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Five NewStart fellows named for new master's program

NewStart Newspapers on the Press

Five journalists from across the country were awarded NewStart fellowships to study Media Solutions and Innovation at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media. NewStart and the new one-year online master’s program were created in partnership with the West Virginia Press Association (WVPA) to train the next generation of community media owners and publishers.

Funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports the five fellowships, and although the fellowships are no longer available, applications for the master’s degree program are still being accepted.

“Current events and economic conditions have created an environment conducive for learning and growing as a media entrepreneur,” said Jim Iovino, NewStart director. “There is still a great need for credible local news outlets in this country, and the coming year will likely see a lot of innovation in the media industry. This new online master’s program examines new business models during this time of forced innovation, and the NewStart fellows are diverse in geography and professional experience, allowing for a rich educational atmosphere.”

NewStart fellow Tony Baranowski

NewStart fellow Crystal Good

NewStart fellow Miles Layton

NewStart fellow Becky Pallack

NewStart fellow Andrew Weiler

The inaugural NewStart fellows include Tony Baranowski, the director of local media for Times Citizen Communications in Iowa Falls, Iowa; Crystal Good, the founder and CEO of Mixxed Media in Charleston, West Virginia; Miles Layton, editor of the Perquimans Weekly based in Perquimans County, North Carolina; Becky Pallack, product manager at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson; and Andrew Weiler, an entrepreneur and digital media producer from Wahkiakum County, Washington.

Baranowski has worked for family-owned community newspapers for more than 15 years. At Times Citizen Communications, a small, diverse multimedia company in north central Iowa, he manages operations for the Iowa Falls Times Citizen, a 3,000-circulation twice weekly; the weekly Ackley World Journal; The Advertiser shopper; in-house radio station KIFG; and The Link, a press release distribution service that works with clients nationwide.

Good is an artist, advocate and entrepreneur, who aims to revive a West Virginia newspaper that would serve the African American community. She is a noted poet and member of the Affrilachian Poets, a group of diverse writers from Appalachia. She has spoken at universities, colleges and festivals internationally, including TEDx, and was featured on the West Virginia Episode of Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain and the award-winning “Hillbilly: The Documentary.”

Layton has worked as a reporter and editor for several newspapers, including the Tyler Star News in Sistersville, West Virginia; the Intelligencer in Wheeling, West Virginia; the Herald-Standard in Uniontown, Pennsylvania; and the Chowan Herald in Edenton, North Carolina. He has won press association awards in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Pallack is a longtime reporter who collaborates with cross-functional teams to create websites, apps, guides and email newsletters for the Arizona Daily Star. In 2016, she co-founded a digital news vertical called #ThisIsTucson (thisistucson.com), a startup venture and learning lab for the Arizona Daily Star and its parent company, Lee Enterprises. Pallack also serves as president of the Arizona Press Club.

Weiler is an entrepreneur who specialized in digital production for commercial, documentary and feature films before shifting his focus to advancing civic engagement and strengthening community identity through journalism. Weiler is a former intern for Berkeleyside, where he focused on market research. He now works as a business development intern and provides local resources and news coverage of COVID-19 for The Wahkiakum County Eagle.

For more information on the M.S. in Media Solutions and Innovation or to apply, visit mediacollege.wvu.edu/msi. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree. Students interested in owning a newspaper will have an opportunity to work with NewStart, which identifies small-market, independently owned newspapers in areas with economic growth potential that are ready for transition.

"Many of the current generation of owners and publishers are ready to retire and want to see their community newspapers remain independent and locally owned,” said Don Smith, WVPA executive editor. “NewStart develops the entrepreneur journalists to lead these local news operations and gives the new owners the education, tools and insight to be successful in this new media marketplace.”

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, and is collaborating with regional development and financial institutions. Learn more at www.newstart.media and follow @wvunewstart for updates.