25 Under 35: Meet the Rising Stars in Today’s News Industry

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This year’s list of 25 Under 35 showcases a wide range of skills and talents taking place in newsrooms around the world. We suggest news veterans study the advice these young professionals offer. No matter what age we are, their responses are filled with positivity and encouragement that we could all hear right now. Yes, they understand the challenges facing our industry, but they’re not admitting defeat. They’re pushing the industry forward with diverse ideas, creative innovation and intelligent vision. Our future is better because of it.

(in alphabetical order by last name)

Hans Appen, 31

Publisher, Appen Media Group

Alpharetta, Ga.

Education: University of Georgia, bachelor of business administration, economics

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

Wear out your knuckles. That was the advice I received 10 years ago. It meant a lot to me then and still does. Work harder, longer and more efficiently then the next guy, and you give yourself a chance to make it in a still very competitive marketplace.

This industry has unique and sometimes unfair challenges. We don’t have room for complacency or people unwilling to put in the work. We need new and good ideas from people eager to bet on themselves, put in the work, and see where the chips fall.

No matter what new challenges may come your way you don’t ever want to look back and wonder if there was something more you could have done to change an outcome.

What was the most interesting story you covered for Black Box Investigations, the investigative journalism arm of Appen Media? 

“Marijuana’s hazy boundaries,” a series of articles that studied the evolution of marijuana, the nuances of state legislation and local enforcement guidelines for arrests related to possession of the drug.

A notable discovery we made was that neighboring police departments handled marijuana arrests very differently depending on which police department made the arrest. Typically, a police officer has an option to either arrest and book into jail a suspect in possession of the drug or they can release the suspect on a copy of charges.

In one city, Alpharetta, 68 percent of all arrests made for possession of marijuana under 1 ounce were released on a copy of charges. This meant that the suspect was issued a date to appear in court to answer for their crime, rather than getting booked into jail and likely spending the night behind bars. Directly north of Alpharetta, once you crossed into the jurisdiction of Forsyth County, just 9 percent were released on a copy of charges.

The project also looked at examples of local municipalities who have chosen to decriminalize the drug altogether, how they reached that conclusion and what effects they’d seen since.

Becky Bartkowski, 31

Features director, Arizona Republic and azcentral.com

Phoenix, Ariz.

Education: Arizona State University, bachelor of arts, journalism

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

Take every opportunity you can to learn something new and help those around you do the same. There’s no harm in picking up new skills even when you aren’t sure how they might fit into what you do. Take the time to soak up what you can about audience strategy, search optimization and social media best practices. They’re all important and learning about developments in each of those areas (and so many others) can help you find where you really want to be.

Beyond pushing the bounds of what you know, I’ve found that working just plain hard has been equally important. Put in the work and use that dedication, and the successes that follow, to advocate for yourself and what you really want.

Championing yourself is key. You can’t expect anyone else to do it for you. But you have to back it up.

What social media skills are needed for today’s journalists?

When it comes to social media, three things are most important: Knowing your audience on different platforms, writing for that audience and understanding how to dig into analytics in a meaningful way.

What works on Instagram might not resonate on Twitter and could tank on Facebook. Tailoring whatever the content is to the platform is essential whether you’re sharing a vacay pic or breaking news. You’re serving different needs and likely different people depending on the platform. Knowing what works where, from tone to visuals to topics, is crucial.

Not sure how to find that out? Look to the numbers and get familiar with each platform’s analytics tools. The more you keep tabs, the more trends you’ll be able to spot. And in turn, you’ll make more informed decisions.

Christopher Baxter, 34

Editor-in-chief, Spotlight PA

Harrisburg, Pa.

Education: Ithaca College, bachelor of arts, journalism and politics

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

Newsrooms are desperate for transformative ideas, creativity and new skills to help drive digital coverage and better connect with communities, and young professionals are some of the best poised to lead those efforts. Despite the continuing upheaval in the industry, there are more opportunities now than ever for young professionals to step up and contribute. Take an interest in the entire operation of your newsroom (including the business side), don’t wait for someone to ask to share your ideas and don’t be afraid to suggest doing things differently from the way they always have been done. Never think an idea is too big or too crazy or too hard to throw on the table and discuss. Always be thinking about how you can serve your readers in ways no one else does, and provide them information they can’t get elsewhere. And remember that, at the end of the day, clear, clear storytelling and impeccable reporting are still the cornerstone of everything we do as journalists.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned covering state government?

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that systemic failures are often not the result of one or a few bad actors or a nefarious plot to deny people the services they deserve, but rather some combination of overworked employees, a lack of resources, a lack of outcome-based measures, unfunded mandates, the prevailing politics of the administration and a “look the other way” or “I don’t want to know” mentality. Once you start to view failures through this lens—and understand the government is really just a huge group of people trying to do all kinds of different jobs, often in a very disconnected way—it’s easier to understand how problems persist and see the solutions that could fix them.

E.  Garrett Bewkes IV, 32

Publisher, National Review

New York, N.Y.

Education: Colgate University, bachelor of arts with a concentration in peace and conflict studies

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

Once, while I was fighting for a better grade on an exam in middle school, a teacher threw a piece of chalk at me and shouted, “Would you stop caring about your damn grade? Learn the material because you should want to be smarter and the good grades will follow!” I believe that professional life is no different. Stop dwelling on the title, the pay, etc. Do the work (and do it well), and all the “cool stuff” will follow.

One way of approaching your work this way is treating your company like it’s a family business that you cannot afford to let fail. There is no task too menial or that “is not in your job description” when you know your company must succeed. Keeping that mentality will ensure that you step up to the plate, challenge yourself regularly, and make you a smarter and more experienced professional. Plus, always being that reliable person will certainly make your teammates—and your superiors—appreciate and respect you more, often resulting in great things.

What has been your proudest moment so far as publisher?

As a team leader, I am really only as good as my team, and I work with the most impressive group of professionals who never cease to amaze me with both the quantity and quality of their output every week. Their work has led to award nominations and growth in nearly every metric that a publisher uses to measure success—page views, unique visitors, engagement, paid subscribers, email subscribers, revenue, donors, etc.

So, when I consider which moment is my proudest, I look at my team. Through them, I realize the role I played in their success, including bringing them together and giving them the necessary tools, knowledge, and positive culture to do their jobs above and beyond “industry standard” expectations. I am so proud of my team and the work we all accomplished together; thus, my proudest moments are the countless times we reach or exceed a goal in any of the success metric categories.

Jess Bryant, 33

Editor-in-chief, Philadelphia Gay News

Philadelphia, Pa.

Education: Eastern Washington University, master in fine arts, poetry; Otterbein University, bachelor of arts, English

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

Be in the community you cover. Build relationships and attend events. Make lunch or coffee plans with members on the ground in whatever communities you cover. If you have a blindspot or bias, go directly toward it; don’t fear ignorance, take opportunities to learn, or your coverage will continue to be biased. With so much focus on digital-first, realize that if you are not reaching a community, it could be method. Pay attention to radio stations and gathering places that serve communities on the margins. Work with them. Collaborate. Look for new pathways into communities that are not accurately or fully represented by your outlet. If you have unique sources built through personal relationships, your stories will stand apart. Also, attend any journalism education event or lecture that you can. You will learn and grow. The way we cover everyday events is developing alongside society. Language around addiction, domestic violence, death by suicide and myriad other topics is evolving. The way responsible journalists frame our world is increasingly important. Be on the cutting edge. Push your editor toward contemporaneity. Be bold and different and also be humble, persistent and diligent.

How could coverage on the LGBTQ community improve?

Mainstream publications often don’t even know the basic language of the LGBTQ+ community. Queer folks have a vocabulary all our own, and writers from mainstream publications are often ignorant of nuances. Nonbinary and gender-nonconforming have different meanings. Gender-inclusive and gender-neutral are not synonymous. And, our community is anything but homogenous. Trans folks and cis folks experience queerness differently and face dissimilar barriers—to healthcare, safety, etc. Black trans women face obstacles that white trans men do not, vis-a-vis transmisogyny, sexism and racism. Mainstream publications lean on opinions, columns and research, rather than hard news.

The LGBTQ+ community is up against a great deal under the Trump Administration concerning nondiscrimination policies. LGBTQ youth represent a vast majority of homeless youth, and religious institutions try to keep queer couples from being foster parents. Still, mainstream publications often lean on “fluff” pieces to demonstrate inclusivity, when what we need from credible news sources is consistent hard news coverage. For instance, we don’t need to read that Pete Buttigieg kissed his husband on stage in 20 different varieties, we need to read the LGBTQ+ platforms of all candidates and how these directly impact potential equity. Report on the grants our community centers secure and resource centers created for our community. Write about solutions, not just the violence we endure.

Sarah Morse Cooney, 35

Vice president of marketing, San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco, Calif.

Education: Lehigh University, bachelor of science, finance and economics with a concentration in marketing

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

Stay curious and passionate. Our business is all about storytelling—continue to challenge yourself to learn and master new technologies—to ensure that your confident reaching your audience or selling around your content on the platforms that matter most.

Get involved with the community and know what is going on locally. In addition, always keep in mind the vital role that quality, local journalism plays in the community. In every project we do, we are conscious of what local means to the larger picture. By both being involved with the community and committed to the community, we are able to build better programming, more relevant events, more actionable ideas, etc. Work hard, ask questions and don’t be afraid of your age. New ideas are always welcome. Speak up and don’t be intimidated to share your point of view.

What is your current favorite marketing campaign, not related to journalism?

By far my favorite marketing campaigns are from Aviation Gin.  There are plenty of brands that parlay celebrity faces for quick brand awareness, but their humorous use of Ryan Reynolds really nails it. Their campaigns are witty and smart, continuing to use pop culture moments to project themselves (think Andy from Fyre Fest and the Peloton Woman). The brand resonated so much with me that I found myself ordering a gin cocktail at a recent happy hour.

Brandon Cox and his fiancée, Charity Young, minutes after he proposed. (Photo by Amber Huston)

Brandon Cox, 32

Publisher, Kentucky New Era

Hopkinsville, Ky.

Education: Kentucky Wesleyan College, bachelor of arts, graphic design/visual communications 

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

The best advice that I ever received is, “You are not your business card.” It is very easy in this business to forget to clock out mentally. These days we are all maximizing our time and resources, searching for efficiencies and juggling multiple projects at once. By all means, give your work the time, attention and passion it requires. But also remember to set boundaries and protect your time with the people you love and yourself. You are not defined by your job nor does your job define you—unless you want it to. The latter is a lonely place at the end of the day.

How do you motivate your staff during challenging times?

Our leadership team views every challenge and opportunity through the lens of our mission to serve the community. We control the things that we can control, accept what we cannot and formulate plans to respond with our readers in mind. Then, we communicate.

We communicate clearly the challenge and what it means to our operation. We communicate that we also have skin in the game and how we personally feel about the challenge.

And we communicate what we intend to do about it.

That is not to say that there are not times where we have to make tough, unpopular decisions. But every decision of that nature is accompanied with solid reasoning and a clear idea of how that particular course of action is the best in the long run—not only for the business and product, but for the reader and community as well.

That transparency has gone a long way in my group. As much as anything, people do not want to be in the dark. I share what I can, when I can, and I make sure that my efforts to participate in both the sacrifice and the solution are well known.

Katherine Engqvist, 29

Greater Victoria bureau chief, Black Press Media

Victoria, B.C., Canada

Education: Ryerson University, bachelor of journalism

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

Never stop learning. The journalism industry is always evolving and as a journalist you will need to keep up. You’ll push your comfort zone and put your skills to the test so be prepared—that’s the beauty of this industry. No two days are alike and every interview will be different. Some days will be tough but others will be unforgettable and you will grow in ways you never imagined.

The best thing you can do on your journey is find a mentor, someone with experience you can turn to when you reach a grey area and aren’t sure how to proceed. Whether that’s an editor, publisher or another colleague, learn as much about their experiences in the journalism industry as possible as it will help shape your own path in the industry.

Where do you see the Canadian news industry in 10 years?

Community news will continue to thrive in Canada. Readers are looking for stories they can’t get from the wire or read anywhere else. They want to connect with their neighbors, learn more about the business owner down the street or find out if their local tax dollars are being misspent. Compelling human interest stories and hyper-local breaking news will continue to drive readership on all platforms, whether that’s in print, online or on a new platform that hasn’t been invented yet. Social media, smartphones and the 24-hour news cycle have transformed the way news is delivered, but it hasn’t changed what readers are engaging with.

Jaime Gianini, 29

Strategic sales director, RJ Media Group

Meriden, Conn.

Education: University of New Haven, bachelor of arts, music industry

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

Stop doubting yourself. The reason you’re in the position you’re in is because somebody believed in your abilities and that you have something of value that they wouldn’t have without you. Don’t ever be afraid to be yourself and stand up for or suggest something you strongly believe in; passion is what sets leaders apart from everybody else. Not only is it the biggest motivator, passion can also push you to go above and beyond your goals if you learn the ability to find passion in anything you do. When you find a mentor, allow yourself to be coachable and don’t just listen to advice, implement it. A loss or mistake is never a failure, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. Always embrace change and always stay humble and if you’re feeling uncomfortable, fake it ‘till you make it. Trust me, the confidence will come with time.

What is the best sales advice you’ve ever received?

I have two and they go hand in hand. If your clients aren’t saying no, you’re not trying hard enough. In sales, it can be hard to “ask for the no” and we’re always fighting to stay out of the dreaded limbo of “will they, won’t they.” Just ask for the no. The worst thing a client can say back to you is quite literally “no.” A “no” is also an opportunity to discover what the client genuinely values and collaborate deeper on what they really want.

Secondly, by far the most valuable advice is to “leave the head-trash in the car.” We all have preconceived notions of what our clients are able to afford or what they value. Here’s the thing: you’re the expert when it comes to your own products and you know how your products align with your client’s needs. Provide the client with the opportunity to see what you believe to be the best solution for them and build up your own value. If you’re passionate about whatever product you’re offering, your client will get excited and see just how great it is. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Julia Hatmaker, 30

Emerging markets team lead Philadelphia, PennLive.com and the Patriot-News

Philadelphia, Pa.

Education: Richmond the American International University, bachelor of arts, communications, with minors in history and theatre and certificate in British studies

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

Journalism is a constantly changing field. You have two options for how you attack it: you can either mourn the old ways or be excited for the new. In the nearly 10 years I’ve been working, I’ve gone from a publication that was focused largely on print to one that’s digital-first. Video has gone from not being a focus at all to a huge priority to simply another part of the storytelling toolbox. The same is true for Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook Live. Don’t plan on doing the same thing year after year. This is the time to be innovative, to be creative and to experiment. Learn new skills, don’t get comfortable and you’ll go far.

How has being a multimedia journalist helped you cover some of the stories you’ve reported on?

It’s incredibly freeing to let a story dictate how it’s told, rather than trying to force a narrative into a certain format. Some tales are best told with photography, others with video and still others with text. Sometimes it’s best to use a mix of them all.

That was the case with the tale of the SS United States, a cruise ship that was once the way to travel across the Atlantic. Now it sits decaying outside of an Ikea. Photographs of the ship today, when shown juxtaposed with old vintage photos, really conveyed how far this ship had fallen. Text was necessary to go deep into the history of the ship and its future. But what really helped the SS United States come to life were video interviews I shot of former passengers, several of whom had immigrated to the U.S. on the ship. Words fall short when it comes to seeing the emotions they expressed concerning the ship, the tears that fell down their face or hearing their voice crack. Together, each element played a key part in telling this ship’s story.

Jennifer Hefty, 30

Content strategist, Fort Collins Coloradoan

Fort Collins, Colo.

Education: University of Colorado, bachelor of science, journalism

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

Teach yourself and never stop learning. Journalism will always be an industry of change, and we are all in this grand experiment together. The tools and strategies we use today won’t be the same in three to five years, and there’s exciting opportunity in that.

Almost nothing I do on a day-to-day basis is something I learned in college. You learn as you go. But one of the most important skills I learned was how to be resourceful and experiment my way to the answer. Knowing a little bit about a lot of things and how they work will take you a long way. Don’t be afraid to struggle through something new and innovative to teach yourself a new skill. Soon you’ll be the expert others are turning to for advice.

Think about what you want your job—and what you want this industry we all love—to look like in five years, in 10 years. Start innovating and laying the groundwork today for that future.

What is key to converting a first-time digital visitor to a paid subscriber? 

Get them to come back. First-time visitors to our content don’t have brand affinity and they’re not yet familiar with what we do. It’s vital that we start building trust and take steps to form an authentic relationship with our audience right away—on the very first story, video or podcast they interact with.

That means we can’t be afraid to explain our “why.” We need to let our audience in on our process. Write about how you cover crime, your policy on unnamed sources, all the work that went into reporting your story and why you think it’s an important story to tell. In addition, be bold and unapologetic about telling your audience why your work is valuable and what makes it worth paying for. We’re all passionate about journalism and our mission. Share that passion with your audience and they’ll want to support you.

Cherisse Johnson (right) with her late mother, Thelma Johnson

Cherisse Johnson, 35       

Customer service and retention director, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Las Vegas, Nev.

Education: California State University-Sacramento, bachelor of arts, psychology

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

Stay focused, humble and a team player. Ask a lot of questions. Many of us work with seasoned veterans who have a wealth of knowledge, learn from them but keep testing and exploring new ways to do business. We have all been given the opportunity to make the industry grow and thrive. Be innovative and creative about the ideas you bring to the table and confident in what you feel will work. Never give up on your ideas. Look outside the industry to find best practices that can be applied to our model.

What was the best customer experience you ever received?

When I first moved to Las Vegas, I did not know my way around the area and needed car insurance. I signed up online and then discovered the agent was really far across town. When the agent learned where I lived, she offered to come to me to make the process easier and handle my paperwork. The fact that she was willing to drive an hour to help me get car insurance really proved to me that she cared about me and my business. To this day, I have not had to drive to my insurance agent. If there are policy changes or additions, she travels to provide service to me in person. It truly makes me feel good as a customer.

Kaley Johnson, 24

Breaking news and crime reporter, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Fort Worth, Texas

Education: University of Missouri-Columbia, bachelor of journalism with an emphasis in investigative reporting and a minor in history

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

First, wake up every morning and tell yourself that you earned where you are. Imposter syndrome and self-doubt are monstrous in this industry, especially for young women, and some days you might find yourself questioning whether you’re good enough. You are good enough, and you’ve got to remind yourself of that every single day.

Second, you’re going to get hate mail and called names on Twitter and questioned on Facebook. Remember that most of those people are hiding behind a phone or keyboard; you’re the one actually doing the work. People generally like being mad, and it’s not worth your energy to try and change that.

Third, if a story seems too simple, you’re probably not getting the whole story. The world is filled with nuanced, and it’s our job to capture that nuance. When you think you have all the information, dig deeper, and you might find there’s a whole perspective you haven’t considered yet. Journalism that embraces the reality that the world isn’t black and white is always superior journalism.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

In breaking news, there is no typical workday, which is what makes it so appealing to me. Some days I’ll get into the office and write a few news briefs, other days I’ll work 12 hours from a crime scene. Maybe I’ll talk to grieving families or political candidates or murder suspects or business owners. I might stomp through flood waters or post up at a school board meeting. I could go into the office with a plan to write a feature, and wind up outside a church all day because there was a shooting. A typical day in breaking news is one that is unexpected, difficult and unpredictable—which is for the best, because if I had to do a 9 to 5 at a desk every day, I would probably go crazy.

Matt Johnson, 31

Assistant editor, Mariposa Gazette

Mariposa, Calif.

Education: Brigham Young University-Idaho, bachelor of science, communications with a minor in sports management

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

Be creative. If you have a good idea, suggest it. If you want to try something that has never been done at your organization, try it. Think big, think outside the box. That’s how awesome things happen. Also, write every story as if it’s the most important thing out there; write with passion. You can’t go wrong with that mindset. Ask questions and learn from experienced industry veterans. My other advice is to keep your head up. Times might be tough in the industry, but if you work hard, I believe things will work in your favor.

What have you learned from covering high school sports that you can also apply in the newsroom? 

Covering high school sports is a grind, but it teaches so many things. It has taught me how to organize my time, how to make sure to pay attention to detail and “the little things.” With covering high school sports, you have to really focus and pay attention: what grade is the player in, how do you properly spell their name, how should you be sensitive in reporting about youth? Honestly, covering high school sports is a great way to get started in the news industry. It is a valuable learning tool.

 

Candace Mitchell, 27 

Director of digital and breaking news, The Record and NorthJersey.com

Woodland Park, N.J.

Education: Ramapo College of New Jersey, bachelor of arts, communication and literature

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

Always be listening. So much of what I learned my first year in the newsroom was from listening to veteran reporters do phone interviews or to editors giving their reporters advice. Frankly, being nosy allowed me to get an idea of how nearly every job in the newsroom worked and having the full picture really helped me understand how the entire operation worked.

And be there as much as you can. If a big story breaks, don’t wait for somebody to ask you to get involved. Look at what’s getting done, see what’s needed and offer to jump in. The big stories are the ones that nobody forgets—make sure you have a role in it.   

In your experience, what topics have driven the most digital subscriptions? 

It usually comes down to the question: How does this story affect the reader? If our story makes clear to the reader that what we’re writing about makes a difference in their everyday lives—they’re willing to pay for it.

For NorthJersey.com, it has been the topics that have always been the most important to our newsroom that drive subscriptions. Stories about how our local communities are changing, including topics like redevelopment, overcrowded schools, mom-and-pop shops closing and new stores opening.

People are also willing to pay for stories that hold people accountable, including corruption in municipal governments, workplace lawsuits within police departments and schools, and questionable hires at our state agencies.

Lloyd Mullen, 31

Owner/publisher, Port Townsend Leader

Port Townsend, Wash.

Education: University of Wyoming, bachelor of arts, international studies

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

Don’t be afraid to get out of your lane. If you’re a writer, learn about photography and design. If you’re in marketing, learn about editorial. The more you know about all parts of our industry, the better you’ll be at your job, whatever it is. We’re a symbiotic business. There is no “dark-side” to our industry. Take a day and shadow someone in each department.

What is the most important advice you would give to other sales trainers?

Shut up and listen. As a trainer, it can be easy to get caught up in your own spiel. We get it, you’re the boss. The best thing you can do is be an active participant. Go on calls with your team. Watch them fail. When it’s over, use that failure as a teaching opportunity. If we don’t fail, we don’t get better.

Keila Torres Ocasio, 34

Investigations editor, Hearst Connecticut Media Group

Bridgeport, Conn.

Education: University of Bridgeport, master of arts, global media and communications; University of Connecticut, bachelor of arts, journalism with a minor in women’s studies

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

Never stop learning. In any position you take on, try to learn everything you can about that role and every position that connects to it in some way. The better you understand all aspects of this evolving business, the better I think you can adapt to the changes. It also helps you do your own job better when you understand how what you do affects others and their jobs. As an editor, if I do my job well it helps everyone else do their jobs well too.

I’ve found the best way to do this is to ask lots of questions. I always say people become journalists not only because they are curious, but because they are nosy. We not only wonder what the answers to questions are, we feel compelled to seek out those answers. We should use that nosiness to our advantage in our careers.

In what ways can newsroom diversity improve?

In all ways. Unfortunately, the conversation about diversity is often superficial, with the focus usually on how to increase the number of (insert your diverse group name here). But I don’t want to simply fill a quota. I’m not looking for a handout. I’m looking for an opportunity, and if I have the skills for a job, I don’t want to be passed up for it or overlooked because I don’t look like anyone in that position before me.

Two things are missed when we treat diversity as if it were a numbers game: we forget people are not just one “thing” at a time and we forget that roles within a newsroom also matter. Hire a “minority” but stick her in the sleepiest beat in the newsroom and give her no opportunities to grow or have voice, and you’ve failed at diversity. Also, people forget being white or black or Hispanic is not all a person is. Yes, I am Puerto Rican. But I am also a woman, a mother, a city girl, a public school graduate and so on. All of these things make me who I am and inform how I see the world.

Katie O’Connell, 32

Podcast editor, Arizona Republic and azcentral.com

Phoenix, Ariz.

Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, bachelor of science and master of science, journalism

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

Podcasts weren’t a part of the cultural lexicon when I graduated from college. Yet here I am, creating them daily and loving it. Our industry is changing so quickly. The best thing you can do is cultivate a broad set of skills. That way you’re prepared to lead when the next storytelling platform emerges.

What are the top three podcasts that you listen to (besides your own)?

Bear Brook from New Hampshire Public Radio is an exemplary example of an investigative, cold case podcast. It’s captivating without being exploitative, making it the model for telling such stories a way that respects the victims involved.

Dolly Parton’s America from WNYC will turn you into a Dolly Parton fan (if you’re not one already). I wasn’t expecting a podcast about the legendary singer to make me cry, but the depth of the storytelling goes well beyond your typical Hollywood biopic. Don’t miss episode four in particular.

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness is a must and not just for “Queer Eye” fans. Van Ness covers everything from geoengineering to “The Great British Bake Off” with his trademark blend of humor and optimism.

B. Rae Perryman, 35

Chief content officer/editor, APG Media of Chesapeake, Cecil Whig

Maryland and Delaware

Education: Baylor University, bachelor of arts, philosophy

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

My guiding principles are education, excellence and empathy: Learn as much as you can, work as hard as you can and be an advocate for yourself and your team. I also continually remind myself and others to stay elastic. Don’t be afraid to move jobs if you’re not being paid a living wage. Journalists especially are grossly underpaid. Women, people of color, and traditionally marginalized groups are so often left out of important conversations, and it’s important to acknowledge that these barriers are real. Find (or create) a place where your excellence is seen and valued.

For young people specifically, I would say—kill your darlings. This is a grueling industry, and there’s little room to be precious. Listen to your mentors and learn from veterans in the field. Go to the mat for what matters, but always be open to growing your abilities and perspective. Also, read about 10 times as much as you think you should. 

Without a background in journalism, what made you choose this field?

It’s simple: I am a writer, and writers write. I am motivated by an urgent work ethic and a compulsive need to do what I can to uphold the civil liberties so swiftly being degraded in our world. I have worked in policy and advocacy on a national level and have significant business and management experience—all of these experiences make me a better journalist, editor and content director.

As a writer, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the world in an intelligent and meaningful way. Independently, I’ve been able to dabble in multimedia—I made an award-winning short documentary and have been recognized for my photography, too. I actively work to continue learning, growing, and expanding my skills in and out of the field in any way I can. The field sort of chose me, I just stay hungry and busy.

Photo by Scott Laudick Endurance Photography

Rachael Pracht, 32

Digital subscriptions project manager, Lee Enterprises

Davenport, Iowa

Education: Scott Community College, associate’s degree, marketing

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

If you have an idea, speak up. It’s incredibly intimidating working with a large group of people well-seasoned in a long-established industry, and sometimes it’s scary to bring up new ideas to those who trust deeply in what has always worked.

That being said, it’s important to learn everything you can about your industry. If you can understand why processes and products have been so especially trusted for the last decade, you can start to see where new procedures could be profitable, and what processes can help make workflows more productive.

Also, don’t be afraid to take on new projects, even if you’re not completely knowledgeable on the topic. The more you learn, the further you expand your professional universe, the more fulfilled you will feel not only as an asset to the team you’re on but to yourself as an expert in the industry.

Is there a future for print in the news industry?

Absolutely. There is something so formal and trustworthy about the printed product. Every day we are bombarded with articles and stories from all across the internet that we’re not sure if we can trust. So much so, the term “fake news” became a household expression.

Being a trusted local news organization means that we are committed to bringing the facts that characters desire, and that people can deem dependable. Anyone can start a blog and write a post and pretend to be a news source, but a local newspaper is hands down the most authentic place to stay informed.

Alex Ptachick, 27

Audience editor of emerging platforms, USA TODAY

McLean, Va.

Education: Syracuse University, bachelor of science, newspaper and online journalism

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

Be curious. I was taught the power of curiosity when I was studying journalism in college. The best stories I’ve ever reported and written were products of my curiosity. If it’s interesting to you, it’s probably going to be interesting to your audience. In my current job, I read a lot about the social media app industry and I carry that “be curious” advice with me when I’m looking into which platform to launch next.

If I could offer a second piece of advice, it would be to think big. I’ve learned over the years that there is no bad idea in a brainstorm, and the ideas that might seem too big often end up being the starting point for nailing down the best idea.

Will TikTok still be a thing in five years? 

I wish I knew. If I had to guess, I would say yes, but it certainly will not look the same as it does right now. TikTok is the first social media platform I’ve worked on that I believe is “with the times.” The platform includes vertical video filling the entire screen on a mobile device, the importance of having sound on, a way for creators to make money, an endless feed of content that’s “For You” and meant purely to entertain and a vertical scroll instead of a tap to the right or swipe from right to left. By incorporating viral trends, TikTok makes people want to join in and be part of the fun.

Simone Slykhous, 29

Managing editor, Creators Syndicate

Hermosa Beach, Calif.

Education: Northwestern University, bachelor of science, journalism with a minor in political science

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

Learn from and relish the past while always looking forward. The newspaper industry is an ancient field with a storied past—pun intended. News matters, and how we spread that information matters. We have a responsibility to our consumers to share ideas, enlighten people with facts and spur interest in this big, beautiful world. How people are consuming news is continually changing. It’s up to us to change along with it.

Take risks. Be willing to ask questions: What do our readers want? How do our writers and artists want their stories told? How can expand our reach? Soak up the institutional knowledge from the news veterans around you, get to know others in the industry and be coachable. Dive into projects with passion, and be okay with failure. It’s in failing that the best ideas are discovered.

What is your favorite comic strip and/or syndicated column?

I work with an extraordinary roster of talented people, so this question is almost like asking which child is my favorite. Though because that is a cop-out, I would say that reading the comic strip “Scary Gary” by Mark Buford always makes me laugh. His twisted sense of humor, hilarious cast of undead characters and intricate drawing offers a great respite from the stress of keeping up with the 24-hour news cycle.

In terms of syndicated columns, reading Marc Dion’s words each week is a joy. He expresses the opinion of middle-class America through the lens of an old-school newspaperman. With his relatable, nuanced and beautiful way with words, reading a column from Marc Dion is like walking into a bar and hearing your favorite world-weary bartender tell you about the way things were, the way things are and the way things could be—if that bartender also moonlighted as a graduate professor. In today’s who-can-scream-loudest, three-ring circus of a political arena, it’s the quiet brilliance of Marc’s commentary that leaves space for contemplation, connection and calm. 

 

Tyler Thomas, with his wife, Madison, and their daughters, Chandler and Evan, in front of the printing press used by the Cherokee Advocate (the last edition was printed on the press in 1906). The press is on loan from the Gilcrease Museum to the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum.

Tyler Thomas, 31

Executive editor, Cherokee Phoenix

Tahlequah, Okla.

Education: University of Oklahoma, bachelor of arts, journalism

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

Pursue your passion. Before starting college, I never imagined I would be in journalism, let alone leading the first Native American newspaper in history. But, as I grew and matured, my passion for my heritage and people did as well and now I am able to use that passion to continue a tradition at the Cherokee Phoenix that empowers and improves the lives of Cherokee people.

Through our storytelling, reporting, photography, videography and more, we, at the Phoenix, not only have the opportunity to inform and educate, but also hold our government and other governments accountable, just as our founder, Elias Boudinot, did when he began publishing the paper in 1828. That is a responsibility and legacy that I do not take lightly and am dedicated to upholding. So, my advice to young professionals is to find your passion and then work tirelessly to fulfill that passion. 

In what ways are you moving your newspaper into the future?

In 2020, the Phoenix is focused on developing and diversifying its digital products and distribution methods. We are currently creating the newspaper’s first podcast that will focus on the latest issues facing the Cherokee Nation and Indian Country as well as highlight the tribe’s vibrant culture, rich history and beautiful people. With the rising popularity of podcasts, particularly with younger demographics, our podcast will provide an opportunity to engage that audience and enhance and expand on our traditional print outreach. The redesign of our website and development of a mobile app is also a priority this year. We want to make our content and information the most accessible it possibly can be so that all Cherokees have needed information at their fingertips. 

Elizabeth Walters, 34

Executive editor, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Tupelo, Miss.

Education: University of Mississippi, bachelor of arts, journalism

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

Be willing to learn anything and everything. When I was in college, my emphasis was in broadcast. I already had a solid foundation in writing, so I chose to learn more about video production, and that proved valuable later as I helped implement online video at my first publication. Reporters have to be versatile, now more than ever. You have to be willing to go out of your comfort zone. You’ll be better for this in the long run.

Also, go wherever your career takes you. Seems pretty simple to say, and I’ve had a lot of moves and difficult choices to make in my career. Each stop in my journey provided experiences that helped me get to where I am today. And if your career takes you to a small publication, embrace it. So many areas across the country are in desperate need for strong journalists, so while your sights may be set on a major publication, think of the impact you can make in a smaller newsroom and community.

What are some lessons you learned from turning your publication into a digital-first newsroom?

Patience is key. It’s not easy to enter a new newsroom that is set with a certain workflow and start changing everything. There were a lot of conversations about why things were done a certain way and a lot of suggestions on different approaches. There are some previous practices we kept, and it was a lot of give and take.

The biggest hurdle for the newsroom was understanding that we serve different audiences in print and online and moving away from the thought that a story couldn’t go online before running in print. Once we crossed that hurdle, it became easier to discuss digital planning for stories and not minimizing the discussion on print but thinking of how we can use online to enhance the content our newsroom generates.

Joey Young, 35

Majority owner, Kansas Publishing Ventures

Newton, Kan.

Education: Hutchinson Community College, associate of arts

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

Not every job in this industry is in a city of 100,000 or more. In fact, more jobs are in small towns and communities throughout the country than you know. Grab your bags, be willing to move from a metro, and get some experience in a small town and learn to do a little of everything. When you run a small daily or weekly, have reported on city government, written great features, shot some photos, and even put some pages to bed, you will either forget about doing listicles in New York and Washington, D.C., or you will have enough experience and clips to know what you can specialize in and start moving up.

As a former sports reporter,

25 Under 35

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