Meet the NEX GEN class of 2017-18
DON BLANKINSHIP, regional sales manager, Pilot Media, Norfolk, Va.
Don Blankinship has spent the past 17 years in advertising, marketing and sales. His team at Pilot Media serves some of the largest regional businesses in Southeastern Virginia and represents all facets of the Pilot's product portfolio – from print and digital, to niche publications, to research services and events. He is a board member and marketing chair of the United Way of South Hampton Roads and a board member of StartWheel, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and startups launch successful and sustainable businesses.
JENNIFER DAVIDSON, regional audience development manager, Burlington (N.C.) Times-News, The Courier-Tribune in Asheboro (N.C.) and The Dispatch, Lexington, N.C.
Jennifer Davidson is no stranger to the newspaper business. She started her career as an independent kiosk contractor right out of high school, which led to a job at the Winston-Salem Journal. Her path to her current position included work as a single copy sales coordinator at The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., and as single copy manager at the Wilmington Star News.
LAURA GARCIA, features editor, Victoria Advocate, Victoria, Texas
Laura Garcia is the features editor and an award-winning health and nonprofits reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She previously worked at the Longview News-Journal, Corpus Christi Caller-Times and The Roanoke Times. She was accepted into fellowship programs for the National Press Foundation, Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the Association of Health Care Journalists and The Poynter Institute with the Association of Opinion Journalists.
TIM HORTON, digital sales director, Amarillo Globe-News, Amarillo, Texas
Tim Horton began his career in cable television. In 2002, he made a transition to advertising sales with the Cox Broadcasting group, and in 2009, he joined a small digital agency helping SMBs make the transition to the digital space. He joined Morris Communications in 2011 as a digital media specialist and was promoted to sales manager one year later. After several years helping The Florida Times-Union move from impression-based selling to solutions-based, client-focused selling, he was named digital sales director for the Morris property in Amarillo, Texas, in 2014.
ASHLEY HOWARD, circulation digital audience development manager, The Oklahoman Media Company, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Ashley Howard was hired by The Oklahoman in 2015 to oversee its NIE program. In addition to leading the company's NIE initiative, she also oversees digital audience development and manages promotional offers, direct response campaigns and a variety of engagement efforts. Howard has implemented strategies that have allowed The Oklahoman to begin reporting engagement with its paid digital products to AAM, and promote steady incremental growth year over year.
NICOLE McMULLIN, online brand director, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Va.
Nicole McMullin is charged with refining and promoting the online brand presence for the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Richmond.com, in social media and through video. She partners with departments across the operation to create and promote digital products with a focus on customer engagement, user experience and revenue opportunities. She believes that connecting people to information that helps them in their daily lives is a key component to the future of media.
KIM PHILLIPS, advertising manager, Venice Gondolier Sun, Port Charlotte, Fla.
Kim Phillips was looking for a change after a 12-year career in mortgage lending when she joined the Venice Gondolier Sun a little more than five years ago. She initially was hired as an advertising account executive, was promoted to department manager in 2016, and now leads a team of seven account executives, one graphic artist and one support staff. She works closely with editorial, circulation and production teams to improve processes and develop new products.
SHERMAN SMITH, managing editor, The Topeka Capital-Journal, Topeka, Kan.
Sherman Smith has been with The Topeka Capital-Journal since 2004. He has been the managing editor for the past year and a half and previously was responsible for developing the company's digital audience, running the website and various special projects. He got his start at the newspaper on the copy desk, editing stories, designing pages and writing headlines.
STEPHANIE SPIESS, publisher, Sidney Herald, Sidney, Mont.
Stephanie Spiess started her newspaper career in 2008 as an advertising representative in Portsmouth, Ohio, after four years in the finance industry. She was promoted in 2010 to a regional online sales manager for Civitas Media covering 19 newspapers in five states on the East Coast. In 2014 she transferred to London, Ohio, where she served as a general manager until her move to the "Wild West" of eastern Montana in 2016.