E&P’s 25 Under 35 2018: Meet the Future Generation of Newspaper Leaders


The young men and women on this year’s list work in different markets and serve in different roles, but they have one thing in common: they love their jobs. Working in today’s newspaper industry has its share of ups and downs, but the 25 young professionals featured here believe in the future of journalism. Whether they’re working in digital, circulation, the newsroom or with advertising, these are the leaders moving our industry forward.

(in alphabetical order by last name)


Tyler Buchanan is pictured covering the infamous Athens Halloween Block Party in 2015. He is the one not wearing a horse head mask, though some sources argue otherwise.

Tyler Buchanan, 26 

Editor, Athens Messenger and Vinton County Courier

Athens, Ohio

Education: Bowling Green State University, bachelor of science, journalism

Tyler Buchanan is a true wunderkind of the newspaper industry. At 23, he became the editor of the Vinton County Courier; three years later, he was named editor of the Athens Messenger. Under his watch, the publications have won multiple press awards—including five Associated Press awards of his own.

Buchanan began editing the Courier in 2015 and since then, the publication has earned 21 Hooper awards through the Ohio News Media Association’s competition for weekly newspapers. He also helped the Courier win the Community Awareness award twice, once in 2015 and again in 2017. Through the AP Media Editors Contest, Buchanan snagged three awards for his feature writing, one for column writing and another for explanatory writing.

Since starting as the only full time journalist at the Courier, Buchanan has grown the operation to a point where another journalist could be hired on full time, as well as hiring a handful of regular freelancers. Buchanan also employed out-of-the box thinking to garner robust sports coverage without a sports reporter. By working with aspiring sports journalists at Ohio University, the Courier has managed to beat out larger publications for Hooper Awards for its sports coverage.

“I am proud to say we have done our best to bring in fresh voices and perspectives to the local journalism scene,” Buchanan said.

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

For those just starting out: the best thing you can do is write a lot and gain experience, obviously, but don’t underestimate the value of simply spending time in a professional newsroom and observing. I see so many college students who complete an internship remotely, without ever spending quality time in the office. It’s important to see how the news gathering process works and how journalists manage their time. Plus, a positive attitude and familiar face might eventually land you a job.

Another important trait is to be willing to develop many different skills. Journalists will develop specialties and expertise over time, but it helps to establish a base of knowledge and experience in a wide variety of reporting topics.

For a small town paper, how do you measure success?

In Vinton County, the least-populated county in Ohio, I sometimes joke our newspaper follows the “Mama Renie’s Standard.” That’s our local diner in town. Our weekly newspaper prints on Wednesdays, and I would often get lunch there the following Monday after the local government meetings. If there were no more papers for sale there by Monday, that’s a sign people are reading our news and we’re on the right track.

For better or worse, journalism in small communities can be a very personal thing.

For every compliment or complaint, I’ve tried to keep the perspective that readers truly care about their local paper—especially when the paper makes an effort to care about them.


Leslie Carberry, 24

Prepress manager, Sequoyah County Times

Sallisaw, Okla.

Education: Bokoshe High School 

Leslie Carberry’s newspaper career already spans 10 years, an impressive feat for someone her age. Since her humble beginnings at the newspaper working part time as a typist while in high school, Carberry has worked her way up the ranks at the Sequoyah County Times. These days around the office she’s known as the “Pre-Press Princess.”

Carberry wears the many hats of her job well. She juggles multiple projects efficiently, often times building pages for multiple publications and special sections while troubleshooting problems for her coworkers. What makes her special is that she learned the ins and outs of not only her job but the entire production cycle. She manages the servers and keeps them updated, manages social media platforms for the publication, plates the newspaper and even handles plating for the company’s commercial client work.

“Her diverse skill set and overall knowledge of the business make her wise and valuable well beyond her years,” said Carrie Carberry, advertising manager at the Times’ parent company, Cookson Hills Publishers, Inc.

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

Always ask questions and continue learning by watching and paying attention to any available opportunities to expand on your work. Opportunities are not always obvious.

Your ideas and opinions are important—don’t be afraid to express them. Your age doesn’t have to define you, but the quality of your work and work ethic will.

Never be afraid to ask for help, but also be willing to offer help on anything, even if it’s something you’re not comfortable with. Your input, energy and ideas are the future of our business, so give it your absolute best and have fun.

Where do you see the future of print heading?

I see the future of print balancing with technology. Technology has given the print industry tools to evolve and enable a smoother production cycle. As long as we embrace our heritage of credible reporting, fact checking and accuracy I believe the print industry will remain a viable media. Our responsibility to our communities is to provide local information, stories and advertisements that are specific to the areas we cover. I believe that we can embrace technology, and couple it with our printed expertise and traditions to provide this service and create a balanced future for our industry.


Lucretia Cardenas and her daughter, Alessandra, read a newspaper together as often as possible.

Lucretia Cardenas, 35

Editorial director, KPC Media Group Inc.

Kendallville/Fort Wayne, Ind.

Education: University of Houston, master of business administration with concentration in business modeling and decision making; Indiana University, bachelor of arts, journalism and history 

Lucretia Cardenas has a talent for strengthening the bond between a newspaper and the community it covers. For example, when she became the editor of the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, she led the effort to form an editorial advisory board, which included community business and professional leaders. That effort led to an immediate boost of the paper’s presence in the business community.

Cardenas’ efforts at the Business Weekly paid off in 2017 as the publication walked away with numerous awards at the Hoosier State Press Association’s best newspaper contest. Cardenas even walked away with one herself for best editorial writing.

Following the awards, she was rewarded with more responsibility, including four monthly community newspapers in Allen County and two paid weeklies. Cardenas also spearheaded the launch of a new weekly community publication and a fifth monthly.

This year, Cardenas was named the editorial director for the KPC Media Group, parent company to the Business Weekly, and is currently leading a redesign of websites and reorganizing departments.

“She coaches her team with the goal to put hyperlocal, community journalism first and foremost with a goal of reengaging residents with their communities through storytelling,” said Violette Wysong, general counsel for KPC Media Group.

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

Be curious, get out of your comfort zone and learn how to live on a budget. The industry isn’t as romantic as novels and films like to portray but, if news is in your blood, it sure is a lot of fun and worth the odd hours. At the end of the day, the newspaper industry is like any other—the people who succeed are passionate problem solvers who know how to communicate effectively.

If you could take a weeklong dream vacation, where would you go and why?

My husband, Jaer, and I are in the process of planning this dream vacation to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary late this summer. We will be heading to Barcelona to take in Picasso and Gaudi, spend too much on a fabulous piece of art, bathe in the Mediterranean sun, gorge on Iberian ham, drink one too many glasses of wine, hang out at an underground jazz club, see Barca win a game and, one night, dance at a discotheque until the sun rises. Since we are two, full-time working parents, staying up past midnight will be the most difficult task on the list to complete.


Kayla Gagnet Castille, 35 

Senior vice president of content and digital operations, CNHI

New Orleans, La.

Education: University of Missouri-Columbia, master of arts, journalism; Louisiana State University, bachelor of arts, mass communication 

A journalist first and foremost, Kayla Castille always brings the highest of level of journalistic integrity into each newsroom she oversees. And she has quite a few under her watch.

In her role, Castille is in charge of leading content initiatives for 120 newsrooms across the country. Her approach to the job, a mix of old school and new school methods, is what makes her stand out amongst the crowd.

Castille maintains the highest journalistic standards with a belief for a need of “boots on the ground” coupled with an approach to content with analytics in mind. Where some may work on one without the other, she believes “that quality journalism and great content will drive the analytics,” said Jim Zachary, deputy national editor at CNHI.

Castille leads by example. She often helps reporters ask the right questions and maintain attention to detail.

“She is a born leader who blends accountability leadership with inspiration and motivation,” Zachary said. “She is a media innovator preparing her company through use of a design thinking process for its next steps in finding audiences where they are and meeting their wants and needs.”

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

Learn how your news organization makes money, and how the work you do contributes to the overall business model. When I started my career as a reporter, I was hyper-focused on the importance of the work and thought it was someone else’s job to figure out how to pay for it. But I think everyone across our organizations has a role to play in creating a financially sustainable future for journalism.

We have access to so much data to help us understand how our stories are performing, how we’re reaching audiences, and how our communities are engaging with us on social media. But often we’re setting goals for ourselves without any understanding of how those goals contribute to the financial success of our organizations. Understanding the business model doesn’t mean giving up on our core journalistic values. It helps us focus our energy and limited resources where we can be most effective.

What’s your approach to teaching digital leadership in the newsroom?

It’s important for editors to lead by example. That doesn’t mean that newsroom leaders have to be experts in everything from data analytics to video editing. But it does mean that they should be endlessly curious about new ways to tell stories and reach audiences. They should share that curiosity with their team, and empower others in the newsroom to learn and experiment. Give structure to a culture of experimentation by setting goals and measuring results. Encourage friendly competition, and reward your team’s successes. Don’t be afraid to talk about what isn’t working, or when it’s time to change your approach. We may work in a challenging industry, but our passion for good journalism should energize everything we do.


Zoe Cooper, 20 

Special projects, Casa Grande Valley Newspapers Inc./PinalCentral.com

Casa Grande, Ariz.

Education: Currently a junior at the University of Arizona studying general studies with an emphasis in arts, media and entertainment

Zoe Cooper is the fourth generation of a newspaper family. Both her great-grandfather and her grandfather were newspaper publishers. Today, her grandmother, mother, uncle and cousin are active in day-to-day operations of Casa Grande Valley Newspapers Inc. and White Mountain Publishing LLC in Arizona, where she’s in charge of special projects. In grade school, she started working in the classifieds department. She won her first advertising award at age 13 through the Arizona Newspapers Association and won five last fall.

Currently a junior at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Cooper commutes back and forth to Casa Grande, spending much of her week working there. She is also one of the anchors of the paper’s 90-second “News in 90” newscast posted ever weekday morning on PinalCentral.com to promote the print and website. She also created a popular, quarterly magazine featuring long-time, family-owned businesses in the county.

“She is well-rounded and understands that in this day and age we have to be looking everywhere for revenue,” said Kara Cooper, co-publisher and advertising director. “The newspaper business offers so many opportunities for her to use her skills. I’m just thankful she has chosen to make our family business stronger for her future.”

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

I believe that it is essential for young professionals to get to know all aspects of the newspaper industry. Advertising, editorial, production and circulation departments all play an important role in this industry. Each department relies on one another to get the day’s newspaper out to its subscribers and readers. If one department is not doing its job, it affects the other departments and hurts the newspaper’s acceptance and profitability.

I also think it is important for young professionals not to abandon their company’s print product just yet. For most news agencies, the print newspaper still has the highest revenue stream and has the most dedicated fan base.

If you could create a college course based on what you’ve learned so far working in newspapers, what would the name of your college course be called?

I would create a college course titled, “The Art of Newspapering.” Newspaper companies have been perfecting their craft for decades and generations. Each newspaper that is printed is perfected down to a science and each company has their own way of producing their products.


James Drzewiecki, 32

Managing editor, Bristol Press

Bristol, Conn. 

Education: Central State University, bachelor of arts, English


James Drzewiecki began his career in journalism as a copy clerk at the Bristol Press 15 years ago. Since then, he has risen through the ranks of the newspaper as it changed hands from the Journal Register Co. to Central Connecticut Communications, which now owns the paper and its sister publication the New Britain Herald. His many duties as managing editor and special sections editor include story assignments, layout and design and the pre-production of a monthly publication as well as tabs for both the Bristol Press and the New Britain Herald.

“He is a dedicated local newsman who continues to push reporters and editors to grow while still focusing on covering the local community in his hometown,” said Bianca Pavoncello, New Britain Herald managing editor.

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

Learn. Learn. Learn. I entered our industry as an editorial clerk, organizing archives in a basement. I went to work with eyes and ears open, absorbing the production process from all angles. Reporters and editors soon became colleagues and I, an eager student. The organization’s impact on my home community was powerful. As this became clear, so did the direction of my future. I worked my way up from the bottom by taking on any task I could, especially those others strayed from. All the while, I’ve never stopped learning.

As someone who “worked his way up” to managing editor, what has been the most rewarding part of your career so far?

Giving people a voice, who otherwise wouldn’t have one. Our impact is immediate and tangible.    


Angelia JaKaye Garth, 24

Classified advertising/customer service manager, Commonwealth Journal

Somerset, Ky.

Education: Morehead State University, bachelor of arts, strategic communication

Angelia JaKaye Garth joined the Commonwealth Journal in January 2015 as a circulation clerk, where she had to send out tear sheets to advertisers who requested them. After a couple of months, Garth realized there was a more sufficient way to do her work by converting the physical sorting, filing and mailing system to electronic by contacting each business that requested a tear sheet and getting their email address, then creating a system where they could download a PDF copy of the ad from their website and simply email them a copy of the ad. As a result of this move, the company saved about $800 in postage/month.

In March 2017, she was promoted to the classified advertising manager position. Within two weeks, she learned how to place ads, build the daily classified pages on Quark Express, and size and schedule help wanted and legal advertising. She also utilized the paper’s partnership with Monster.com to create bundles of print and web advertising which increased their help wanted and Monster.com advertising percentage. She also takes care of all the end of the month reports and statements for the classified department.

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

Two qualities I would advise other young professionals in the industry to possess are flexibility and adaptability. This is an ever-changing industry where no two days are the same; therefore, it is important to have fresh, creative ideas in mind when an unexpected assignment comes through and to quickly adapt to the way the business changes with the changes in time and technology. Another important quality I have been able to strengthen during my time in the industry in versatility. I always like to say don’t put all your eggs in one basket, there are many different departments in the industry so being knowledgeable about the ins and outs of each department will always put you at an advantage.

Even though you didn’t plan to have a career working in newspapers, what are some things you have learned about the industry so far?

The main thing I’ve learned during my time in the business is the career path I want to pursue. The past couple of years working in this industry has allowed me to utilize my strongest skills and reminded me of my childhood dream to become a fashion magazine editor. This business keeps me on my toes and gives me the chance to learn something new every day. I am excited to take my experiences in the field and use them to accomplish a lifelong goal of becoming a future editor or publisher.


Sarah Gove speaks with South Georgia school administrator, Justin Jury, about local school safety protocols and drills in the aftermath of a recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Sarah Gove, 29

Editor, Claxton Enterprise

Claxton, Ga.

Education: Mercer University, bachelors of arts, journalism and English

Since joining the staff of the Claxton Enterprise five years ago, Sarah Gove’s leadership has helped increased single copy sales and advertising, according to publisher Mitchell Peace. That’s due to Gove’s “exceptional journalistic skills in all areas of reporting, writing, and photography…Simply stated, our telephones rings more often, on a positive note, now than they did before she joined our company.”

Peace also praised her work habits. “She understands very well the commitment that is necessary to meet deadlines, while producing news and feature copy that is both accurate and interesting to read. She is punctual, courteous, sincere, and her presence in our operation has been an asset that has decidedly improved the public’s appreciation and respect for our community newspaper.”

He continued, “During my more than 40 years of publishing our newspaper, Sarah is the first editor I have known to achieve such a high level of expertise and professionalism in such a short time. Our readers, local business leaders, and officials have welcomed her and frequently express confidence in her as a journalist and a community leader.”

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

In a world of instant information provided through online news sites, ever evolving social media and a plethora of smartphone apps, we constantly battle for relevance in the realm of print. It’s easy to feel frustrated and trapped by your print deadlines and limited column inch space. But, I’ve learned in recent months that time can be to your advantage.

While online news media and TV stations may battle to break the story first, you have the time to dig deep, conduct more in depth research and brainstorm alternative perspectives to the issue at hand. Take an historical look at the story perhaps, or gather community input that wasn’t tapped into when the story initially broke. Continue to follow stories of peak reader interest to their ultimate conclusion whereas online media or TV stations may drop the story when the initial excitement wears off. In summary, let your “I’m behind the eight ball” frustrations drive you to create a better, more informative product.

How do you motivate your newsroom?

Writers and photographers alike are eager to complete their assignments and present their best work when they are passionate about the subject matter. While we all must take on those nitty-gritty assignments, I make it a priority to also give my staff writers assignments they have pitched or of which I know they have a significant interest.

When editing the work of new staff writers, I don’t correct their AP style errors or reformat their lead statements without providing detailed notes of what they did wrong and instruction on how not to make the same mistake again. I don’t consider myself to be a harsh editor, but I do expect my writers to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. My editorial notes are a way of ensuring they do so.


Sara Grant, 31

Creator and editor of The Know (The Denver Post’s entertainment site)

Denver, Colo.

Education: University of Connecticut, bachelor of arts, journalism

Sara Grant understands what her readers want. She’s done such a great job of it that the Denver Post tapped her to lead audience development for the paper.

“We originally hired Sara to bring her strategic thinking to our social channels, but quickly learned that her expertise on audience development hit many other areas, including breaking news, video, features and more,” said editor Lee Ann Colacioppo.

Since her hiring in 2014, Grant has been a leader in the Post’s digital transformation. Fast forward four years, she is now a year into spearheading The Know, a mini publishing venture of the Post. Through her leadership there, readership has grown beyond expectations, and she’s already launched two spin offs for the new site and is still strategizing for more.

“One of the most important contributions Sara makes is her ability to bring stragglers on board to embrace a digital-centric newsroom,” Colacioppo said.  “She is a wonderful teacher and follows through with data to prove that small changes can make a huge difference.”

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

Say “yes” to new challenges and things outside your comfort zone. I always knew I wanted to write, be a print journalist and focus on entertainment and features. But being open to all kinds of beats and mediums really got me to where I am today.

A few years into my career at the Hartford Courant, we merged with a local TV station and they asked me to do some on-camera work, and eventually shoot and edit my own news packages. I had never seen myself going into broadcast (and I had never edited video before), but saying yes to that challenge brought me places I never could have imagined (like my first Super Bowl), and it really laid the groundwork for the multi-platform journalism we see in so many newsrooms today.

What do you like to do for fun in the Denver and Colorado area?

I love any and all sports (Yes, I am a Patriots fan in Denver), so I find myself at a lot of sporting events. It’s wonderful being in a city where they are all so accessible. Play your cards right and you can get into a Rockies game on a beautiful summer night for $4, the sunsets from the stadium are not to be missed.

It’s safe to say most of my money goes to dining out. Denver has a really cool food hall scene that you don’t get a lot of other places (think, grown-up cafeteria with booze) with places like The Source, Denver Central Market and Avanti, and the city has more patios than we know what to do with. Believe it or not, there are plenty of places to get an awesome craft cocktail in beer-soaked Denver, too.


Mike Hrycko, 35

Corporate circulation director, Western Communications

Bend, Ore.

Education: Ombudsman High School

Circulation sales manager Bonny Tuller calls Michael Hrycko “the breath of fresh air the newspaper industry has longed for.” When Hrycko decided to leave his former post at The World in Coos Bay for The Bulletin  in June 2017, Tuller, who also worked alongside him there, said she “jumped at a chance to follow him and his leadership.”

“Michael gives his employees, the paper he works for and those around him a sense of stability that I have never witnessed before. He leads us, directs us and educates us daily about the industry that he knows and loves and then lends support, his personal time, his life to delivering the best paper money can buy and in return ensures the success of everyone he employs,” she said.

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

Every industry has its problems and nothing is ever perfect. Times are tough, things are difficult but this is a fun industry to work in. Not only is every day different but our core business model is changing. You have an opportunity to influence an industry that is a really important part of our society. That’s exciting to me. The chance to have an impact on something that effects such a large part of our country doesn’t come along every day and isn’t something you’ll find in most jobs. Keep working towards change and don’t ever be afraid to fail.

What circulation strategies are working for you right now?

I tell my team that circulation doesn’t sell subscriptions. Our job is to put the paper into people’s hands, both subscribers and non-subscribers, and it should sell itself. To that end, you need a product that is worth purchasing at a price that makes sense for the community. I’m lucky to work for a company in Western Communications that is family-owned and believes in investing in local journalism.

We still have a robust news department as well as an advertising staff that provides our paper with that thud factor when it hits your porch. Couple that with the job our production team does every night in producing a product that looks amazing and it really makes my job easy.

We can talk about acquisition strategies and customer life cycles all day long but it’s really simple—produce a product that people want and they will purchase it. When companies start investing in their product again, I think you’ll see a rebound in our industry.


Dustin Leed with his son, Judah

Dustin Leed, 31

Digital editor, LNP | LancasterOnline

Lancaster, Pa.

Education: Cocalico High School

LNP managing editor Tom Murse credited Dustin Leed’s innovation and leadership for creating a substantially more engaged audience on LancasterOnline’s digital platforms.

The audience-power journalism project, “We the People,” gives readers more control over the stories covered by the newsroom. “We The People” allows readers to submit story ideas in the form of questions about Lancaster County and their communities. The journalism produced by the project has generated about 120,000 pageviews.

Leed also oversaw special coverage by LNP + Lancaster Online timed to coincide with the release of a highly anticipated documentary film about the Vietnam War by filmmaker Ken Burns.

In “Pete Eats Lancaster,” host Pete Andrelczyk answers the call from readers of LancasterOnline who want to know where to find the best pizza, cheesesteaks, hamburgers, pulled pork, doughnuts and wings Lancaster County. The series has been a proven success and has attracted paid sponsors to support it.

“In carrying out these three major endeavors, Dustin has proven himself to be a digital news innovator not only in our media market but all of Pennsylvania,” Murse said.

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

The most important first step is working for an organization committed to creating great journalism every day. Then, establishing a good working relationship with superiors is essential. It allows you to grow confidence in yourself and, in turn, gives you freedom to fail. Lots of ideas will fail, but trial and error enables you to grow the most and progress in your professional career.

Don’t let age, lack of experience or shortage of credentials hold you back in this industry. Be bold, fearless and constantly push the envelope forward while staying respectful. If you’re a young newspaper industry professional, don’t buy in to the narrative that “newspapers are dying”—there are endless opportunities for innovation within the evolving and changing publishing business. This industry needs more go-getting creative-thinkers. Be a difference-maker.

What digital trends should newspapers keep an eye on this year?

The most important digital trend is determining where your audience is, and not getting too far out ahead of them. There are endless trends that could be mentioned, but each newspaper needs to focus on its own audience and analytics to find the most valuable. Enhancing our community engagement offerings is the digital trend we’re most focused on right now. Everything starts with the audience and establishing a relationship with those readers leads to success that lasts.


Francesco Marconi, 31

R&D chief and head of editorial lab, Wall Street Journal

New York City

Education: University of Missouri, master in business administration, business and journalism; University of Coimbra—Portugal, bachelor of science, financial economics

Before joining the Wall Street Journal in March, Francesco Marconi served as the artificial intelligence lead for the Associated Press, where he helped design and implement strategies that enabled the AP to streamline workflows, generate 12 times as many automated stories and reduce the number of hours reporters spend doing repetitive tasks such as transcription, editing and adding metadata.

Marconi also enabled a culture of experimentation across AP and the industry at large. In 2017, he answered questions related to how all of these emerging technologies work together, how they alter the day-to-day jobs and skills required of journalists, and most importantly, how the news industry can anticipate future disruption driven by the growth of AI. This year, he also serves as an affiliate researcher at the MIT Media Lab and a Tow Fellow at the Columbia Journalism School to offer the news industry and journalism schools a practical step-by-step approach to implementing artificial intelligence and automation across the newsroom.

“Francesco’s presentations, workshops and industry guides on artificial intelligence and immersive journalism have quickly become seminal pieces for news organizations and academic institutions interested in implementing digital transformation,” said AP director of marketing Jessica Saller.

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

Embrace a culture of collaboration: help build an environment where editorial, technology and business colleagues work together to identify new opportunities and address existing challenges. Look beyond the newspaper industry to innovate: identify best practices from other sectors that can help your team better understand audiences, new technologies and behavioral shifts.

What will the media industry look like in 10 years?

The rise of artificial intelligence will have impacted all value-points of our industry—from newsgathering, to packaging and distribution. As AI becomes commonplace across newsrooms, journalists will leverage it to mine insights from analyzing large datasets, but they will also use algorithms for content creation at scale. This includes AI-powered tools that pull together text, video, photos and audio into automated story packages. A successful implementation of AI will require new skills, tools and workflows. News organizations will likely adapt and become culturally equipped to embrace the disruptive changes AI will bring to journalism.

News professionals will also play a crucial role beyond their own newsrooms as algorithms spread to other parts of our lives. In a world where institutions—including banks, schools, governments and more—rely on AI to make judgments, journalists will be the ones holding these algorithms accountable by reporting on their transparency. After all, machines are programmed by humans, and humans make mistakes. In other words, bias can be transferred to algorithms and that’s a future challenge the industry will have to pay attention to. When artificial intelligence becomes more important, the role of the people in newsrooms will also become more crucial.


Ross McDuffie, 33

Georgia regional vice president, advertising, The McClatchy Co.

Columbus, Ga.

Education: Berry College, bachelor of arts, communication

According to Rodney Mahone, McClatchy’s Georgia region president and publisher, Ross McDuffie is “always strategizing, and always looking for ways to make our industry and our region stronger.”

McDuffie has established himself as innovator and has helped form strong partnerships with local businesses across communities in his region. A prime example is a current project he is leading called Together Columbus. The multi-year effort brings together 20 local CEO and presidents for a marketing campaign highlighting the region’s best assets and to coordinate community improvement projects.

McDuffie’s leadership has helped sales operate more efficiently and has led to increase in revenue but it is his commitment to promoting the community that makes him stand out as an all-around industry professional.

Because of him, more than $340,000 in new community projects in Chattahoochee Valley has come to realization such as free lending libraries as well as the enhancement of a pedestrian bridge.

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

Don’t make assumptions about your career trajectory. Remain flexible and open to new ideas and embrace new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Lean into the projects you’re tasked with and use what you learn from each one to help make yourself and the team around you stronger. In the transformational environment of our industry, that perfect position for you and your skillset might not exist yet—be patient and allow yourself to be energized by change.

What are some of the biggest advertising opportunities available for newspapers today?  

Content marketing is the next big wave that’s reshaping our industry. Consumers are increasingly interested in being entertained, educated or enlightened by the content they interact with online. Product, price and promotion are taking a back seat as brands seek to tell stories that create an emotional connection with their audience—a connection that simultaneously aligns the brand’s values and expertise with the content that audiences find most valuable. Content marketing already accounts for a third of total marketing budgets in the U.S. and there are no signs of that slowing down anytime soon. McClatchy’s Creative Lab is doing incredible work in this space; our markets are now able to connect local brands with seasoned storytellers to create incredible relationships between those brands and their audiences. It’s exhilarating to witness this resurgence of storytelling in digital media, and we’re just at the starting line of what’s possible.


Samantha Melbourneweaver, 26

Social media director, Southern California News Group

Los Angeles, Calif.

Education: Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, bachelor of arts, journalism

Samantha Melbourneweaver was promoted to social media director in October 2016, quickly writing and executing an ambitious social media strategy including both organic and paid initiatives. She recruited and now oversees a team of social media producers and develops training and social media prowess for more than 300 staffers in SCNG’s 11 newsrooms.

According to managing editor of digital Toni Sciacqua, Melbourneweaver led the company’s first efforts on Snapchat and Instagram and developed best practices for Facebook Live reporting and social video. Since Melbourneweaver took on her leadership role, social media sessions have increased 45 percent and Facebook followers on all branded accounts are up 70 percent. Her vision and knowledge of untapped audiences also earned her a spot on the company’s interdepartmental audience development team where she led the development of their first Alexa flash briefings. 

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

Don’t pigeonhole yourself. I see a lot of young journalists thinking they’ll just be a reporter or that they are only a photographer. In truth, you’re a storyteller and your job is not to just write or shoot video or tweet, it’s to tell the story in the way that will impact your audience. Learn to be flexible, adapt new technologies to your needs and don’t shy away from trying something completely crazy. A good journalist will try out anything new that comes along, learn from what it has to offer and take those findings along with them when the next new, hot technology comes out.

If you could only use one social media platform for the rest of your life, which one would you pick?

I hesitate to pick one social media platform to commit to for even the rest of the year. Part of what makes social media and the news industry so exciting right now is the lack of a clear path forward when it comes to platform, story format and, for a lot of organizations, revenue. It’s scary, but it also gives us room to invent. Social media platforms especially are in a constant state of flux. The only thing I think has any staying power is quality content.

With that said, I am very much into the “stories” format that Snapchat pioneered and Instagram copied, and I encourage journalists and editors to try it out and learn to report using those tools.

I think Twitter is having a bit of a resurgence thanks to its expanded character count and thread composer, but it still seems to be a bit of an echo-chamber for journalists.

Facebook seems to continue to improve by swallowing everything in its path, but I can see its “fake news” problem taking it down quickly.


Ryan Nesbitt, 34

Publisher, Crossroads This Week and South Mountain Press

Shoal Lake, Manitoba, Canada

Education: Winnipeg Technical College, new media and electronic publishing

Ryan Nesbitt was named publisher in 2017 after his father (the previous owner) retired. His take on the role was not to try and compete with social media or the daily newspapers but instead focus on the niche Crossroads This Week and the South Mountain Press informs.

“He breathed new life into both publications,” said Marcia Harrison, an editor at parent company Nesbitt Publishing Ltd. “He did this by reinforcing to staff what we do well and giving us flexible work hours to allow us to tap into our creativity and allow us to work when we are feeling productive.”

Nesbitt didn’t succumb to the faulty “cut your way to growth” ideology and instead of demanding more from the two writers on staff, he invested in the newsroom and hired more freelance writers, which provided quality, local content. So far his strategy has paid off. With less pressure, his two staff writers are more productive and his leadership has opened the door for his newspapers to grow unlike its competitors.

“(Ryan) is a trendsetter in terms of his collaborative management style, (with) his ability to inspire the best from his staff, his dedication to producing the best possible product, and his willingness to try something new,” Harrison said.

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

My two pieces of advice go hand in hand: create a strong work/personal life balance and then fill that personal time with things that make you happy.

I believe creating separation between work and personal life drastically improves my performance and productivity on the job. I try to treat work as a light switch, it is either on or off, and I think this allows me to always be present and ultra focused on whatever is in front of me at any given time. I think people, especially my generation, are starting to see why balance is important for our mental health and how it greatly affects job performance in a positive way.

The other key to strong work performance is finding happiness and identity outside of it. By pursuing other passions, which has for me been filmmaking and creating art, I have grown as a person through new challenges and perspectives. The happiness that my hobbies bring me follows me into the office every day and rubs off on my work.

What was it like taking over the role of publisher after your father? Did he give you any advice? 

It was a big honor. My father has been the President of the Canadian Community Newspapers Association so I was stepping into some big shoes. I have tremendous respect for what my father accomplished in his 40 years in the newspaper business, but I knew that when I took over, I had to be my own man. The blueprint was certainly there for me to follow, but I tried to bring my own ideas, philosophies and management style to the table right from the start. The industry is ever-evolving and fresh approaches are needed if we are going to grow and offer our readers something new every week.


Justin Niles with his wife, Jennifer, and their children, Savannah and Logan

Justin Niles, 27

Audience development director, Mankato Free Press

Mankato, Minn.

Education: Denison High School

Justin Niles’ newspaper career started nearly a decade ago in Scottsbluff, Neb. working for the Star-Herald as a district sales manager and assistant circulation director.  In 2014, he moved into the circulation director position for the Dickinson (N.D.) Press. His next stop was in Bakersfield Californian as the audience development director before moving back closer to family into his current role as the audience development director for the Mankato Free Press.

Along the way, he restructured many things at each of his stops to improve productivity and helped identify extreme savings at each of his locations. At two of them, he helped save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in circulation expenses.

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

Find a good mentor in the industry. I would encourage everyone to gather up and take in as much knowledge as possible from this person. Having a person you can trust, ask for advice, and bounce ideas off of goes a long way.

Constantly question why things are done the way they are done and refuse to accept an answer of “Because that’s how we have always done it” I have been in many locations since my career began and made many changes from the “way things have always been done.” These changes have made us more efficient, more productive, and have led to many cost savings along with additional revenue being generated in my departments.

Don’t lose the personal face-to-face time with your employees. As a society nowadays, and especially with our generation, we tend to become introverts barely leaving our offices and relying on our smartphones or email to communicate with many of our employees. Do not get sucked into the “hole” that is your computer. Try to take time each day to spend time out on the floor with your employees and get to know each and every one of them on a personal level.

You’ve worked in large and small markets. What kind of audience and circulation solutions did you have to come up with for both?

Many of the challenges that I experienced were very similar in the larger markets compared to the smaller markets. Some of those challenges include the constant battle with declining single copy sales. Some of the ways I have found to overcome this is giving the customer their “money back” right away with a coupon in the paper guaranteed to be higher than the value they paid for it. The other key thing is remembering that regardless of what is in your paper, a single copy purchase is typically an impulse buy. Location is key.

Another challenge that differed a bit from market to market was the ability to attract new customers. When I was in a Bakersfield, with a county population of just under 900,000, it was much easier to attract new customers with kiosk sales and other methods simply because not everybody had already been solicited with offers available so a simple one piece offer was able to be presented “as a one size fits all.” While in smaller markets, not only are you trying to attract the same customers over and over, but you are trying to piece together exactly what their interests are and what sort of offer needs to be presented in order to get them to subscribe to the publication.


Allison Petty, 30

Managing editor of digital, Herald & Review

Decatur, Ill.

Education: University of Illinois Springfield, master of arts, public affairs reporting; Southern Illinois University Carbondale, bachelor of science, journalism 

Allison Petty is a reporter at heart. Even as the digital managing editor of the Herald & Review, Petty still finds the time wade through meeting minutes and documents in search of nuggets of information that could be the newspaper’s next big story.

“(Allison) finds time to review agendas and correspondence because she is an extraordinary journalist first, able to sense a good story from far away,” said Chris Coates, Herald & Review executive editor.

Her dedication to her craft as well as her approach to leadership has reaped great rewards in readership numbers and in production from the team she manages.

“In an industry filled with big egos, Petty takes the opposite approach to great impact—she listens, she encourages, she helps, she adapts. She invests time and energy into her staff. And she’s incredibly driven to make a difference,” Coates said. “Allison inspires her team of reporters, comprised of different ages and levels of experience, because she welcomes challenges and celebrates victories.”

Petty has a lot to celebrate. Since leading the transition to digital in 2017, pageviews grew by 87 percent over 2016. The biggest increase parent company Lee Enterprises has seen, according to Coates. 

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

Always take the extra step. Call one more source than you think you need; spend half an hour longer on a project; promote one more story on your social media accounts. If your boss assigns something that seems boring or trivial, make a special effort to knock it out of the park.

Be a gracious coworker. Learn about the jobs of other people in the newsroom—and look for ways you can make those jobs easier. Notice others’ successes and celebrate them. Carve out time, even just a little, to pursue a project about which you feel passionate.

Talk about big journalism and new ideas. Don’t let day-to-day stress crowd your mind so much that you forget why you fell in love with journalism in the first place—and what an incredible gift it is to be part of this industry.

What’s your approach to digital transformation in the newsroom?

A focus on digital should empower reporters and editors. We now have wide-ranging opportunities to influence how people interact with our work—reaching readers through social media or push alerts; adding extra photos, videos or maps for a richer experience; linking to past stories to show that we’ve done our homework. With so many free storytelling tools available, we are only limited by our own time and creativity.

Of course, new digital expectations can feel scary or overwhelming. Some might see them as a burden at first. But ultimately, almost everyone in any newsroom has one thing in common: We are all proud of the work we’re doing, and we want lots of people to see it.

Our industry is changing. If we take an active role, we can shape the face of that change and help to develop the next phase.


Dana Rieck, 26

Breaking news editor, Belleville News-Democrat

Belleville, Ill.

Education: Colorado State University, bachelor of arts, journalism/media communication and communication studies

As breaking news editor, Dana Rieck is a go-getter and finds the most complete report she can all in the name of providing readers with the best possible information.  She’s a leader in the newsroom and out in the field. And despite only working for the Belleville News-Democrat for just a year, she was promoted to her current position, said Jason Koch, news, social media, and search editor.

“This is because she is a phenomenal reporter, but also because she is an impressive leader and one of the most impressive journalists I have ever had the chance to work with,” he said.

Rieck has a tenacity to chase down stories both big and small no matter where they are happening. Most recently, Rieck covered two major breaking news events on location: When a man from Belleville shot a U.S. congressman in Washington, D.C., she was there coordinating coverage; and when a police officer was found not guilty in the death of a black man, Rieck was in the middle of the protests in St. Louis, Mo.

Through it all, she provides instant updates, shooting insightful video and even giving context to stories via Facebook Live.

“Dana is a truly impressive journalist who, I firmly believe, will become a nationally known reporter in the next few years,” Koch said.

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


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