Eight executives selected for NEX GEN mentoring program


Eight newspaper executives from SNPA member newspapers have been selected to participate in SNPA's inaugural "NEX GEN" class.  They will be paired with experienced industry experts in a structured mentorship program.

"The quality and quantity of those nominated almost perfectly reflects the diversity of SNPA members – in news organization size, geography and ownership, " said Howard Hoffman, SNPA's member services director. "In short, the results have truly exceeded even our most optimistic hopes as to how this would unfold in its first year."

Selected for participation are:

Meet the NEX GEN class of 2014:

Todd Benz

TODD A. BENZ is director of audience development at the Times-News in Burlington, N.C.  His long-term goal is to be the publisher of a community daily newspaper.  Short-term, he wants to broaden his horizons outside of circulation to include more advertising experience.

"This program will provide me with an opportunity to grow professionally in the industry while allowing me to view current challenges and opportunities from a different perspective," Benz said.  He also hopes NEX GEN will offer the opportunity for innovation "by providing ideas and solutions that can be brought back to my local franchise."

Paul W. Mauney, publisher of the Times-News, says Benz has made "significant improvements" in the paper's circulation department over the last several years – in both efficiency and overall effectiveness, both operationally and from a revenue-generation perspective.

He said the approach Benz takes to problem-solving is positive, constructive and always very creative.

Michael Chauvin

MICHAEL CHAUVIN was nominated by Pamela J. Browning, publisher of The Post and Courier in Charleston, who describes him as a "very bright up-and-coming professional."  She said: "It is individuals like Michael that will lead our industry in the future."

Chauvin, who currently serves as classified advertising manager, began his career in the billing department and learned the inside workings of advertising,  Browning said he was quickly recognized by his manager as someone who was highly capable and able to do much more. 

Browning said, "Michael has led several key projects at The Post and Courier, such as implementation of Adpay and Gabriels.  He is also very well known in the real estate industry.  His work in advertising and with his clients reaches beyond selling.  Michael is a good ambassador for the newspaper and willing to go above and beyond to help."

Chauvin said he believes NEX GEN will help him develop a broader perspective and understanding of the challenges within the industry. "I am always excited about an opportunity to be part of a program that is based on growth, learning and teamwork.  I believe mentor programs are the best way to develop in a career."

Nathan Edwards

NATHAN EDWARDS has held sales management positions with The Greenville (S.C.) News as an automotive sales manager, with the Chattanooga Times Free Press as a classified director and currently is vice president of sales with The Augusta Chronicle.

He said: "By listening and watching leaders from varying positions throughout the organizational structure, I hope to acquire the following: tips on how to bring talent to our sales team, ways to increase readership and subscriptions through audience-aimed initiatives and bring back ways to transform our company's perception by borrowing ideas from other mainstream media markets."

He was nominated by Dana T. Atkins, president of The Augusta Chronicle.  Atkins noted that Edwards directs the multi-media sales activities of The Augusta Chronicle, three weekly newspapers and the paper's SMC/TMC products.  He said, "Over the past two years, Nate has orchestrated both organizational changes and product/service improvements that underwrite the success our business unit has achieved in two successive years."

He said Edwards "has been recognized across Morris Communications as a leader and innovator, and has gained the unanimous consent of our publishers, corporate executives and owner as a rising star."

Alison Gerber

ALISON GERBER oversees a newsroom of 102 staff members in her role as editor and director of content for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. 

She is looking to the NEX GEN program to introduce her to best practices in areas where she wants her paper to improve and succeed, such as: digital/print integration, multimedia storytelling, cutting-edge design that captures readers' attention; and the use of data to better serve readers.  She said, "I also hope to learn from a strong leader about ways to energize and motivate staff members while navigating the challenges of an ever-changing industry.  I want members of my newsroom staff to do the best work of their careers, and I want to develop the tools to help them do so."

In nominating her for consideration, Jason Taylor, president of the Times Free Press, said: "Alison already has demonstrated her talents within the profession, rising from reporter to managing editor, and now editor at a relatively young age.  Alison has led our newsroom into new areas of growth, opportunity and innovation over the last several years.  She is a hard-working, dedicated professional.  Her innovative approach to newsroom management combines with a drive for improved efficiency that is much needed in the newsrooms of tomorrow."

Ann Poe

As a newer executive at her company, ANN POE says she is looking for an opportunity "to grow both personally and professionally by learning from other experts outside of my company to ensure that I am driving innovation in this changing industry."

Susie Ellwood joined the Austin American-Statesman as publisher in December 2012 and said she could tell "right away that (Poe) was a rising star.  On February 1, 2013, she was promoted to director/audience and joined the senior executive leadership team.  Then in September we added marketing responsibilities to her role and promoted her to senior director/marketing and audience."

She says Poe "has stepped up to the plate as a key leader in the paper's transition to digital, including the launch of the paper's paid subscription model, digital day passes, subscriber retention, engagement, Life-Cycle marketing program and more.  And, she has exceeded targeted metrics on every front."

She said Poe has a bright future in the newspaper industry.

Brian Simms

BRIAN SIMMS manages a group of 14 designers and copy editors, in his role as design director for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com. 

Rufus Friday, president and publisher, says Simms "has become a valuable member of our team and has developed into one of our best 'generator of ideas' (including revenue-producing ideas as a newsroom guy)."  He said Simms also is a key liaison with the advertising and audience divisions.

Simms has shown himself, Friday said, to be "a leader on the production desk, an innovator and a risk taker."  He said Simms very professionally took on many of the management responsibilities of news production/technology after the loss of this position two years ago and just completed a redesign for the print product.  He says Simms is "extremely talented and has contacts throughout the industry in his field and has become very savvy on the digital front."

Simms said of this opportunity: "I'm eager to learn from leaders in our industry on possible innovations and other ways to keep readers engaged and wanting more from us."


Michael Strain

MICHAEL STRAIN is the news editor of the Tulsa World where he supervises section editors and works with a newsroom of 100 employees.

His long- and short-term goals are to focus on:

  • Staff improvement – He strongly believes that any business will only be as good as its people.
  • Engagement – He wants the Tulsa World to become more engaged with its audience ... "to build a relationship with our audience – an ongoing, two-way conversation."
  • Providing value – He wants to consistently provide products, both in print and online that are relevant and give value to the paper's audience.
  • New revenue – He wants to help position the paper to maximize opportunities, in print and especially from the website.
  • Changing culture – With the sale of the paper to BH Media Group in the spring of 2013, the emphasis has been on becoming a media company, instead of just a newspaper.  "That requires clearly communicating a vision and leading a cultural change," Strain said.

Bill Masterson Jr., president and publisher of the Tulsa World, said: "I am very excited for Mike to have this opportunity. Mike is a visionary and a person that can help this industry transform into its new model of the future. For him to have the opportunity to be mentored by successful leaders of the past and present can only help in Mike's development."

Britni Williams

BRITNI WILLIAMS began working with the E.W. Scripps Co. at the San Angelo Standard-Times in 2010 as a field sales specialist.  She has had two promotions since then and currently is the advertising operations manager.  Long-term, she would like to work for Scripps as a publisher.

She applied to be part of the NEX GEN program, knowing that it will help her gain outside perspective and challenge her to re-look at the existing ways that she approaches her position.

Her publisher, Jeff DeLoach, recommended her as "one of the best young professionals I have worked with in years."

He describes her as a fast learner, always asking mature questions ... "a true sponge, wanting to learn all she could."  He says she is accountable and holds her staff accountable.

While working in circulation, Williams helped DeLoach establish a weekly reporting spreadsheet for all four Scripps Texas papers, developed an extensive "new start" retention reporting system, enabling the staff to track and measure all new orders (updated monthly), and established an on-going Kiosk EZ-Pay program that had never existed at the three papers in West Texas.

When DeLoach decided to realigned the paper's advertising department, he moved Williams into an advertising career path, which led to her current position as advertising operations manager.  DeLoach says she has earned the respect of long-time veterans in the department and ad revenue is growing in San Angelo!

Would you like to nominate someone for the NEX GEN class of 2015?
Information and nomination forms for the Class of 2015 will be available this summer on the SNPA website and in the eBulletin.


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