By Elise Czajkowski • LMA contributor
There are many women in local media who inspire us every day. Today we want to focus on the 17 women who serve on the Local Media Association and Local Media Foundation board of directors. They represent a great cross-section of the industry. They include entrepreneurs, innovators, news leaders, advertising and marketing gurus, digital executives and more.
“For the first time in LMA’s history, women outnumber men on our boards,” said Nancy Lane, chief executive officer, LMA, “This was intentional and part of our publicly-stated KPIs that we announced in 2018. Starting in 2021, the next four chairs of the LMA board will be women. It’s thrilling to reach this important milestone.”
All of these women are doing incredible work. Be sure to follow them on social media and via industry events.
Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, Graham Media Group and First Vice Chair, LMA board of directors
Catherine Badalamente has been at the forefront of the changing television landscape and transition to new media throughout her career. Under her leadership, Graham Digital has transformed from a small group of part-time employees to a leading edge development company.
Currently, Badalamente is leading Graham’s efforts to prove that membership is a viable model for broadcast media. With a grant from the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge, Graham has tested the membership model on stations in San Antonio, Detroit, Jacksonville and Houston. The goal is to diversify broadcast media’s revenue while the medium is still popular, and help convert loyal TV viewers into regular online readers.
Chief Digital Officer, Allen Media Broadcasting / Heartland Media and Second Vice Chair, LMA board of directors
Lisa Bishop is a digital monetization and product specialist who has led transformational change in the local media industry for the past 21 years. In her role at Allen Media Broadcasting, Bishop oversees all digital operations, including strategy, product, monetization, and development of audience and revenue for the growing station group.
During COVID-19, Bishop pivoted Allen Media Broadcasting’s client focus to companies that still operated and thrived during the pandemic, like roofing companies and nurseries. The company began offering email campaigns on home improvement and explored virtual home shows to act as a lead generation model.
President and Publisher, The Post and Courier and Secretary, LMA board of directors
Pamela (P.J.) Browning became senior vice president with Evening Post Industries and president of Evening Post Industries Newspaper Division in July of 2013. She is also president and publisher of The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.
The Post and Courier recently launched “Uncovered,” a new investigative series documenting the growing problem of news deserts in the state. Browning and her team put together a comprehensive plan about the new series to show readers how much this type of journalism costs and why community contributions are necessary to fund the project. In the first six weeks of fundraising, the paper raised more than $406,000.
Managing Editor for Digital, Times Union and Secretary, Local Media Foundation
Erica Smith is the managing editor for digital at the Times Union in Albany, N.Y., with a passion for innovation and data. She previously worked at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as well as broadcast and digital media organizations.
In her second trip through the Table Stakes program, this time with the Times Union, Erica is leading change within the newsroom by focusing on audience needs, developing a training program, deploying an analytics tool that makes data actionable for reporters at the story level, and leading a committee that seeks ways to earn and keep the trust of readers.
Publisher, The Atlanta Voice and Treasurer, LMA board of directors
Janis Ware is a second-generation owner of The Atlanta Voice who took over the operation in 1991. She also oversees SUMMECH, a community housing development corporation, as its executive director.
Ware, who took over The Atlanta Voice from her father, says that Black media are just as important now as they were when the paper started in 1966. “All of the conditions that were prevalent then, they still exist today,” she said. As the paper continues to experiment during its digital transformation, Ware is using her business management degree to be nimble and expand the paper’s reach. That includes retrofitting the old printing press bay into a 3,000-square-foot digital production studio for multimedia content.
Executive Vice President and Publisher, Record-Journal and Immediate Past Chair, Local Media Foundation
Liz White is the fifth generation in the family business of the Record-Journal in Meriden, Conn., with a demonstrated history of helping the business evolve, especially in cutting-edge digital strategies.
In an effort to better serve its audience and community, The Record-Journal used grant funding to launch a three-part listening initiative. White and team reached out to nonprofit leaders in the area to ask how the news organization could provide better coverage about underserved communities, particularly during the pandemic. White said the strategy for reaching out to local leaders led to “new opportunities, new ideas, more engagement, more revenue, and better community partnerships.” This work earned White and her team Company of the Year from the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford, and recognition from Editor & Publisher Magazine as one of 10 “News Publishers That Do It Right.”
Senior Advertising Director, The Seattle Times
Amber Aldrich oversees the sales and operations teams at The Seattle Times, both of which are dedicated to excellent client service and results that exceed expectations. The sales team consults with clients on marketing needs and makes strategic recommendations to reach their goals, while operations works to execute these marketing plans on time and on budget.
When Seattle became one of the first areas hit by COVID-19, the Times switched its monthly Lunch and Learn series to a series of virtual events focused on helping local businesses survive the pandemic. Aldrich’s team was positioning itself as a B2B service, focused on topics like social media or branded content. The virtual events drew larger crowds than any in-person meetings, and the ability to post the events online later has served as a lead generation tool.
Founder, Black Girl Media
Shana Black is the founder and publisher of Black Girl Media and Black Girl in the CLE, a collaborative blog that shares the experiences of Black women in Cleveland and showcases events and issues in the city. A former K-12 educator, she launched the media organization in 2016. The brand now spans newsletters, a podcast, website, events, and social media.
Black leads a vision for fighting against inequities and issues impacting the quality of life in North East Ohio. In 2021, Black Girl Media joined Amplify Ohio, an LMA collaborative that supports business transformation and stories focused on health disparities that impact Black and LGBTQ communities. She said her news organization thrives on telling good stories, and spent months documenting public art in Cleveland with the goal of uplifting people of color.
Director of Digital Sales, Sinclair Broadcasting Group
Jodelle Bailey is an experienced digital marketing leader with over 15 years of experience. She helps broadcast sales teams navigate the ever changing landscape of digital marketing. Bailey is responsible for working with markets across the country to help them achieve their digital strategies and monetary goals. She is a digital evangelist inside and outside the company.
At Sinclair, Bailey is focused on training frontline sales staff and managers to lead the digital sales force. By empowering local managers across the network, she helps each market tackle its specific sales and marketing goals.
Managing Editor, WBEZ/Chicago Public Media
Tracy Brown joined WBEZ, Chicago Public Media in 2019 as managing editor after spending more than 25 years in newspapers. She leads the station’s news operation of more than 40 editors, reporters and producers for both online and broadcast. Tracy oversees editorial decisions regarding enterprise reporting, investigations, daily news and special projects.
In the past year, under Tracy’s leadership the WBEZ newsroom has launched an investigation into modern-day redlining in local mortgage lending, led national coverage on the racial disparities of COVID-19, experimented with a citizen’s driven approach to covering elections, and continues its push to grow diverse and younger audiences. Tracy has also led WBEZ’s participation among 19 other newsrooms in LMA’s Solving for Chicago, which explores the plight of essential workers through the race and equity lens.
Senior Manager, Engagement and Retention, Star Tribune Media Co.
Toby Collodora is a digital content leader working to navigate the balance between journalism and storytelling with business needs and revenue opportunities in the ever-changing local media landscape.
At Star Tribune, Collodora is focused on subscriber retention. Her team has found that monthly subscriber-only emails, sent from an editor and featuring “behind the scenes” content, contributed to a 4.4% improvement in subscriber retention.
Sonny Messiah Jiles
CEO, Defender Network
Sonny Messiah Jiles leads the 90-year-old Houston Defender with a focus on elevating the Black perspective and important issues through multimedia journalism. She bought the media company from the original owner at age 27 and advocates for the crucial role of the Black press as an engine for justice and equity.
In recent years, Jiles has doubled down on business sustainability and transformation, investing in fundraising, events, and digital audience growth. Jiles broke records with a fundraising campaign at the onset of COVID-19 that helped raise more than $109,000 for the Defender’s local COVID reporting; successfully engaged a new events strategy; and was instrumental in the Houston Defender Network receiving a fully funded grant from the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge — which will support, among other projects, newsletter development and a new content management system.
Publisher, The Aspen Times and Associate General Manager, CMNM West
Samantha Johnston joined The Aspen Times after serving as executive director of the Colorado Press Association for three years. As publisher, she manages overall operations and resources, developing long-term vision and strategy, ensuring our financial success, human resources and negotiating vendor contracts. Under her leadership, The Aspen Times is launching a membership program and a Sustainability Lab, supported with insight from LMA’s Innovation Mission and Lab for Journalism Funding.
When the pandemic hit, The Aspen Times saw an immediate drop in ad revenue from businesses that were curbed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Johnston pivoted quickly. The paper launched a donation button and doubled down on providing valuable, relevant local news, both of which brought compliments from readers. The paper also produced pandemic-specific COVID seasonal guides, including one called “Aspen Silver Lining.”
Founder and Client Success Officer, Dream Local Digital
Shannon Kinney has more than 25 years of experience in the development of successful internet products, business models, and online sales and marketing strategies. She has worked on teams developing successful internet brands such as cars.com, careerbuilder.com, Knight Ridder Digital and more than 60 online media properties for newspapers all over the U.S. and Canada.
As the founder of Dream Local Digital, Kinney is focused on helping media companies transform through the creation of new digital revenue streams and consultative selling, and through working with small and medium-sized businesses directly to grow their online marketing and social media reach. In the 12 years of the company’s history, team members have helped more than 60,000 small businesses through workshops, webinars, live events, and client work.
Senior Vice President, Chief of Staff, Torstar Corp.
With a track record of leading people and businesses through transformation, Pam Laycock has worked to create an impactful and high-performing culture led by innovative thinking.
Before becoming chief of staff, she held the role of senior vice president, transformation and strategy, working with Torstar’s leadership team to enable the organization to execute a top-to-bottom transformation, from advertising-driven to customer-focused and data-driven. She also trains new and upcoming executives in leadership as an instructor at Schulich School of Business, York University.
As president of RTM360°, Tanisha Leonard drives business growth via the development of custom marketing programs which leverage RTM’s strategic partnerships and deep understanding of engaging local African-American communities to create nationally impactful narratives.
For 16 years, Pancakes and Politics has been a popular breakfast forum in Southeast Michigan for local leaders to discuss important issues in the region. During the pandemic, the forums moved to Facebook Live, which allowed them to expand the impact of the program. The virtual events allowed more people to participate while still maintaining some of the intimacy of the smaller, in-person events.
Senior Director of Brand Agency and Sales Strategy, Graham Media Group
Stephanie Slagle is responsible for multiplatform revenue, driving digital confidence and driving digital talent at Graham Media Group’s local media hubs. Slagle has more than 20 years of media experience with companies such as Dispatch Broadcast Group, Lin Media, and Sinclair Broadcasting Group.
At Graham Media Group, industries like auto dealers, home services, healthcare and education have become the biggest buyers of digital marketing services. Slagle told Inside Radio that these companies have become less interested in buying products and more interested in buying results. Slagle has focused on helping customers understand what a conversion means to them so that “the user does what you want them to do.”