E&P's 25 Under 35 2021: The Next Gen of News Professionals

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The news industry encountered some dark times last year as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our newsrooms profoundly. Yet for many news professionals, their resilience never swayed. In particular, our young leaders are now more motivated than ever to press forward and continue the important mission of preserving the success and future of journalism.

This year’s list of 25 Under 35 features men and women who all believe in that same mission. As you learn about them, be confident that the future of our industry is in good hands.

 (in alphabetical order by last name)

Jehadu Abshiro, 26

Publisher, Advocate Media

Dallas, Texas

Education: Southern Methodist University, bachelor of arts, triple major journalism, creative advertising and fashion media

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

I’ve appreciated the advice from mentors about the importance of understanding how to do every job in the newsroom. Even if you don’t plan on ever doing a specific job, the broad range of experience helps you understand how a company functions and how management decisions impact each employee.

How are you personally engaging with your readers?

The Advocate has always maintained an open-door policy with our readers, so a lot of engagement comes from simply answering phone calls, going to neighborhood events and talking with people about their issues and ideas. That kind of engagement can be time-consuming, but it really gives us an idea of what’s important to readers, so that makes it important to us. 

Nicole Cooke, 30

Editor, Sedalia Democrat and Warrensburg Star-Journal

Sedalia, Mo.

Education: University of Central Missouri, bachelor of science, public relations with a minor in journalism  

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

Take every opportunity you can. Some stories may not seem like much at first, but each person you interview can surprise you and lead to something even more interesting. Work hard and go the extra mile on a story because in the end, it’s usually worth it. Believe me, I am not someone who typically likes to go outside her comfort zone, but being a journalist gives me the excuse to do so and I’ve learned so much because of it.

Taking on extra responsibilities isn’t always fun, but gaining that experience and trust at work and in the community can lead to big things—like being named editor at age 26.

And for anyone in news, regardless of age, remember why you are covering these stories every day. When journalism is your job and you write daily stories, it can be easy to overlook the importance of your role in your community. It can be easy to throw together a story when something falls through. But remember the readers who look forward to getting the paper each day—that’s why we do this. We cover our communities because we care, we want to make a difference, and we want to share important stories with others.

How do you overcome work obstacles in your position?

I encounter obstacles on a daily basis at work, whether it’s hitting a wall with a source, hearing from an unhappy reader, or dealing with an employee management issue. You learn how to overcome certain obstacles over time as you gain experience. Others require reaching out for help.

I know I’ve improved my writing and interviewing skills since I joined the Democrat almost eight years ago, but I know there’s still more I could learn. I try to learn from other reporters by reading their work. I seek out online tools and training that could help me. And I ask others—journalists are taught to ask questions and find new information. I have several go-to people in and out of our office who I frequently ask for advice or assistance.

It’s the same with obstacles. I try to lean on my experience as a journalist and specifically at the Democrat and Star-Journal, but I also know I don’t always have the right answer. I try to be flexible as I work with my teams because I know that no two days in news are alike, and being able to adapt quickly is key for a newsroom leader.

 Amanda Fiscina, 33

Editor for opinion platforms and strategy; project manager, nextLI; and project manager, Google News Innovation Challenge, Newsday

Melville, N.Y.

Education: Columbia University, master of science, digital media; Fordham University, bachelor of arts, American studies and communications

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

Take whatever newsroom role you can get to soak up everything the environment can offer. Never think any job is beneath you; there will be plenty of opportunities by being in the proximity of individuals who produce the first draft of history. If you work hard, respect the craft and share your ideas you will do well. Relatedly, you have to be constantly learning. Let your curiosity guide you, and always say yes and figure it out later. You won’t regret pushing yourself, especially technologically. Most of all, it’s not easy to keep up morale in an industry that’s evolving, where the hours can be long and thankless. That’s okay. Try to take a step back from the chaotic day-to-day to remember why you chose this. For me, what helps is a magazine cover from years back featuring various definitions about what journalism is that range from the practical, “the quality control for information,” to the existential, “the immune system of democracy,” to my favorite, “telling the truth of ourselves to ourselves.” All are reminders of why what we do is worth it.

If you could predict the next big thing in journalism, what would it be?

It will most likely be something from the past reimagined for a new era. After all, podcasts reflect radio, newsletters reflect newspapers, online video reflects television. Quality, accurate content is at the core of it all, the format and delivery are what is innovative. Adapting coverage to how and where people receive the content is key. Personally, my next big thing in journalism is my team’s project for Google News Initiative’s Innovation Challenge building a comprehensive data warehouse for our audience and advertisers. It’s a reimagined encyclopedia, hearkening back to the pre-internet days when readers used to call the newspaper for help with their kid’s homework or for an answer to a trivia bet they just made with a friend. It’s another example of piggybacking on the past to deliver journalism that is meaningful and relevant today.

Eliza Gaines with her husband, Alec, and their children, Hamilton, Holden and Mary Helen
Eliza Gaines with her husband, Alec, and their children, Hamilton, Holden and Mary Helen

Eliza Gaines with her husband, Alec, and their children, Hamilton, Holden and Mary Helen

Eliza Gaines, 34

Managing editor, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Little Rock, Ark.

Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, master of arts, mass communication, professional track focusing on business and media; bachelor of arts, English with a minor in Russian culture  

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

Take ownership of each story you write. Approach each assignment by asking yourself how this story could convince a casual reader to subscribe or how it could remind an existing subscriber why their investment matters. Your goal is to keep people returning to and engaging with your valuable content. Don’t only rely on audience engagement staff to do this on the backend.

Focus on the human aspect of a big issue. Go beyond the surface level and tell readers how this will make a difference in their everyday lives. At the end of the day, people just want to make sense of the world they live in. Break down big or boring topics so they are easier for readers to understand. Experiment with different storytelling formats, look for unique angles and write stories you would want to read.

Recognize your own bias and preconceived ideas and leave them out of your reporting. Your role is not to decide what the truth is, but to provide the reader all the relevant facts and let them decide.

What is your favorite part about working for a family-owned publication?

The past four generations have been completely dedicated to local newspapers, so that gives the staff reassurance that the owners aren’t going anywhere. In an uncertain industry, it’s important to reiterate this commitment to keeping community journalism alive. A common theme throughout these four generations has been adaptability and experimentation.

My great-grandfather, grandfather and father all had the same simple rule for making our newspapers successful—put readers first. I use the same rule to guide any decisions I make. 

Kayla Green with her husband, Micah, chief digital officer at The Sumter Item, during a Best of Sumter awards ceremony in 2019.
Kayla Green with her husband, Micah, chief digital officer at The Sumter Item, during a Best of Sumter awards ceremony in 2019.

Kayla Green with her husband, Micah, chief digital officer at The Sumter Item, during a Best of Sumter awards ceremony in 2019.

Kayla Green, 30

Executive editor, The Sumter Item

Sumter, S.C.

Education: University of Florida, bachelor of arts, journalism  

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

Say yes and be willing to adapt.

Our industry is in flux, but that means we have the opportunity to write our own future. Use it to create. However, you must be willing to adapt and collaborate for those ideas to come to fruition. Pitch and try new ideas out. Set goals you can track in numbers or impact. Don’t be afraid to fail, and always approach the work and your interactions with a solution-minded focus. There’s no place for getting hung up on how it used to be, what would be easier or what should have been.

It comes down to doing the work and putting your own boots on the ground. No matter what your role is, your team will follow a good work ethic and a positive focus on moving forward to find new, improved and always evolving ways to bring news to people.

What are some video strategies publishers should be looking at?

Find the hole in your news coverage or advertising capabilities and curate video content to fill it. In our community, we found a want for positive, hyper-local news, and for ad clients to have one local media company they could go to for all their needs, which now includes commercials in addition to print and digital advertising.

We produce a daily online news show that tells only positive stories, and we got large companies that want their brand connected to community-based “good news” to sponsor it, paying for our video editor and allowing us to make the show free to nonsubscribers.

Whatever you’re doing, meet your audience where they’re at. For our video content, that is on Facebook and our website. It helped us with brand awareness and reaching new eyes.

Christine Hendricks with Jippy
Christine Hendricks with Jippy

Christine Hendricks with Jippy

Christine Hendricks, 31

Vice president of marketing, Local Media Consortium

Raleigh, N.C.

Education: University of the Pacific, bachelor of arts, sport management

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

Never stop learning. Be inquisitive. Ask a lot of questions.

Our industry is changing fast and to keep up, you need to always keep these three things in mind. This doesn’t mean you have to spend money or go back to school, there are many affordable ways to continuously get this done.

Many industry organizations and partners, including the Local Media Consortium, provide free public access to webinars, white papers, and case studies. Take advantage of these as they provide thought cross-industry leadership views you may not otherwise hear. The easiest way to keep up with what is available from these organizations is to subscribe to their newsletters and follow them on social media. 

You should also consider continuous learning through professional development. All it takes is a quick internet search on the areas you’d like to improve or develop to find schools and organizations offering courses. 

Notwithstanding the above, I have found mentors to be the most impactful resource for professional development. Mentors are not only great at providing objective knowledge about the industry, they’re also great advisors for subjective things like culture, management, and long-term goals. Finding the right fit is important. You want to be sure a mentor shares the same work ethic and values as you. 

If you were to create a rebranding campaign for our industry, what would it look like?

I would take advantage of the collaborative spirit the Local Media Consortium has created within the local news industry. Its efforts have already resulted in dozens of scalable opportunities for audience and revenue growth. This has proven when we work together, great things happen.

Specifically, I’d utilize the vast reach of the industry to push out a positive image campaign pointing out the importance of local news and its positive impact. Given the recent political climate and growing skepticism of news, it’s important to work to change this mindset by reinforcing the positive value news outlets deliver to communities.

Many people don’t realize how important news is to a working democracy. We need to inform them of this by pointing out the positive change brought about by our work.

Kayleen Holder with her old writing desk built by her grandfather Pat DuBose. In the background is a painting depicting the family tale of her Great-Great Grandfather W.L. DuBose, who traded a brand-new horse and buggy for the newspaper business in 1897.
Kayleen Holder with her old writing desk built by her grandfather Pat DuBose. In the background is a painting depicting the family tale of her …

Kayleen Holder with her old writing desk built by her grandfather Pat DuBose. In the background is a painting depicting the family tale of her Great-Great Grandfather W.L. DuBose, who traded a brand-new horse and buggy for the newspaper business in 1897.

Kayleen Holder, 33

Editor, The Devine News

Devine, Texas

Education: Texas A&M University, bachelor of arts, education English language arts

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

Find the good in your community. Helping people is just as important as the hard-hitting news. When it comes to covering tough issues in a small town, write it in a way that makes it clear you are part of the community.

When you see something truly important, don’t be afraid to dig in. I’d say the three most impactful stories we’ve published were also the three that took the most courage to write. I was both honored and terrified to do the first interview with local doctor, Richard Neel, who believed high doses of melatonin could be the most effective new treatment for the COVID-19 virus that researchers all over the world were looking for. It was an experimental idea, and it was kind of unbelievable to think that our little newspaper would be the first to publish an article about an idea that could literally affect the whole world.  He cited plenty of studies on melatonin being used to treat infections such as sepsis, MERS, and Ebola, but the idea that it could be used to treat COVID-19 was entirely new.

We stuck our necks out there along with highly respected and educated Dr. Neel, because we thought it was the right thing to do, and sometimes that’s what it takes to really make a difference. Now those interviews, published by our little weekly newspaper, have been read on every continent of the world. 

What are some of your favorite memories from working in the family business?

Grandpa built a desk for me in the corner of the news office when I was three, and we made many newspaper rain hats. Now, at 33, I have the unique pleasure of working side by side with my mother at the family business, which was established in 1897.

As the pandemic began, I remember looking up brittle, old news pages to read great-great grandpa’s coverage of the Spanish Flu epidemic (1920s), and my grandma’s stories on Polio vaccines (1960s). A couple weeks later, I interviewed a brilliant local doctor, with a bold new idea for treating COVID-19. We published the first article March 20 online, and in print the following Tuesday. On a busy press day two weeks later, we re-arranged the front page when he called to say, “Well, I’m treating COVID patients with melatonin, and it’s working!” In the following weeks, we did many interviews with scientists and physicians.

But I’ll never forget presenting the rough draft of that first story to my mom/publisher at my kitchen table 11 months ago. She put on her glasses, and read every word carefully, more closely than any other article I’ve ever written. She nodded her head and said, “Let’s do this.”

Alec E. Johnson, 35

Editor and publisher, Watertown Daily Times; president and chief operating officer, Johnson Newspaper Corp.

Watertown, N.Y.

Education: Columbia University, master of science, journalism; Dickinson College, bachelor of arts, political science

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

If you are new to the news business, no matter what your intentions are for your future, you should start by covering a community for a newspaper. There you will find editors and reporters committed to reporting news, good and bad, about a town and its residents. Find a mentor, someone who will give you unvarnished feedback and help you identify and achieve your goals. This has been said many times, but a good newspaper should be a mirror of its community. Every day you should be able to pick it up and have something that readers can relate to. Find real people and tell their stories. 

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

A good story is a good story, whether it is published with a photo in print or with an interactive graphic and video on a digital platform. It all starts with the basics, and that’s solid reporting, building trust and relationships with sources so you can go beyond the meeting, or press release to tell the real story. Break news online and use digital to keep in contact with your readers all day. Use the print edition as the final draft of that day’s reporting. Print and digital should be thought as complementary of each other. Although there are many readers who overlap, at the core there are two distinct audiences.

Justin LaBar, 33

General manager, TribLIVE High School Sports Network and TribLIVE Podcast Network

Pittsburgh, Pa.

Education: Point Park University, bachelor of arts, broadcasting

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

Commit to goals you want to achieve but don’t get too committed to one path of how to accomplish them. I wanted to work in sports broadcasting and be in a successful position. I thought I had to do the well-documented path of sending a demo reel to local television station, getting hired and trying to move to a bigger market. In 2009, Trib Total Media, whose top publication is a daily newspaper, needed more video­–someone to shoot video, someone to edit video, someone who could speak on video. I could do all three. So, rather than hunt out a smaller city for local TV, I took a chance on a lesser-known path because I saw immediate opportunity in the digital space. I was involved in daily coverage for local pro teams in a top 25 market that’s ravenous for their sports coverage. Since then, at Trib Total Media, I’ve had several job titles. For each one, I’ve been the first to ever carry that title. I’ve never inherited a position from someone, which has allowed me to set my own bar and get creative with how the job gets done.

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

To lead from behind, which my college teacher and mentor, Jesse Colaizzi, drilled into my head. I applied that advice on being an effective leader to numerous experiences during my education and beyond. Situations involving many moving parts and people overseeing them is a regular part of my job leading our High School Sports Network. I always aim to communicate thoroughly my thoughts or instructions while leaving enough room for others’ creativity and energy to shine. This forever will be valuable advice in my relationships with my professional colleagues. 

Kelsey Landis with Mabel
Kelsey Landis with Mabel

Kelsey Landis with Mabel

Kelsey Landis, 32

State affairs and politics reporter, Belleville News-Democrat

Belleville, Ill.

Education: DePaul University, master of arts, writing, rhetoric and discourse; Southern Illinois University, bachelor of arts, English and French

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

Be ambitious in your career but remember your audience and who you’re serving. That is, don’t write stories just because you think they’re award-winning or career-advancing. Likewise, be competitive and aggressive, but don’t base your coverage or angles on other people’s stories or plans. They’ll do their stories, and you’ll do yours. That’s why readers come to you.

Don’t write in a writerly way. Be conversational. Have a conversation with the reader through your words. Ramp up the tension as quickly as possible in the top of your story. Diversify sources in every single one of your stories, even if it means asking your editor for a deadline extension.

Pick up the phone and call. Too often we rely on emails for asking questions and receiving responses from sources, and the result is less genuine and thorough. If your readers don’t use Twitter, don’t worry too much about popularity there. It can be an echo chamber for journalists.

What is the most interesting story you have covered?

My father’s hometown in southern Illinois, Anna, is known as one of the most racist places in the state. He left when he was young and raised us in the capital city of Springfield, but I grew up visiting family in Anna. I heard stories of it being a “sundown town,” a reputation it still holds today. But in June 2020 amid nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd, the town saw its first Black Lives Matter protest. I talked with a Black man who had been working in Anna for years but had never walked down Main Street until that day. It was a beautiful thing to see happen in that town, and because I have roots there, it was all the more interesting to write about.

John Lich, 32

Regional vice president of sales, Lee Enterprises/Amplified Digital

Indianapolis, Ind.

Education: Mount St. Joseph University, bachelor of science, business administration

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

The better you get at consultative sales, the more it should feel like investigative journalism. A successful sale is not about you, and it’s not about a product; it’s about the client. Finally, never stop learning and remember that you are interviewing for your next promotion with the work that you do each day.

Why is data important?

Through ethically sourced data, our industry has the ability to deliver critical breaking news, ensure the best possible consumer experience and drive sustainable results for our advertisers. There is a misconception in marketing that all digital advertising is free of waste. The truth is, not all data is created equally, and the vast majority of third-party data is priced low for a reason. As third-party data tags sunset, I would argue that we will not only see improvements in consumer experience, but also advertiser results. I think we will witness an increase in creativity and innovation. As an industry, we create and distribute content that generates massive audiences. We were early adopters in the digital services space, but our first party audience/data is a key differentiator that sets us apart from our agency competitors. On the revenue side of our business, the only thing more important than this data is the customer.

Joyanna Love, 32

Managing editor, The Clanton Advertiser

Clanton, Ala.

Education: Lee University, bachelor of arts, communications with an emphasis in journalism

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

Stay curious. A continued desire to learn new things is what keeps jobs in this industry enjoyable. Complete any assignment you are given with the same determination and level of excellence, whether you are excited about it or not. Your attitude leaves an impression on bosses (even when you are a boss) that can be long lasting for positive or negative.

Be willing to physically move to a new city or state. Do not limit yourself to a geographic area because it can limit your opportunities. Opportunities often also require patience and always require hard work.

Take opportunities when they come to you, even if you were not looking for them.

How did you motivate your staff during the pandemic last year?

I told my team to include COVID-19 information in stories when it was relevant, but not to dedicate all our stories to covering the pandemic. This kept us generating relevant local news content without it getting buried. We highlighted how the community came together to try to help each other and the COVID-19 friendly activities community members cooked up. I firmly believe that our readers appreciated that our coverage stayed community-focused, rather than becoming pandemic-focused. I encouraged staff that there was still a lot going on in our county that needed to be covered, and we focused on the usual beats we always did—except now each of them had been changed in some way due to the pandemic.

With a decrease in the print publication, getting content online in a timely manner became more important. I emphasized this to our full-time writer and worked to get freelancer content online. We have since seen an increase in online subscribers.

Will Medina, 30

Director of sales and marketing, Prensa Arizona

Phoenix, Ariz.

Education: Arizona State University, bachelor of arts, communication

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

Always be willing to learn and be open to the ever-changing landscape that is the publishing world. Make sure you are always fine-tuning your skills whether that is by attending online seminars or trainings. With technology changing every day, the news industry is constantly changing and it’s so important to not get left behind. Also, the importance of building those industry relationships early because you never know who you might meet five to 10 years down the line in your career path. Great industry relationships will get you far in the news industry and always be open to learning from the older publisher. They are a wealth of knowledge that you can actually learn a lot from.

What do you think a newspaper will look like in 10 years?

The newspaper in 10 years will be a hybrid of both the printed version and the offsets of various digital offerings (live shows, podcasts, AI interactive graphics). With Spanish language media in particular, the newspaper will need to engage a new generation of newsreaders, especially the bilingual audience and find ways to engage the ever-changing demographic landscape in this country.

I think we are actually seeing an evolution of the newspaper right in front over eyes over the last year in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shown the ever importance of local journalism and the printed news industry in general.

Daniel Nardinelli with McKinley, the office’s four-legged co-worker and companion
Daniel Nardinelli with McKinley, the office’s four-legged co-worker and companion

Daniel Nardinelli with McKinley, the office’s four-legged co-worker and companion

Daniel Nardinelli, 31

Chief operating officer, Inside Sacramento

Sacramento, Calif.

Education: California State University—Sacramento, bachelor of science, graphic design

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

Stay the course. There is a lot of questioning and detractors of our industry. It is important to trust yourself and have the strength of your convictions. Also, network, network, network. Build relationships. Join your local chamber of commerce. Volunteer and freelance to build your body of work and diversify your opportunities.

Where do you see the future of print heading? 

I see the future of print maintaining itself well into the future. Many industries have seen recent resurgences simply due to the nostalgic effect they pose (vinyl records, film cameras, etc.), or the pride consumers exhibit in perceived exclusivity. Readers are growing more and more proud of their consumption of printed content. Print will never go away as green technology allows for more environmentally friendly materials and recycled products. As screens become more and more dominate in our lives, the need for a break from digital content becomes equally important. Print media allows readers to control their own consumption of content on their own schedule providing a powerful balance to our everyday lives.

Mike Nosek, with his wife, Sarah, and their son, Liam, on Halloween
Mike Nosek, with his wife, Sarah, and their son, Liam, on Halloween

Mike Nosek, with his wife, Sarah, and their son, Liam, on Halloween

Mike Nosek, 33

Staff writer, O’Rourke Media Group

Essex, Vt.

Education: Southern Vermont College, bachelor of arts, communication

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

Be prepared for criticism and know how to properly deal with it. It might be constructive and come from an editor or colleague; it might also be from readers who are either traditionally supportive of your work or constantly looking to tear down the media.

Whatever the situation and whoever is providing the critique, give it at least some consideration and see if there’s something within it that you can learn from and use to improve your skills moving forward. And always take the criticism on a professional level; do not take it personally.

Additionally, time management is key. Constantly reevaluate your list of projects and make note of where in the process they stand, how long it will take you to complete each one, and their respective deadline. Then plan and structure your day, week, and month accordingly.

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

First, I try to keep my ear to the ground of the areas that I’m covering so that I can be in the know of what subject matters they are interested in. 

This can be as simple as joining a community Facebook group to see what topics have people buzzing. This can also be achieved by cultivating relationships with people from the coverage area who will think to reach out when they know of an event or a story that might be worth pursuing.

After finding items people might be interested in, I believe engaging readers comes through the headline and image associated with it. A great story with potential could be scrolled by because of a boring, mundane headline—or one that summarizes the story and gives your audience no reason to read past it.

Additionally, a photo that catches a reader’s eyes may in itself be enough for someone to click and check out the content. While the picture may be worth a thousand words, I think people are curious as to what the author’s words are—especially since they might provide some more insight and details that the reader would not have otherwise learned through the image.

Tyler Pisani, 30

Digital audience and engagement manager, The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Wash.

Education: Grand Canyon University, master of business administration, marketing (currently); Full Sail University, master of arts, public relations; bachelor of science, sports marketing and media

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

Get into the meetings. As Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote in “Hamilton,” you want to be in the room where it happens. Even if you aren’t contributing to the meeting, the knowledge you can gain by simply being in the room will become invaluable to your success moving forward. Being in the meeting room as stakeholders and decision-makers are actually making decisions, helps you understand the thought process and reasoning behind their choices and will help you become better prepared to provide input in future decisions. These meetings will also help you understand how your work is viewed by other departments or how you can assist with weaknesses in areas that are outside of your typical purview.

What current digital trends should our industry pay close attention to?

Every generation approaches and consumes technology differently, so each generation needs to be approached in different ways. The content that will appeal to a millennial, like myself, is completely different than the content that will appeal to my parents or even my bosses. This is not just true of content, but of presentation as well. A physical paper or replica of such may work for an older audience who is used to reading a curated format, but millennials like information in bite-sized pieces of news and entertainment, as evidenced by the success of TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat. A younger, more digitally focused audience wants to consume information in a variety of ways like quick-hit newsletters, podcasts, videos and experiences. The growing number of social media platforms outside of Facebook and Twitter have become de-facto news and entertainment sources for the younger audience. Publishers should work to find ways to speak to these audiences in the spaces that the audience already exists.

Alexandra (Allie) Prater, 22

Editor, Drumright Gusher and the Yale News

Cushing, Okla.

Education: Chandler High School

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

Build relationships with anyone and everyone they meet within their communities and not just on a business networking level. Actually, get to know what makes your community thrive because that is also what makes your news thrive.

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

The hardest thing I’ve had to learn as an editor is that it is incredibly important to own up to your mistakes. Nobody’s perfect, and nobody should pretend to be, especially in our profession. It is much easier to be respected by, and have respect for, someone who admits when they are wrong.

Zachary Richner, 33

Founder and managing partner, Arrandale Ventures 

New York, N.Y.

Education: Northwestern University, master of business administration, general management, master of science, design innovation; Harvard University, atrium baccalaureus, government

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

Be sure to work with great people. It’s a challenging industry, but with challenges come tremendous opportunities. Surrounding yourself with a team of smart, dedicated people that you enjoy working with—both inside and outside of your organization—will help you to achieve your goals and to take advantage of these big opportunities. 

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

At Arrandale Ventures, we encourage media companies to stop thinking about their business model as a closed loop system, where the only inputs are advertising and subscriber revenues; rather, we see the industry’s future business model as a platform, where local media companies promote other businesses and then participate in these other businesses’ upside. That’s why at our venture capital firm, Arrandale Ventures, we have built an unprecedented partner network of over 4,000 local media outlets across the U.S. Our media partners are providing an expected $1 billion of in-kind marketing services over the next few years to our portfolio of B2C startups in exchange for equity value in those startups. It’s a novel model, but one with some mind-blowing economics for media companies—the value received by our media partners is nearly five times their cost of sale on day one, before any appreciation of the underlying startup that Arrandale has invested in. What’s more, this model is a beachhead for a whole new universe of cash-paying customers for local media companies: venture capital-funded startups, which are currently spending nearly $60 billion per year on advertising with big tech platforms.

Abbie Sossamon, 28

Associate publisher and news editor, The Gaffney Ledger

Gaffney, S.C.

Education: University of South Carolina Upstate, bachelor of arts, communications

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

Make connections and make friends, you never know who will turn out to be a great source.

Don’t read the social media comments.

What is the key to connecting with your community? 

Immersing yourself in the community. Since I work at my hometown newspaper, I was fortunate to already have many established relationships in the community, but there were more to be made. Within my first six months on the job, my boss (aka my dad) told me I needed to get involved. Being a good employee (and daughter), I heeded his advice—and, like always, he was right. I joined the local Rotary Club, volunteered on nonprofit boards and covered events and stories that sometimes only a handful of people cared about.

Through becoming involved, I have been able to learn about some of the real issues concerning the community. The connections I have made often provide great news tips and story ideas.

Ryan Stelter, 24

Managing editor, Kenora Miner and News

Kenora, Ontario, Canada

Education: River East Collegiate

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

Stay humble. Don’t waltz into any old newsroom whether it’s for an internship or a staff job and expect to be filing A1 stories right away. You’re going to be assigned the stories that may not seem fun but do your best to make them pop.

Be prepared to make mistakes, don’t dwell on them and learn from them. It sounds like a cliche, but it is so true in journalism. Our mistakes seem way bigger because our work gets consumed by the masses but you’re only human, don’t forget that we all make mistakes. Don’t assume anything when reporting, always ask questions, no matter how dumb they are. Humility will go a long way in building confidence in your sources and will make you a better reporter in the long run.

With no formal journalism training, what led you to run a community newspaper?

Journalism is not something you can learn in the classroom. The best way to get experience is by jumping into the fire, and write, report and edit. That’s exactly what I did. I started filing copy at my student paper at the University of Manitoba and landed a few internships in the process. I kept working on writing by picking up tips and tricks from people I worked with and I constantly absorbed information. I also read a lot of news and pick up nuances from other journalists across Canada. That’s really how I did it. Journalism is a vocation, and you will never get better unless you spend hours honing your craft. It can be a tough slog, but it is by far the most rewarding job in the world.\

Adam Strunk lunges forward in The Death Boat during the Cardboard Regatta, a community event sponsored by Harvey County Now. He still holds the unofficial course record. (Photo by Wendy Nugent).
Adam Strunk lunges forward in The Death Boat during the Cardboard Regatta, a community event sponsored by Harvey County Now. He still holds the …

Adam Strunk lunges forward in The Death Boat during the Cardboard Regatta, a community event sponsored by Harvey County Now. He still holds the unofficial course record. (Photo by Wendy Nugent)

Adam Strunk, 30

Managing editor, Harvey County Now

Newton. Kan.  

Education: University of Kansas, bachelor of science, news and information; bachelor of arts, English

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

Starve the beast. Instead feed decency, accountability, creativity and joy. An undertaking that doesn't inspire such virtues is truly beastly indeed. Have other loves: pursuits, pets, places, people. They give your work context and might show up at your funeral. This week's print edition won't. If I've had any professional success, it has been due to the people I love (co-workers included), not in spite of them.

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

Plant a garden. Battle blight and weeds. Nurture your seedlings. Persevere through a hail storm. Keep the faith that damaged plants bear fruit. Savor the taste from the first homegrown tomato of summer. Now imagine the plants are people you care about and the fruit, your community. That's the feeling I have most weeks when I hold our paper in my hand.

Shawn Sullivan, 34  

Editor/interactive graphics, USA TODAY  

Washington, D.C.   

Education: SUNY Geneseo, bachelor of arts in communication: journalism/media

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

“You can be a good journalist without being (a jerk).”  

A wise journalist said this during a farewell—they didn’t say jerk— and I have found it not only possible, but advisable. A Japanese monk known as Eihei Dōgen wrote something similar long ago, now translated by Brad Warner:  “Even if the whole universe is nothing but a bunch of jerks doing all kinds of jerk-type things, there is still liberation in simply not being a jerk.”

Be kind, especially to yourself. Be grateful. Your colleagues will thank you, and so will your sources. 

But that’s not my advice, so here’s more:

The internet really is a series of tubes—learn how it works, down to the metal.   

Don’t assume you know everything, or that technical understanding of the net is not relevant to your work. Don’t feel intimidated, you don’t need to be an expert coder. Take time to learn the core concepts: programming, databases, APIs, web servers, configurations, and content delivery networks. Journalists must utilize the web as a medium, understand it, and explain how it impacts reader’s lives. This knowledge will improve your reporting and enable you to work with colleagues, partners, and sources with more technical backgrounds.       

How can publishers better use interactive graphics and visuals?    

It would be better for publishers to ask how they can build a newsroom culture that fosters visual journalism.

Stop thinking of graphics and data visualization teams as service desks or specialty departments and embrace the transformative approach that empowered visual journalists can bring to your operation.

Start coming to graphics teams with ideas and offers of partnership instead of last-minute requests for specific solutions. They are not magicians, but professionals following a process — learn more about it. Respect the time and effort that goes into the creation of this work. Trust them when they say your story may not need a map, or interaction. Listen to their pitches. Let them select their own work. This will not only gain the respect of your colleagues and lead to more fruitful projects, but knowledge will spread across desks, improving your entire publication.

Visualizations are not merely impressive, they also increase reader trust. For example, USA TODAY’s coronavirus and vaccine trackers were the most visited pages in our network this year. And when it comes to engagement, evergreen explainers and visual stories often outperform traditional counterparts. If you seek loyal readers and subscriptions over cheap traffic, graphics teams can offer experiences worth paying for. 

Bradley Waters, 34

President and publisher, Rome Sentinel Co.

Rome, N.Y.

Education: St. John Fisher College, bachelor of arts, communication, journalism, and business management

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

Find a way to spend time in as many departments as you can. Understanding how other departments work within an organization gives you a better understanding of workflow, task management, all while positioning yourself for growth. As a reporter, shadowing an editor/copywriter may help a writer understand their deadline pressure and copy requirements. Shadowing a webmaster may prep you for multimedia reporting. Specialists rarely exist in news organizations business models. The more you can bring to the table, the more likely you will be hired, and the more likely you will experience growth within a company. As an operator, this holds true as well. When staff see an operator in the weeds learning their job from them, staff tend to open up more and respect operational changes.

 How do you deal with making tough decisions in your position? 

Transparency. You have to be profitable in order to serve the community. Numbers have to make sense. Being as transparent as we can with staff and even our community prevent most surprises to company changes. Tough decisions happen, but having the data and consistency, makes those tough changes easier to make and convey. Having staff that have both feet in, are committed, and understand your mission statement, will understand these tough decisions as well. When it came time to closing our press and distribution department, the staff appreciated the effort to keep them employed as long as we could and fully understood why the decision was made.   

Cameron Nutting Williams with her son, Nolan
Cameron Nutting Williams with her son, Nolan

Cameron Nutting Williams with her son, Nolan

Cameron Nutting Williams, 31

Regional publisher and chief revenue officer, Ogden Newspapers

Frederick, Md.

Education: George Washington University, master of arts, media studies; Williams College, bachelor of arts, political science  

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

Get. Loud.

In all seriousness, I want them to believe in what they bring to the table, believe that they are in an industry that welcomes fighters and new ideas. Do everything you can to connect with other people that believe there is a positive future for our work and dig in alongside them. Cynicism will get you nowhere, so don’t let yourself be tied to people or organizations that don’t believe in our future—they have nowhere to take you.

What keeps you optimistic about working in our industry? 

I see every day how we strengthen our communities. As long as that remains at the core of what we do, the business side works.

We will have a big role to play rebuilding community connection and local businesses after a turbulent year. It’s a fantastic opportunity to remind our staff and our communities of all the ways we serve them, whether it’s tracking vaccine supply or helping a business reopen its doors.

What makes me most optimistic is the steadfast kindness and generosity of the other leaders I’ve had a chance to work with. As a relative newcomer to Ogden and to our industry, I am floored on a daily basis by how earnestly I see these impressive people work to solve hard problems. Their dedication and hard work teach me more than any balance sheet ever could.

Ali Zimnie with Randy
Ali Zimnie with Randy

Ali Zimnie with Randy

Ali Zimnie, 30

Editor, Spinal Column Newsweekly

Highland, Mich.

Education: Oakland University, bachelor of arts, journalism

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

Be insatiably curious. In this industry, every day you have the opportunity to learn and experience something new and someone new. Seize the opportunity. Learn and experience everything you can. Listen and learn, but don’t hold back on your ideas.

Build relationships and attend events. Get comfortable talking with people. When someone is talking, listen, and don’t be afraid of uncomfortable silences and pauses. Coming from a generation where the bulk of communication takes place via text and social media posts and email, the art of sitting down and having a meaningful face-to-face connection has gotten lost somewhere along the way. Meeting new people and seeing the world in its many shades of grey is a big part of what makes our job so exciting.

Be prepared to do a lot of things for free. It sucks, but it’s also the reality. Always carry a pen and paper, and don’t expect to be thanked by the public or even your sources, when you did a terrific job.

What is the most useful skill you have learned while on the job?

The growth of a nice, thick skin. Actually, I’m still working on this one. Journalism is not for the faint of heart.

You’ll get the continuum of critique thrown at you, from grammar to subject matter, to “bias.” And every once in a while, you’ll get a call or email that will hit you hard. This dynamic is similar to being a referee in sports. Most calls, no matter how accurate, are likely to upset half the people watching. You need to take yourself completely out of the equation. Remove your ego and be objective as you can.

But make sure that thick skin doesn’t make you hard. There’s always a chance you’ll get bitter or cynical, but don’t let it stifle your creative spirit. The most desirable trait you can have in the workplace is a positive attitude and the ability to adapt to change. Learn to take the good with the bad, grow and evolve from life’s lessons.

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  • DorothyBoulware

    I loved this article. This type always give me great hope for the future. I wanted to introduce two our of amazing young journalists at The AFRO American Newspaper in Washington D.C. and Baltimore (Afro.com). Our D.C./Digital Editor is Micha Green who also helms the AFRO’s FB Live presentations and the “Chicken Boxx” show, in addition to being a consummate writer. Jessica Dortch is our News Editor who runs the entire production of our weekly print product.

    We have many others, but not young enough for inclusion in this feature.

    Hope this helps in your next piece of this kind.

    Kind regards

    Wednesday, March 31 Report this