Innovative media members who want to engage their audiences in new ways, develop clients’ branding and marketing strategies and encourage innovative storytelling are the 2021 NewStart Fellows at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media.
NewStart and the one-year online M.S. in media solutions were developed last year in collaboration with the West Virginia Press Association to train the next generation of community media owners and publishers. NewStart works with state press associations to identify small-market, independently owned newspapers in areas with economic growth potential that are ready for transition. Each of these NewStart fellows has a desire to own and operate a local media outlet.
This year’s NewStart fellows include Sara Fiedelholtz, chief creative strategist at thinkbox strategies in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Larry Graham, founder and COO of Diversity Pledge, Inc. in Perrysburg, Ohio; Maggie McGuire, owner and editor-in-chief of the Moab Sun News in Utah; Alicia Ramirez, a web producer at CBS Los Angeles; Jan Risher, principal at Shift Key in Lafayette, Louisiana; and Brennan Stebbins, a freelance reporter and photographer in Joplin, Missouri.
Fiedelholtz has launched close to 60 magazine and multi-media brands, eight of which were for her own media companies. She has worked on staff for several Fortune 500 companies as an editorial director, publishing director, editor/reporter, creative strategist and special projects editor. Most recently, she was editor-in-chief for Fort Wayne Magazine, where she oversaw the development and launching of several successful brand extensions and established collaborative relationships with other local and regional media outlets. Fiedelholtz now works full-time for the creative strategy firm thinkbox strategies, which she founded in 1993. She manages business development, branding, marketing and strategic initiatives for clients.
Graham is the founder and COO of Diversity Pledge Inc., an organization dedicated to solving the industry’s diversity pipeline problem. He spent the majority of his career leading sports journalists in newsrooms across the country including ESPN.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and The Kansas City Star, just to name a few. Most recently, he served as deputy director of local news transformation at the American Press Institute, where he built tablestakes.org. Graham is on the board of directors for the APSE Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering diversity in sports departments, and co-chairs its flagship program, the Diversity Fellowship. He’s also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Online News Association.
McGuire is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Moab Sun News in Utah. She purchased the paper in March of 2021 after working as managing editor for two years and is currently examining and updating the paper’s systems as well as deepening its connection to the larger community through partnerships with local nonprofits, libraries and museums. She hopes to expand the paper’s audience and reach to include the area’s millions of yearly tourists. McGuire is originally from Detroit where she worked in public relations, youth development and social justice, including six years spent spearheading multiple viral information campaigns for the ACLU of Michigan as its digital media strategist.
As a web producer at CBS Los Angeles, Ramirez works to bring both breaking news and feature stories to a larger audience through the use of social media. Prior to CBS, Ramirez was a designer and editor at the Chicago Tribune. Her career as a journalist began with Cornerstone Publications, an independently owned outlet in Castroville, Texas, where she spearheaded an effort to get the papers online with the first website and social media accounts. She was promoted to news editor and was recognized multiple times by the Texas Press Association.
Risher has covered hurricanes along the Gulf, the Iraq War, Louisiana politics and more during her time as a journalist. She has won numerous awards for investigative reporting and feature writing. She writes a Sunday newspaper column titled “Long Story Short” that is published in The Acadiana Advocate and currently owns and manages Shift Key, a public relations firm that helps organizations identify and find innovative ways to tell their stories. In 2018, the University of Louisiana Press published her book, “Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and other Long Stories Short,” a collection of newspaper columns published between 2002 and 2017. She is also the co-author of “Team Renaissance: The Art, Science and Politics of Great Teams” and has ghostwritten several business books and memoirs.
Stebbins, a freelance reporter and photographer, began his journalism career at the age of 14 with a weekly column in his hometown paper. He’s written for more than a dozen newspapers and magazines since. He served as sports editor of the Carthage Press and Pittsburg Morning Sun and has also written for the Miami News-Record, Vandalia Leader, Webb City Sentinel, West Valley View in Arizona, Ozarks Sports Zone in Missouri and Missouri Life magazine. He has earned regional and national recognition for editorial writing and was named Journalist of the Year by the Missouri College Media Association.
Crystal Good, one of the inaugural NewStart fellows, recently launched Black by God The West Virginian, an emerging storytelling organization dedicated to providing Black West Virginians with relevant news.
“Crystal has worked so hard this past year to make her print dream come true while continuing to build her digital audience and platforms,” said Jim Iovino, Ogden Newspapers Visiting Assisting Professor of Media Innovation and director of NewStart. “This is just one example of the invaluable work NewStart fellows are doing across the country during a time when there is a great need for credible local news outlets. We’re eager to shepherd this next class of diverse NewStart fellows through the master’s program.”
The M.S. in Media Solutions and Innovation program is completely online and concludes with a capstone course where students do a hands-on research immersion with a news organization. For more information or to apply, visit mediacollege.wvu.edu/msi. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and have an interest in owning or managing a local newspaper.
NewStart has received funding from the Knight Foundation and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. It is also supported by the West Virginia Press Association and other regional press associations, regional development and financial institutions, the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, Vantage Ventures and the West Virginia Small Business Development Center. Learn more at www.newstart.media and follow @wvunewstart for updates.