strategy and operations.
Emily Walsh, a 15-year employee at the company, is succeeding her mother, Lisa Walsh, as part of a succession plan in the family-owned business. Matt and Lisa Walsh, along with Lisa’s parents, David and Ruth Beliles, started the company 21 years ago when they purchased the Longboat Observer.
Lisa Walsh will continue as vice president of the company, serving as a mentor for her daughter in Sarasota and sharing oversight with Matt Walsh of the company’s 10 newspapers, six websites and magazines.
“When Emily started with the company 15 years ago, she expected it to be a part-time gig, allowing her to earn enough money to move to New York City,” said Matt Walsh. “But much to our surprise, and hers, Emily fell in love with the business.
“With Lisa and me crossing the 60-age barrier a couple of years ago; with the rapid changes in the media industry; and with Emily’s well-rounded experience and accomplishments, we think Emily has earned the position and that it’s time to start making a transition,” said Matt Walsh.
The younger Walsh started in the company as a photographer for the Longboat Observer’s Black Tie social section. From there, she became Black Tie editor and later editor of the newspaper’s Black Tie and Arts & Entertainment sections and then moved to the sales side of the company’s Sarasota-based papers as an advertising sales executive.
In 2009, Walsh directed the company’s launch of YourObserver.com and continued to oversee the company’s moves into the digital arena. Since 2010, the Local Media Association, an organization of more than 2,500 newspapers in North America, repeatedly has ranked YourObserver.com in the top three of Best Community Websites, Best Layout and Design and Best Overall Local News Sites in its Digital Media Contest.
In 2013, Walsh headed up the company’s launch of a digital marketing and advertising agency, Digital Observer Media. In 2015, Digital Observer Media In 2015, won a Gold ADDY and Best in Show ADDY from the adFed Suncoast American Advertising Awards for its work on for its work on the Seminole Pride Noble website.
Walsh’s involvement in the newspaper industry includes currently serving as chair of the Local Media Association Foundation Board of Directors. In 2012, Editor & Publisher magazine named her one of “25 Under 35: The Next Generation of Publishing Leaders” in America.
Walsh also has been active in the community, most notably as a chair of fund-raising events for not-for-profit charities. Over the past 15 years, she co-chaired the UnGala Gala for the John and Mable Ringling Museum (twice) and has chaired or co-chaired events for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation; Goodwill Industries; the Community AIDS Network; Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center and NARSAD, a national mental-health organization.
She currently is serving a two-year term as chair of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Board of Trustees; serves on the board of Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center; serves on the Ringling College Library Association Board of Directors as Town Hall Chair 2018; and serves as a regional director of the Calusa chapter of Leadership Florida.
She also previously served two years as a director of NARSAD. At age 26, Emily was one of the youngest recipients in Girls Inc.’s history to receive the “She Knows Where She Is Going” award.
“Emily not only bleeds Observer red,” said Matt Walsh. “She loves this community. She is the right person to help our Observer colleagues take our company to the next level.”