Speakers Showcase

Get to know our 2017 conference speakers – thought leaders and industry experts from across the country and Virginia.


Thomas French, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, has spent the past quarter century redefining the possibilities of journalistic storytelling, both in his writing and in his teaching around the world.

French grew up in Indiana and attended journalism school at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, where he was a Poynter scholar and editor-in-chief at the Indiana Daily Student, and where he won a Hearst award for a profile of a giant hog at the Indiana State Fair. An editor at the St. Petersburg Times read the hog story and hired French, just as he was graduating from IU, as a night cops reporter.

French spent the next 27 years at the Times, covering hurricanes and criminal trials and the secret lives of high school students. He experimented with narrative techniques both on deadline and nondeadline work and specialized in serial narratives, book-length stories published one chapter at a time.

In 1998, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and a Sigma Delta Chi award for Angels & Demons, a series that chronicled the murder of an Ohio woman and her two teenage daughters as they vacationed in Tampa. Two of his other serials, A Cry in the Night and South of Heaven, were later published as books. Zoo Story, a project that explored the inner world of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, was published in book form by Hyperion in July 2010.

He wrote his latest book, Juniper, with his wife, journalist and fellow professor Kelley Benham French. Juniper, an account of their daughter’s premature arrival at 23 weeks gestation, was published by Little, Brown in fall 2016.

French is a Writing Fellow at the Poynter Institute and has taught there for more than 25 years. He also teaches in a nonfiction masters program at Goucher College, outside Baltimore, and has led narrative workshops across the U.S. and around the world, from the Nieman conference at Harvard to newsrooms in Dubai, Singapore and Johannesburg.

He is proud to have returned to his alma mater and is currently teaching Narrative Journalism, Story Mechanics, Depth Sports Reporting, Words & Pictures and Behind the Prize. Since he began teaching at Indiana, his students have won multiple first-place awards in the Hearst competition and have won four writing championships at Hearst, outpacing every other journalism program in the country in that contest.

gilbertAs Director of Strategic Initiatives at The Washington Post, Jeremy Gilbert works to identify, create, and execute unique digital products and storytelling experiences. He works closely with The Post’s engineering, product design, graphics, audience, analytics and advertising teams. In this role, Gilbert figured out how to tell the story of the 2016 presidential race with 3D printers, built The Post’s first automated stories, created The Post’s first virtual reality project, initiated the use of 360 cameras, oversaw it’s first augmented reality story, built a freelance network that changes how The Post covers national stories and launched a new leadership vertical.

Prior to coming to the Washington Post, Jeremy served as the Deputy Editor, Digital for National Geographic. Before Nat Geo, Jeremy was an Associate Clinical Professor of Journalism and Director of Technology and Space Design, teaching graduates and undergraduates at Northwestern’s Medill school and Segal Design Institute for five years. He started his news career as an art director at The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla.

bryan-chester-head-shot-1Named one of Editor & Publishers 2015 Top 25 Under 35, Bryan Chester has been instrumental in shaping the Columbia Missourians digital first business model.  He is passionate about the future of media and is constantly looking for new strategies and opportunities to ease the transition from a print-centric publishing model. Before taking over as General Manager in 2016, Bryan spent 8 years working his way through the advertising department to Director and is credited with significantly growing digital ad revenue while simultaneously diversifying the Missourians digital revenue streams. In addition to consulting with numerous Missouri newspapers on digital business strategies, specifically web monetization opportunities, he has been a featured speaker for the National Newspaper Association as well as the Missouri Press Association and is currently serving on the board of the Missouri Advertising Managers Association.  A Chicago native and alumnus of the University of Missouri and Columbia College, Bryan holds bachelor’s degrees in Business-Marketing and Sociology as well as a Master’s Degree in Higher Education.

lucyDean Lucy Dalglish came to the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland on August 1, 2012. For the previous 12 years, she served as the executive director of the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press. The Reporters Committee is a voluntary, unincorporated association of reporters and news editors dedicated to protecting the First Amendment interests of the news media. Prior to that service, she was a media lawyer in Minneapolis and a reporter and editor for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

In 2012 Dalglish was honored with the Kiplinger Award by the National Press Foundation and received the Wells Memorial Key in 1995 – the highest honor bestowed by the Society of Professional Journalists. She is a charter member of the National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame.

A world-renowned leader on First Amendment issues, Dean Dalglish appears frequently in print, online and broadcast.

Dalglish earned a juris doctor degree from Vanderbilt University Law School in 1995; a master of studies in law degree from Yale Law School in 1988; and a bachelor of arts in journalism from the University of North Dakota in 1980.

federeric_lowEric Feder focuses his practice on media and intellectual property litigation. He has represented corporate and individual clients in a wide variety of complex commercial litigation matters. Eric is an associate at the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.



caitlin_vogusCaitlin Vogus is the first Stanton Foundation Media Litigation fellow at the Reporters Committee. She will spend the two-year fellowship working on First Amendment and free press litigation matters, with a focus on access to courts and freedom of information litigation.

Vogus was previously an Attorney Advisor in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission. Prior to working at the FCC, she served as law clerk to the Honorable Rossie D. Alston, Jr. of the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Vogus earned her bachelor’s degree in American Studies in 2007 from the University of Virginia, where she was executive editor of The Declaration, a weekly news and humor magazine. She earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2010. She was previously a volunteer for the Digital Media Law Project and a summer associate at Levine, Sullivan, Koch, & Schultz, LLP.

brownJay Ward Brown helped found Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP (LSKS) in 1997 and currently serves as the firm’s Managing Partner. He has been representing news and entertainment companies for more than two decades and has litigated libel, privacy, copyright, subpoena, and access matters in the U.S. Supreme Court, federal and state appellate courts, and trial courts around the country.

Jay has been described in Chambers USA as “a lawyer who delivers continuously high-quality service,” possesses “impeccable analysis and impressive writing skills,” and has a “friendly, approachable and attentive demeanor [that] sees clients wanting to use him exclusively.”

For a number of years, Jay served as national defamation counsel to the NAACP and was privileged to accept the NAACP’s Civil Rights Champion Award, which was given to LSKS “for outstanding pro bono service and commitment to advancing civil rights and social justice.”

As a public television journalist before law school, Jay produced or wrote many of the late Fred W. Friendly’s award-winning programs on the Constitution, the press, law, and ethics. In 2007, Jay took a three-year leave from private practice to help Hiscox, a Lloyd’s of London insurance syndicate, open its U.S. claims operations. Jay headed the company’s North American media claims unit until he returned to LSKS in 2010.

Penelope (Penny) Muse Abernathy
is a journalism professional with more than 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and senior media business executive, who specializes in preserving quality journalism by helping the news business succeed economically in the digital media environment.

Abernathy, a former executive at the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, is the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics.  She focuses her expertise on developing 21st-century economic models that will improve the ability of journalists to produce news in the public interest.  Her book, Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability, which is being published by UNC Press in April 2014, is based on five years of research, involving more than two dozen newspapers around the country.

As a senior executive, Abernathy was responsible for both creating and implementing strategies at some of the nation’s most prominent news organizations and publishing companies, including the Journal, The Times and the Harvard Business Review.  She oversaw the successful launch of new multimedia enterprises, which helped increase both revenue and profit.   She was also vice president and executive director of industry programs at the Paley Center for Media in New York City, which counts as its members some of the world’s leading media companies and executives.

Before moving to the business side of the industry, Abernathy, a Laurinburg, N.C. native, served as a newspaper reporter and editor at several daily newspapers, including The Charlotte Observer, The Greensboro News & Record, The Dallas Times-Herald, The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, The Fayetteville Times and The Laurinburg Exchange.  She was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame in 1998.

schmittTim Schmitt has spent decades in various newsrooms — some print, and some broadcast. He was a sports reporter, news reporter, and then managing editor of his hometown paper, the Tonawanda (N.Y.) News, where he led an award-winning editorial page. He’s worked as an editor, staffer or longtime contributor with the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff, the Mesa Tribune, the Arizona Republic, the alt-weekly Buffalo Current, and the Niagara Falls Gazette, where he was executive sports editor over four dailies — spearheading coverage of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres. He also worked as a weekend anchor and reporter at Buffalo’s ABC-TV affiliate, WKBW, and was the news director of WLVL-AM in the Buffalo market, where he hosted a daily two-hour talk show covering local politics and current events. He moved to Austin to join GateHouse in early 2015.

Brian J. Couturier
is the manager editor of The Progress-Index in Petersburg, Va., for the past 10 years. Before that, he was a presentation editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Brian has been a journalist for 30 years, working for a variety of newspapers on the East Coast.


pooleDavid Poole founded the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) in 1997. He is a Florida native and graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. He worked as a newspaper reporter from 1983 to 1997. His last assignment was state capital correspondent for The Roanoke Times and Virginian-Pilot. He commutes two miles by bicycle from his Fan District home. He and his wife, Clare Tilton, have a son, Tucker.


Mike Martoccia
has been in the media industry for more than 28 years, from corporate digital management roles to regional advertising and marketing positions with some of the largest newspaper groups in the country.

He is a Corporate-based Digital Revenue Director for BH Media Group, with responsibility for digital revenue growth, sales training and development. BH Media Group owns and operates more than 60 newspapers and affiliated websites in 10 states, as well as a digital agency. BH Media Group operates more than a dozen Virginia newspapers and website platforms, including The Richmond Times Dispatch.

Prior to BH Media Group, Martoccia was the corporate digital revenue and sales development director at Civitas Media and its 80 community newspaper markets across 12 states. Prior to that role, he spent 10 years with The McClatchy Company, including the Charlotte Observer, where he oversaw digital, retail and real estate advertising teams for North Carolina and South Carolina. His experience also includes leadership roles at CNHI Media, where he was a regional advertising and marketing director for the Indiana division, interim publisher at Lebanon (IN) and Zionville (IN), and publisher in their Greenville (TX) market. He’s also been a national sales and development trainer for Local Media Association and its 2,500 member newspapers and broadcast companies.

He has been actively involved with many of the industry’s top organizations. He’s been a panelist and speaker at more than a dozen national and state conferences, including Newspaper Association of America, Local Media Association, and Inland Press.

Adam Cook
is the Research Director at CraniumTap, a research division at Pilot Media in Norfolk, Virginia.  His division oversees the development and implementation of research projects spanning multiple Pilot Media properties and businesses throughout the region and state.

He has over 16 years experience in marketing, communications, and consumer research.  His research work has earned him eight national awards, two international awards and recognition by ResearchRockStar.com.  He’s been published in three separate editions of the world’s leading marketing research magazine.  And he regularly speaks at research conferences on the national and international stage.

He and his team work and consult with dozens of businesses at the regional, national and international levels.  Some organizations and categories they’ve worked with include: Old Dominion University, The University of Virginia, Sentara, Virginia Ship Repair Association, The Port of Virginia, Long & Foster, The United Way, LifeNet Health, Hampton Roads Transit, S.L. Nusbaum, Dominion Enterprises, Gannett, The Irish Times, The Guardian, and a number of regional leaders in the retail, food-service, and non-profit sectors.

He’s a member of the Insights Association, Professional Research Certified and lives with his wife and two children in Norfolk, Virginia.

Mike Carroll is the Owner, Trainer & Coach of Sandler Training in Richmond, VA. An mike-carroll-head-shotAuthorized training center of the Sandler Training Global Network, which has five decades of experience offering professional development solutions for small to mid size businesses, and Fortune 1000 corporations in 27 languages.

Before Mike began assisting teams and individuals overcome common sales frustrations and barriers to business growth in 2000, he spent the first four years of his business career on the frontlines of sales where he experienced the many rewards and challenges of the sales profession. In 1978 he was the architect, co-founder, President and CEO of MicroMagnetic, Inc., a company specializing in the distribution of computer related products. The company grew from a 2 person organization to over 75 team members with offices in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. In 1998 MicroMagnetic was acquired by Corporate Express, a publicly held, international company