E&P’s 25 Under 35

Meet the next generation of news media professionals


Our 25 Under 35 salute is one of my favorites. I feel, in some way, it showcases our future — one that’s inspired, passionate and innovative, reinvigorated by fresh ideas and talent. E&P thanks the colleagues who thoughtfully nominated this year’s deserving nominees. I am certain you’ll find their perspectives inspiring, too. Cheers to E&P’s 2023 class of 25 Under 35!

(Alphabetical, by last name)

Jasmine Aguilera

Jasmine Aguilera, 29
Staff Writer, TIME Magazine

Education: Bachelor of Multidisciplinary Studies with concentrations in communication, anthropology and sociology, University of Texas at El Paso

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

I remember that everything I do serves the story and the reader. They are number one. This sounds like obvious advice, but I’ve come to think of this as more of a muscle you develop the longer you report, and working this muscle has helped me grow as a journalist and a newsroom colleague. When the story and the reader are your priority, it’s easier to pinpoint the specific questions that need answering and visualize what your story will look like while you're reporting. It serves as a reminder of your role when interviewing public officials or working with publicists. You benefit personally, too. You become excited to work collaboratively with other reporters because you know the story will be strengthened by it, and it helps you set aside your ego when you feel like you’ve been slighted (which isn’t uncommon when you’re a young reporter).

Another piece of advice: It’s okay to value your own privacy and personal life as much as you value being a journalist. It’s easy as a young person with a lot to prove to get swept up by this industry, but don’t neglect your loved ones, hobbies, or anything else that brings you happiness. I’ve learned that it’s healthy to maintain a level of separation between what you do for a living and who you are as a person.

What is the most useful reporting skill you’ve learned on the job?

I’ve learned so many skills on the job, but meticulous note-taking is possibly the most useful. Our phones are powerful, but I’ve never found them to be handier than pen and paper. I write everything down, the colors of people’s shirts, the weather and temperature, odd noises, the number of folks around me — all details that service the fact-checking process, no matter how mundane they may seem in the moment. They help when dealing with writer’s block, because I can always go back through my very long notes and find a detail that maybe didn’t seem that useful at the time but could now help me transition from one section to the next. And those notes can become a treasure trove of story ideas to explore, especially when you know you want to continue the line of reporting.

If I may, another valuable skill I’ve learned is to be a good listener. I listen closely and with my full attention when I’m interviewing sources, but also when I listen to fellow reporters and editors. We have fascinating jobs, and I’m always eager to learn from my peers and people who have been doing the work longer than I have.

Melanie Anzidei

Melanie Anzidei, 31
Sports Reporter, The Record Newspaper and NorthJersey.com

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, minors in journalism, Italian and computer graphic design, Fairleigh Dickinson University (Florham); Master of Science in Journalism, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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

Find your passion, and don’t be afraid to pursue it. Journalism is not an easy industry to get into, and it’s an even harder industry to stay in. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget why you got into it in the first place. Finding a passion within the profession helps tremendously.

I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. It wasn’t until journalism school, when I took Professor Sandy Padwe’s sports reporting class, that I realized I could marry my love of hard news storytelling and my passion for sports into one. That stuck with me in the early years of my career. I would pitch sports stories to my editors on the business desk when I first started at The Record, and even find ways to cover sports stories as a municipal government reporter. I worked my way up the newsroom ladder until I found the right moment to approach my bosses and pitch an entirely new enterprise sports beat, where I now get to cover the stories I’m most passionate about. It’s been a game-changer for me. The work we do when we want to do it? That’s when we can really start to make a difference through our storytelling.

Also, know your worth. Never underestimate the unique perspective you bring to the table, and always ask for that raise.

How are you personally engaging with your readers?

Over the summer, I launched a weekly column called “Women & Sport” that focuses on women's sports stories across North Jersey. It’s been incredible to hear from so many readers statewide who voice their relief in having someone covering these stories in New Jersey. Because I’m one of a handful of people reporting on this important topic regularly here, there is no shortage of readers reaching out with ideas through email. It sounds so obvious and old-school, but that’s how I engage with readers. I write them back. I thank them. I follow up on their story suggestions. I ask them who else I should reach out to. It becomes this never-ending cycle, where I’m constantly finding new stories thanks to the people who keep up with my work.

Anna Baughman

 Anna Baughman, 26
Editor, Morrisons Cove Herald, Inc.

Education: Bachelor of Arts, English literature, minors in communications, writing and women’s studies, Saint Francis University

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

Your team is essential. Whether you work in the office or the field, if you’re working in the news industry, you’re working with others. Learn from them, find out what they excel at, and ask for their advice. Celebrate others’ successes, and remember to give credit where it is due. Communicate everything clearly, offer help often, and ask as many questions as possible.

As a young professional, keep this in mind: confidence and humility go hand in hand. It’s as important to know your strengths as it is to know your weaknesses.

Be proud and confident in what you do well, but ask for help when needed. Accept your mistakes, learn from them and move on.

What is your favorite thing about working for a local community publication?

Everything is news. When something is important to someone, they want it in the paper. A luxury of working for a local community paper is being allowed to put anything in, no matter how big or small. Was your child honored with a national award? It’s in the paper. Did you grow an exceptionally large carrot in your garden? Again, it’s in the paper. The ability to be that outlet for local people brings me so much joy.

I also love being able to feature students in as many ways as possible. When I think of myself growing up, I remember how exciting it was to see my name in my local paper. For this reason, it’s important to me that I allow students to send in submissions, write for the paper and have their news printed in the Herald.

Tiffany Blanchette

Tiffany Blanchette, 33
Photo Editor, The Daily Journal (Small Newspaper Group, Kankakee, IL)

Education: Bachelor of Science in Journalism/Photojournalism, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

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

Never stop learning. This applies to training on new technology, observing fellow journalists, reading about what’s happening in the industry and keeping up with the current events of the world. It applies to immersing yourself in your community or project and finding the best ways to connect, practice empathy and tell the story. It also applies to learning from your own performance and mistakes.

While all the above have helped me in some way, I’ve learned the most from the following actions. The first is reflecting on a situation, whether it was spot news or a portrait, and asking myself how I could have improved my approach or preparation as well as my images. The next is looking at work created by other photographers to gather inspiration and ideas and even asking them questions. And the last is soaking up every opportunity to learn from the amazing, long-time journalists I’ve had the chance to share a newsroom with. I feel we can all become better journalists by sharing our knowledge and committing to lifelong learning.

How have you overcome obstacles in your career?

Whenever I reach an obstacle of some kind, I find myself tapping into what landed me in photojournalism in the first place — my love for this profession. Reminding myself why I do what I do can be very motivating when things get difficult because I believe in journalism’s purpose and impact so much. It’s our job to shine the light as best we can, no matter what.

Using that lens helps look at an obstacle as a chance or challenge to find another solution or an alternate approach. You never know if it might lead you down a better path you didn’t know.

Ashley S. Clarke

Ashley S. Clarke, 25
Audience Engagement Editor, Center for Public Integrity

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, minor in Arabic, University of Maryland, College Park

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

 Get comfortable with change. Journalism is an ever-evolving industry. Newsrooms are often exploring new roles, platforms and formats. There are so many different ways to tell stories. Try not to get too attached to one way of doing things. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself and the way you do things. Don’t let anyone put you in a box, including yourself. 

Specifically for young Black female journalists — take up space. You belong in whatever space you dream of, so dream big. Find mentors in your newsroom who will advocate for you.

Lastly, no job is worth destroying your mental health. You don’t want to be a part of a newsroom that still subscribes to the archaic practice of bullying early career journalists as a means of initiation. 

 What do you think is the crucial thing that news publishers can do to counter misinformation and increase trust in media?

News publishers have to get into communities and build relationships. Building trust with an audience that doesn’t know you and your motives is difficult. Trust building requires a level of transparency, a feedback loop and opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations. My philosophy is that journalism should be a collaboration between local and national media outlets and the communities they cover. Even if it is a slow and unwieldy process at times, journalism is a more complete representation of the truth because of that collaboration.

There will always be bad actors and dangerous technology producing and pushing misinformation. All we can do as journalists is to create work with integrity, expose lies and strive to get our work in front of as many people as possible. 

Jackson Doughart

 Jackson Doughart, 31
Editor-in-Chief, Brunswick News

Education: Master of Arts, Political Science, Queen’s University

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

Jump at every opportunity to work across functions (e.g., sales, editorial, marketing, product) and learn the whole business, not just one specialized area.

Learn how to interpret and discuss data as our industry becomes more analytics-focused.

Get off of Twitter. It’s bad for you.

How do you bridge the gap between traditional and digital journalism?

Reward journalists for breaking out of the print workflow. We must update our readers early and often to build a relationship with them.

Be transparent about growth progress and show people the path to a sustainable, digital-dominant business.

Adapt the presentation to the audience. A five-part series used to work for print, but it doesn’t engage online readers the same way. We need to package enterprise journalism so readers can digest it at their own pace and so the work can have a lasting impact.

Anna Douglas

Anna Douglas, 33
Deputy Managing Editor, The Charlotte Observer (a McClatchy newsroom)

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC

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

Don’t ride the highs too high or the lows too low. (I sometimes have to give this advice to myself!) Early career journalists truly have more choices today than ever regarding how and where to work. If you’re finding major or constant problems in your role, speak up and ask for help from a mentor with more experience and your boss. Be ready for feedback about what you may have to work on personally. Take that seriously. Think ahead of time about your ideas that could offer solutions and communicate them. From there, embrace the hard things that come with advancing your career, but ultimately you need to make decisions that best support your happiness. No one is in charge of that except you. Help others around you who may need your support as much as you can. I love to see people lead from wherever they are — no matter their job title — and I believe this can profoundly affect newsroom culture. 

What is the most difficult lesson you’ve learned as an editor?

It takes a great deal of stamina and working with intention to truly engage with each person on your team in a way that meets their individual needs. What works for one person on your team may not work for another. It’s one thing to manage or edit content and another thing to be a consistent coach and leader. Both are demanding, and each is essential. As an editor, I’ve sometimes underestimated what it takes to be prepared to pull this off. Of course, I’ve learned that its effort and time well spent. I’ve also learned a lot about myself in the process. Knowing my own habits and triggers and prioritizing self-care regularly are critical in order to give my team my best every day. The lesson learned for me was to add more reflection and intentionality wherever possible. It wasn’t easy, but I learned that purely white-knuckling the job wasn’t enough in the long run.

Ashley Fenner

Ashley Fenner, 31
Email Newsletter Manager, Lee Enterprises

Education: Bachelor of Science in Arts Technology, Illinois State University; Associate of Arts, Richland Community College

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

Don’t be afraid of failure. Some of my best accomplishments have come from a hare-brained idea that I wasn’t sure would pan out and be successful. Even when those ideas haven’t produced great results, I’ve learned something important that has helped me to move on to other projects that have been successful.

To what current digital trends should our industry pay close attention?

Personalization. People have grown accustomed to — and expect — platforms that deliver content targeted to their interests. Because of this, our audience is no longer as willing to respond to one-size-fits-all messaging. They want to be spoken to directly and believe that we are listening. That means finding a way to make all of our communications — emails, push notifications, SMS messages and even our websites and apps — tailored to each audience member’s specific topics of interest.

Another trend that isn’t necessarily new but has been ramping up over the past few years — which I believe the news industry could dive into more — is short-form videos. Nearly every social media platform offers short-form videos. They are a significant force in how Gen Z consumes media, which is the audience we must target.

Audrey Henvey

Audrey Henvey, 24
Reporter, Star Local Media

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Journalism and French, University of Texas at Arlington

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

If you want to improve your writing, find writers, news publications, and stories you admire and learn from them. Make it a habit to read news stories from outlets you like and examine what makes those stories resonate with you. Also, look at writing you don’t like as much and think critically about why that writing isn’t effective. If you can do that while reading, you’ll find yourself applying those ideas when writing your own stories, and you’ll see your writing style coming to life.

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, my two favorite stories to study are both by Texas Monthly writer Skip Hollandsworth. Check out “Still life” and “Lights, Camera, Carthage!

What do you think the news media landscape will look like in 10 years?

I hope the news landscape will continue to see local newspapers as a relevant and central hub for both important information and deep, nuanced and insightful storytelling. To do so, newsrooms need to build and maintain a sense of trust with their audiences. I think a large part of that trust in media should come from local newspapers being active in their communities and telling impactful stories on an up-close level. I believe investment in local newspapers across the country will be critical to the future of journalism and how it functions in our society a decade from now. Nothing can replace the power of good community storytelling. 

Sandy Hooper

Sandy Hooper, 35
Deputy Managing Editor, Visuals, USA TODAY

Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Photography, Savannah College of Art and Design; Master of Arts, Broadcast Journalism, Boston University

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

Stay curious! Be involved in your community and have a hobby outside of work. Not only will you give yourself a positive work-life balance, but you’ll be surprised by how many interesting ideas will germinate from your everyday encounters. Take those ideas and look at how they could fit into larger narrative themes across the country. I guarantee you’ll become a fountain of great story ideas, and you'll have a healthy life outside of work.

Are you overloaded or burned out? Don’t be afraid to speak up to your manager or someone you trust in your newsroom. Now more than ever, newsrooms are taking stock of their employee’s mental health due to stressors such as covering traumatic events and newsroom reductions. Take your PTO.

How can we, as an industry, better use video to cover our local communities?

First, you have to know your community and how they consume news. Los Angeles will be wildly different from Evansville, so become close with the data and audience teams to find out what kind of video engages with your audience and where. More than likely your video audience is consuming news in a scrolling manner, and (to the visual teams’ benefit) those apps are rich visual platforms.

Also, don’t take your audience’s intelligence for granted. You should think about having a healthy mix of longer-form video journalism and short-form cuts, but think about what platform is appropriate for publishing (think YouTube vs. YouTube Shorts).

For the visual journalists in the newsroom, talk to your newsroom peers. What stories are they working on? Don’t wait for an assignment to come to you. What stories do you  have that you could pitch to an editor or a reporter? Collaborate and help shape a newsroom that values visual journalism because quality storytelling will build authentic relationships with the community whose story you’re telling.

Lindsey Leake

 Lindsey Leake, 34
Projects Reporter, TCPalm (USA TODAY Network)

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Italian with concentrations in journalism, intercultural communication and a certificate in translation, Princeton University; Master of Arts in Science Writing, Johns Hopkins University; Master of Arts in Journalism and Digital Storytelling, American University

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

Think about why you chose a career in journalism or, if you’re feeling romantic, why it beckoned to you. Bottle that heart, drive and purpose for those inevitable rainy days when you’ll stumble. Use them as armor against naysayers who doubt the future of news, as a salve to soothe the chaos of the rapidly changing media landscape, and as a beacon to see you through challenging projects.

And while on-the-job training is invaluable, I encourage you to seek continuing education opportunities at every turn. This could be as big a step as pursuing a graduate degree in a media-related field or as simple as learning a new software program or attending a writing workshop at your local library. Media organizations, such as the Association of Health Care Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers, offer a wealth of free and low-cost fellowships and training — many of which are geared toward early-career journalists.

What do you think news publishers can do to counter misinformation and increase trust in media?

If you’re ticking someone off, you’re doing your job well, so the saying goes in our line of work. We’re used to holding the powerful accountable, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated public distrust in media. Our pursuit and reporting of the truth too often fall through the cracks. Increased transparency on our part — from producing more digestible explanatory coverage to publishing fact-checking content — may help.

However, when the news industry is tangled up in bottom lines and subscriptions and audience engagement, I believe refocusing on the craft of storytelling is our best hope for building a bridge back to media consumers. News publishing is a business, but one whose job is to provide more than information. We’re storytellers first and foremost, with a multitude of modern media at our fingertips through which we can herald this ancient art.

Travis Lott

Travis Lott, 31
Reporter, County Journal

Education: Southern Illinois University Carbondale, emphasis in Journalism and Philosophy

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

In this industry, your work will take you to new places you would never have dreamed of ending up in. Embrace the act of leaving your comfort zone and relish in the fact that you’ve chosen a career path that allows you to connect with so many diverse people and different walks of life. Most of your readers will only ever know these people and places through your stories, so immerse yourself in them and paint the richest picture possible.

What is the key to connecting with your community?

Show up. If you aim to tell stories that matter to a community, you need to put in the effort to tell those stories from their point of view. Go to the city council and school board meetings. Attend court hearings. Get to know the local police and firefighters. Show up and talk to people at the town picnic. People will communicate with and provide news tips to someone they know cares about their neighborhood.

Stories that matter may not always be comfortable, but the people in that community will respect you if they know you showed up and took the time to get it right.

Natascia Lypny

Natascia Lypny, 31
Features Producer, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Saskatchewan

Education: Bachelor of Journalism (Honours), University of King’s College

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

Knock the tough-as-nails, workaholic journalist off the pedestal. If you genuinely love journalism, don’t let it destroy you. I know you want to prove yourself, but running yourself into the ground isn’t the way to do it. You can't make a lasting impact if you only last five years. Care for yourself and you’ll be able to put the care into your work that it deserves.

What is your strategy for creating compelling content that addresses the needs of a diverse audience?

Involve the communities you’re focusing on in the journalism production. That includes pulling back the curtain on the journalistic process. Consult, consult, consult and create a feedback loop.

Get audience input on what topics they want to see reported on. Hand over the mic (or camera or social platform or...) as much as possible to center on the voices of those with lived experience.

Acknowledge what you don’t know and what you’ve gotten wrong in the past, unlearn, and seek guidance for moving forward productively. See your work as a public service. Focus on solutions-oriented journalism. How is your work giving back? What are these communities getting out of participating in your reporting?

Adopt a trauma-informed approach.

Make coverage on all platforms accessible — from your writing style to language to format. Consider and prioritize diverse angles in everyday news stories — not only when you’re explicitly covering diverse communities or directly related topics.

Cara McKenna

Cara McKenna, 32
Editor, IndigiNews

Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, University of British Columbia (in progress); a diploma in journalism from Langara College.

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

You can always learn something from other people. Ask questions, show respect and appreciation and remember that it’s a very small industry, so your relationships and how you carry yourself matter. When it comes to stories, be cognizant of journalistic rules and protocols but always listen to and trust your own intuition first.

Before publishing, take a breath, reread the piece more times than you think (including aloud, even if it’s for print) and try putting yourself in the shoes of your sources and readers. Really look at the language, consider the implication behind each word and ask yourself if it could be done better. Also, never make decisions out of panic. Being accurate and trustworthy is so much better than simply being first.

What is your strategy for creating content that will engage your audience?

The entry point to any story is so crucial. You have to make people care by giving them a hook — whatever that means for an individual story. Sometimes I like a more colourful, literary-style beginning and other times, I think a strong news lede works best. A strong nut graf is also really important, and impactful visuals will drive it home.      

I guess I’m old school because I think of engagement more in terms of quality than clicks. Are people actually reading the piece and understanding it, or are they just clicking on a grabby headline and then losing interest and closing the tab?  

I also think a nice part about online media vs. print is that we don’t have the same obligation to fill up space, so we can really consider what we’re adding to the conversation before publishing a piece. There’s nothing less interesting than a story just for the sake of a story. To me, there needs to be a “why” behind it.

Payton North

Payton North, 27
Executive Editor, Reminder Publishing, LLC

Education: Associate of Arts and Sciences in Communication, Journalism and related programs, Holyoke Community College; Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Journalism, Western New England University; Master of Arts in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communication, Western New England University

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

Television screenwriter and producer-turned-author Shonda Rhimes wrote a book a few years ago called “Year of Yes.” Rhimes explains she is an introvert, and as someone with an extremely busy career, it was easy for her to turn down dinners, interviews, engagements and more that scared her. What she did not realize, though, was that she was turning down immense growth opportunities. The book follows Rhimes in her “Year of Yes,” where she said yes to every opportunity that came her way for a year.

To young professionals in the news industry, I would suggest they try their own version of the “Year of Yes.” There have been several events over the years that I have been nervous about attending, interviews that intimidated me and assignments that made me anxious. I pushed myself to do them. After every instance, I walked away wondering what I was dreading or why I was nervous. Continuing to “say yes” to opportunities outside of one’s comfort zone will help a young professional grow as a journalist, communicator and generally as a person.

We often talk about the problems and chaos that the COVID-19 pandemic brought. Have you noticed any positive changes as you’ve returned to “work as new normal?”

There are several positive changes within my workplace that I have noticed since our return to the office — a few being the rapid technology upgrades the company made and allowing employees to partially work from home. However, since our return to the office post-height of COVID-19, the most positive change I have noticed is the power of human interaction and increased communication within the news department.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, my office was in-person only. When COVID-19 hit, we went into a professional world we had never experienced — remote work. I immediately realized how siloed my coworkers and I became when we worked from home. We did not feel as though we were members of a team, as we did not have the opportunity to gather. Sure, there were weekly Zoom meetings with our, at the time, 14-person (give or take) news staff, but there were fewer opportunities to dig deeper in conversation. These group meetings felt impersonal and did not allow me to check in and see how a reporter was doing — not just how they were doing with work, but how they were generally doing. For me, the coronavirus pandemic brought how little managing editors communicated individually with reporters to the forefront.

This exposed the need for one-on-one meetings with my team members to ensure their needs were met. This is a practice we have continued with our return to the office. Having regular one-on-ones and smaller, more focused team meetings can shift the culture between managers, editors and reporters. 

Kelly Outlaw

Kelly Outlaw, 34
Chief Financial Officer, Community Impact

Education: Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering, University of Texas

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

Your experience will pay dividends for years to come. Anytime you are asked to serve on a task force, take a role that you are unsure about, take the lead on a project or anything else that will expose you to a new side of the organization or a new department, you should say, “Yes!” In my history, I have spent time in operations, sales, marketing, acquisitions and finance through direct roles and projects. These diverse experiences have shaped the leader I have become and improved my decision-making ability tremendously. I will never discount the value of balance and being able to put boundaries in place at work. However, in the early years of a professional’s career, it is my advice to raise your hand for the extra assignments and the added responsibility, as it will shape the rest of your career in ways you cannot dream of.

What is the most critical thing that this industry must achieve to continue to be sustainable and relevant?

For long-term relevance and sustainability, the media industry must pull away from sensationalism, partisanship and opinion-based pieces and focus on our roots. It is always important to remember why something began, and the news industry’s beginnings are rooted deep in the belief that we need to disseminate relevant information to the masses. Rather than trying to change someone’s mind, our industry needs to focus on providing facts and information and allow our readers to make their own opinions. If we continue to pull away from this as an industry, it will not matter how innovative our products are or how instantaneous our access to information can become.

Ashton Pittman

Ashton Pittman, 33
News Editor, Mississippi Free Press

Education: Bachelor of Science in News-Editorial Journalism with a minor in Political Science, University of Southern Mississippi

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

Look for a job with newsroom leaders willing to mentor and guide you to help elevate your journalism craft. When reporting, always ask the questions and speak to the sources you almost shy away from because you assume someone else already has; you’ll often find no one else has.

Why is data important in journalism and news media?

Data helps unearth patterns that can reveal abuse, corruption, poor record-keeping practices, discrimination and systemic disparities. It can elevate the stories about individuals from mere anecdotes to ones representing broader swaths of the population and problems that need solving.

Alicia Ramirez

Alicia Ramirez, 34
Founder and Publisher, The Riverside Record

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in photography, Loyola University Chicago; Master of Science in Journalism (part of the NewStart Program), West Virginia University

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

I’ve been in the industry for 13 years, which somehow feels both like a lifetime, and, like, I’m just getting started. But a few things have allowed me to continue to do what I do.

Find your people. Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed. From friends and family to mentors and coworkers, work to create relationships that nourish you and help you become exactly who you are meant to be.

Journalism is your job, not your identity. There is so much more to life than what you do for work. Journalism is a field that often demands we show up so fully that there's nothing left for us to give in our personal lives, but leave some room for your own humanity. You deserve that.

Solidarity forever. The only way we’ll be able to create a more equitable and sustainable news industry is if we stand together and demand it. For every step forward in journalism, a coalition of folks has been working to make it happen. Whether that’s fighting for equitable pay or changing how we as an industry cover topics, such as policing or mass shootings, it takes a village. Be part of that village.

How do you deal with making tough decisions as a leader?

Two questions drive my decision-making: Is it good for the community, and is it good for the business? Local news organizations are nothing without the support of the communities they cover, so their interests have to be considered when making hard decisions, especially when those decisions are related to coverage. I also have to consider whether a decision aligns with our mission and financial goals. At the end of the day, I need to be able to justify my decisions not only to myself but to the readers and the board. Having that built-in accountability has made it much easier to make tough decisions.

Kolton Rutherford

Kolton Rutherford, 25
Senior Reporter, Log Cabin Democrat

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication with a journalism emphasis and a minor in sports management, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

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

First and foremost, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Be open to covering stories and topics you don’t have much experience in if you’re asked to. Arm yourself with the knowledge gained through other experiences and explore new territory you haven’t covered before. You might find the topic to be one you want to continue to pursue in the future.

Second, find a mentor. Ask questions, take on additional responsibility (when you’re ready) and take the time to learn as much as possible from them. As a young journalist, I’ve found that the learning process never ends. I’m always listening to mentors and researching new ways to hone my craft. I want to put myself in a position where I can one day provide the same level of mentorship my editor offers me.

What is the most interesting story you’ve covered?

There are so many that it’s hard to pick just one. However, my editor and I teamed up for a series on food insecurity in April of 2021 that involved a ton of research and a tour of the Arkansas Foodbank in Little Rock. The series we put together was informative and incredibly interesting and provided a multi-layered look at the ongoing problem of food insecurity in Arkansas, especially regarding how the coronavirus pandemic (which had started just over a year earlier) exacerbated the problem. For our efforts, that series won us an award from the Arkansas Press Association. It’s one of my favorite stories I've worked on.

Lizzie Schiffman Tufano

Lizzie Schiffman Tufano, 34
Vice President of Revenue, Block Club Chicago

Education: Bachelor of Science in Journalism, Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

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

Like so many of you, I was drawn to reporting by a strong desire to learn something new daily. Working early in my career in a small and scrappy newsroom with an “all-hands-on-deck” survival ethos and later, at a larger, more established legacy institution with a substantial support staff of non-journalists revealed the wealth of knowledge I had access to from my colleagues and adjacent teams. I’d encourage young journalists to be open-minded about opportunities that don’t carry a byline. Bringing a nuanced understanding of the problems newsrooms face into collaborations with the people best positioned to solve them can substantially impact the work and the industry as a whole.

What is your approach to creating a sustainable business model for local media companies?

My overarching philosophy in every role I’ve held working in journalism has been to listen more than I speak. That has informed my business development strategies more than any ideas I could have generated in a vacuum. If you’re doing local news the right way, your community and audience are your most important stakeholders, and they've suffered from the erosion of our industry as much as we have. They know what they want and need and will fiercely support a sincere and tenacious effort to deliver it.

As much as I love developing innovative products and services that surpass expectations, I’ve found equal value in restoring the once-critical functions of a local newspaper that we’ve collectively overlooked amid the rapid evolution of our media landscape. Those “small” stories and services that don’t interest the national news market are often the most meaningful to your readers. Deepening that relationship will pay more long-term dividends than any momentary viral success.

Sarah Spicer

Sarah Spicer, 25
News Editor, Committee to Protect Journalists

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and English, Emporia State University; Master of Science in Investigative Journalism, Columbia University

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

Journalism and the tools we use to uncover secrets and speak truths make the world a better place, so take the steps ahead of time to avoid burnout and keep yourself in the industry.

When I started journalism, it was “New York Times or bust!” However, as I began working and formulating my path, I realized a true passion for longer-form work and working on a daily wasn't affording me the time, space or energy to pursue that. It was a difficult decision, but I took a half step back from journalism.

Now that I work as a news editor at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), I get to use the tools of journalism to protect journalists during the day, and I have the freedom on nights and weekends to pursue my journalistic projects and write my books. Everyone brings something unique to the table of journalism. Find your niche, and don’t be afraid to focus all your energy on it, despite what anyone else says.

With everything going on in the world, what keeps you optimistic about working in our industry?

The variety of ways in which people practice journalism. We have a definition of “journalism” that we all learn in our reporting classes. We also have a mindset of what journalism looks like — people on a screen and blocks of text in a paper.

However, there are people worldwide who are practicing journalism in new and inventive ways, often risking the personal safety of themselves and their families. At CPJ, I have had the privilege of helping to tell the stories of those brave enough to subvert totalitarian regimes to spread factual information or follow along as journalists use cutting-edge techniques to undermine technology-based censorship. In real-time, we are observing journalism’s evolution as it rises to meet the challenges ahead, and this is what makes me optimistic about the industry.

Maddie Thomas

Maddie Thomas, 31
Director of Strategic Operations, Local Media Consortium

Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Entrepreneurship and Finance, The University of Dayton

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

Recognize that your job extends beyond “only working in the news/media industry.” A career in news gives you many different experiences and shouldn’t be boiled down to one classification. Think of it this way: You work in the service industry by providing information and entertainment to people in your hometown and worldwide. You work in the technology industry by finding new, innovative ways to deliver the news while constantly evolving standards to ensure users’ data and privacy are secure. You are in the education industry by shedding light on everything from politics and weather to local heroes and where to get the best pizza in town. The list goes on and on because there isn’t an industry that contributes to and impacts our communities as much as the news. News is too big and important only to be seen as one-faceted, and so are you.

What is the best “coaching” advice you have ever received?

Early in my career, when self-evaluations began, I struggled to articulate my achievements for the year. My former director said, “No one else kisses your own ass better than you.” I didn’t realize it then, but that advice is another way to say that you are the best advocate for yourself.

Never be afraid to highlight your achievements or to seize the opportunities to talk about the great work you have accomplished. Instead of saying, “I believe I am the best person for the job,” say, “I am the best person for the job.” Trust me; I know it can be hard to talk about yourself. But no one knows more about your work and how much of an asset you are better than you. Have confidence in yourself. Fight for yourself, but don't be afraid to lean on your team and vice versa. If you excel in an area, make it known. Share your skill with your teammates and colleagues. That, in turn, empowers others to share their skills and make their strengths known, creating an environment that furthers self-confidence, team collaboration, and positive transformation.

Make sure you surround yourself with people who are supportive in the same way. The director mentioned earlier made this clear to our team from day one by saying, “My job is to make you all look good. Not the other way around.” Typically, you hear that the other way around.

I have since made sure to surround myself with leaders and teammates whose priorities are geared toward the success and advancement of others, not just themselves. Advocating for yourself is still important; however, you’ll get much further if you have a supportive army around you, advocating for each other.

Jonathan Vickery

Jonathan Vickery, 34
Publisher/Owner, The People Sentinel/Sundial Media Group SC, LLC, Barnwell, SC

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Media Communication, Anderson University

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

I’ve learned a lot over the past 12-plus years in the newspaper industry, all of which have been at my hometown newspaper. This has helped me become a better person and journalist. I’ve also developed a more profound love, understanding and appreciation for my small, rural hometown.

Here is my Top 5 list of advice for young professionals in the news industry:

  1. Focus on local: As a colleague told me recently, “Hyperlocal news is a blessing to the community.” I couldn’t agree more. As our community’s only true source for news, we publish content you can’t find anywhere else. From hard news stories covering local government, education, and crime to features on people’s accomplishments or birth announcements, we publish news that matters.
  2. Be willing to adapt: Just as our industry is always evolving, those of us in the newspaper industry must also adapt. We are never too old to learn something new or try something new, such as embracing new technology.
  3. Know your community: Regardless of how long you’ve lived in the community you serve, it’s essential to know your community. Do this by getting involved in local organizations, networking with people from various backgrounds, supporting local businesses and monitoring community groups on social media. The relationships I’ve built have led to some of my best news tips, including when I see people at the grocery store or church.
  4. Be factual and honest: It’s always good to remember the three core values of journalism — fair, accurate and unbiased. Without them, we lose our credibility, which is everything. I once read a quote, “Journalism should be memorable not because it’s sensational, but because it’s real.” Also, it’s important to own up to any mistakes and immediately fix them, including issuing a correction. It’s scary to admit when we are wrong, but people value and respect honesty and transparency.
  5. Have fun: Journalism isn’t a 9-to-5 job, because the news never sleeps. There are long days filled with stress, deadlines, angry readers/advertisers and plenty of people who have opinions about how you should do your job. That’s why it’s essential to maintain a good balance to include personal time so you don’t get burned out.  

Where do you see the future of print media heading?

Some say print is dead, but I don’t believe that — especially in small, rural communities like mine. Many readers still prefer a physical newspaper they can hold. They love clipping out photos and stories highlighting themselves or loved ones. It’s that “refrigerator journalism” that we all value.

Since I purchased the newspaper in July 2021 from Gannett Media, my number one goal has been to grow the newspaper. My amazing team and I have done that by adding more local news content, plus features like puzzles, a Kid Scoop page for children, coupon inserts and more. This has translated into more than 200 new print subscribers over the past year and a half. Though many of our readers are older, we also have a number of younger readers, including those who subscribe to print. They see the value in local news.

After issues at the printer caused our paper to be a day late two weeks in a row, we received messages of support from the community who said they look forward to reading the paper, regardless of the day it comes out. That reassured me that we are doing something right and are relevant.

We will continue investing in our current print product. This includes expanding coverage into a neighboring county that has been a news desert for 10 years — thanks to a Report for America grant that will help fund a new reporter on our team. While we publish a regular page in our paper highlighting the neighboring county, we are looking to start a new print newspaper to better serve that community.

As much as I love print, I also realize that digital is important. That's why we’ve invested in a new website, which is slowly growing and adding digital subscribers. I see a future for print and digital to work hand in hand. 

Emily Ward

Emily Ward, 35
Events Director, Georges Media Group (parent company of The Advocate, The Times-Picayune, NOLA.com and The Acadiana Advocate)

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Business Administration, Southeastern Louisiana University

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

Finding a mentor is one of the best things you can do for your career. They will have experiences you can learn from and advice you can lean on when you aren't sure of your next step.

Take every opportunity to learn new skills and challenge yourself, keep opening new doors and never stop learning or growing. Regardless of where you currently are in your career or how many years of experience you might have, you always stand to learn something new from others; you just need to be open to it. Also, remember to take time to pursue continuing education in your field through professional development. The most profitable investment is investing in yourself!  

If you could predict the “next big thing” in news media, what would it be?

I feel like the “next big thing” will always be an innovation in serving our readers in a bigger or better way, and I am excited about what this could mean for future events.

The events industry has changed drastically since the pandemic and will continue to do so. The past two years have forced us to rethink each event and how best to move forward in this climate. I’m very grateful to work for a company that embraces change alongside peers who continuously support one another through those changes.

One of the things I love most about events is the constant evolution of styles, platforms and unique experiences we can bring to life for our audiences. Advances in technology allow us to meet our audience where they are and add elements to our live events that elevate the entire experience, so I cannot wait to see where this takes us next!

Mary Whitfill Roeloffs

Mary Whitfill Roeloffs, 29
Reporter/News Editor, The Patriot Ledger

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science, Northeastern University

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

The most important thing you can do is listen. Listen to your gut when it comes to news sense, listen to your editors, listen to your audience, and listen to your peers. It can be easy to jump the gun on an article or be over eager to ask your next question in an interview. The best reporters are those who listen carefully and can find a story that others might have missed because they failed to listen carefully and think critically.

With everything that is happening, what keeps you optimistic about working in our industry?

The stories themselves and the readers who love them. There is no better feeling than breaking a big story, highlighting someone who deserves the spotlight or making connections with subjects. My role has allowed me to carve out my own beats, find and break stories in local communities and write about what I love. Hearing feedback from readers looking forward to the coverage, excited to see their neighborhood in the paper or grateful to have a local issue highlighted shows me that there will always be a place for well-reported, local news.

Robin Blinder is E&P's editor-in-chief. She has been with E&P for three years. She can be reached at robin@editorandpublisher.com.


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