Introducing the 2020-21 NewStart Fellows

The West Virginia University Reed College of Media and the West Virginia Press Association are pleased to welcome the first cohort of fellows into the NewStart program for the 2020-21 academic year.

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 WVPA to train the next generation of community media owners and publishers.

"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.”

Funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports the five fellowships.

“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.”

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.

“I am absolutely biased in favor of small media operations because I've witnessed the profound impact they have on the communities they serve,” Baranowski said. “I'm excited to participate in the NewStart program because I want to do anything I can to better position myself to spread the gospel of community journalism, to advocate for what has been the past and must be the future of newspapers.”

Meet The Fellows

Tony Baranowski

Tony Baranowski is a lifelong Iowan who has worked for newspapers his entire professional career. He’s currently Director of Local Media for Times Citizen Communications in Iowa Falls, a small but diverse multimedia company in the north central part of the Hawkeye State. Tony manages all aspects of operations for the Iowa Falls Times Citizen, a 3,000-circulation twice weekly, another weekly, the Ackley World Journal, a shopper, the in-house radio station, KIFG, and a press release distribution service that works with clients nationwide, The Link.

Tony started his newspaper career in 2000 as a sophomore in college, applying for what he thought would be a “go-fer” part-time position for the sports desk at his hometown daily, the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier. He quickly found himself thrust into learning to keep stats, interviewing coaches over their post-game smokes in the parking lot, and calling NFL draftees for comment. He learned to proof pages, meet deadlines and be a pest to sources.

It was immediately clear he’d found his calling. Baranowski added to the sports gig, writing features and restaurant reviews for the student-run newspaper at the University of Northern Iowa, where he was a better reporter and editor than student. Tony progressed to the Executive Editor role at the Northern Iowan but, more importantly, he met his journalistic and personal match, Sara Konrad. It was there that they learned to be newsroom leaders, and tolerate working with each other. Their advisor at the Northern Iowan, longtime Des Moines Register reporter Jack Hovelson, performed the couple’s marriage ceremony in 2005. Sara Konrad Baranowski is now the Editor of the Times Citizen, a member of the Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Media cohort, an award-winning reporter in Iowa and nationally, and without question Tony’s better half. She was also one of Editor and Publisher’s 20 under 40, but only because Tony wrote her nomination…

Tony’s first post-college newspaper job came at the Tipton Conservative, where he was Sports Editor for the 5,000 circulation weekly in southeast Iowa. Baranowski worked for second generation owner and publisher, Stuart Clark, the perfect example of a small-town community newspaperman. At the Conservative, Baranowski became a better reporter, pasted up his own pages and learned to shoot and adjust photos.It was Sara’s career that took the Baranowski journalism team to north central Iowa. After completing her master’s degree at the University of Iowa, Sara accepted a position at a corporate owned daily while Tony was hired at the Times Citizen. A year later the Iowa Falls paper recruited Sara to the community journalism ranks where she became editor soon after. In 2010 Tony was promoted to Director of Local Media not long before the couple celebrated the birth of their twins, Sam and Lucy.

In Iowa Falls, Tony learned from owner and publisher Mark Hamilton and general managers Jo Martin and John Goossen. He was asked to take on leadership roles within the company, the communities it serves and the Iowa Newspaper Association. He was part of the INA’s first ever Leo Mores Newspaper Leadership Institute and now serves as an officer on the Iowa Newspaper Services Company’s Board of Directors.

When he’s not moderating comments on the Times Citizen Facebook page, Baranowski enjoys being outdoors, hiking and fishing with his family, sampling craft beer, and spending too much energy on Twitter advocating for community journalism and newspapers. He’s president of the local nature center’s Friends membership group and volunteers at his kids’ elementary school in Iowa Falls. He and Sara hope to own a newspaper or newspapers in the not too distant future, which is what brought the NewStart fellowship at West Virginia University to their attention.

Above all, Tony is passionate about community journalism and loves spending time talking about how they can survive, thrive, and bring vitality to rural areas. Winning a NewStart Fellowship is a highlight of his career and he can’t wait to work with the whole class.

Crystal Good

Crystal Good is a sixth-generation West Virginian from Kanawha County. She is hard to put into just one category inside and out of her regional identity she holistically categorizes herself as: artist, advocate and entrepreneur. In all these roles she applies her passion and skill for communication to develop new opportunities, seek solutions and enjoyment while making her art -- artist, advocate and entrepreneur -- a living experience.

Crystal leads with innovation. Her pursuits to foster dialogue often use traditional and non-traditional approaches that blend performance art and social media. Her methods to incorporate these landscapes have led her down many paths of study, inquiry and service. Crystal’s quest to integrate artist, advocate and entrepreneur sparked the (made up but completely real) office of Social Media Senator for the Digital District of West Virginia, a title she holds. In this role Crystal leverages technology and social media to provide new mediums for fieldwork and organization and understanding toward digital and political literacy.

It is in her often unconventional approaches to connecting -- arts, advocacy and entrepreneurship -- that has led her to be recognized by the West Virginia NAACP, West Virginia Governors Earl Ray Tomblin and Joe Manchin, as a 2018 WVU Martin Luther King Awardee, and most recently with Heroes Are Gang Leaders for the American Book Award in the Oral Literature category.

Crystal is a noted poet and member of the Affrilachian (African American Appalachian) Poets, an influential group of diverse writers from Appalachia. Crystal has performed internationally in five countries (and counting). She has shared her ideas, stories and poems across many stages that include TedX, numerous Universities and Colleges, coffee shops, festivals, living rooms and was recently featured on the West Virginia Episode of Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain and the award-winning “Hillbilly: The Documentary.” Her first book of poetry, Valley Girl, was hailed by the Huffington Post as “… an astonishing new voice into the national poetry circuit.”

As a change agent, Crystal combines her many years of corporate experience from roles as director of communications for Jackson Kelly PLLC to director of brand development with Mythology to a founding member of Create West Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to the development of a West Virginia innovation economy to CEO of MIxxed Media to develop creative communities in conferences, workshops and listening sessions.

Crystal finds that living in the heart of Appalachia allows for a curious isolation and connectivity that fosters a pure creativity, something uniquely American. She knows the value of place and identity and how to make “lemonade out of lemons” -- except there are no lemon trees in Appalachia. There are however many tapestries. Crystal has learned and practiced the art of taking these fabrics of life to make a quilt with her signature hand stitch: relationships.

Miles Layton

Miles Layton is returning to Mountaineers' country to pursue a graduate degree in the NewStart program within the West Virginia University's Reed College of Media.

With the skills learned and contacts made through this prestigious and innovative program, Layton and his family aspire to own or manage a newspaper in West Virginia, Mountain Mama.

Presently, Layton is serving as editor of the Perquimans Weekly, a weekly newspaper based in Perquimans County, North Carolina.

Prior to joining The Perquimans Weekly, Layton worked for newspapers large and small during his career as a reporter and editor. After graduating from East Carolina University, he attended graduate school at Ohio University, where he studied journalism and business.

Layton has worked for several newspapers, including the Tyler Star News in Sistersville, W.Va., the Intelligencer in Wheeling, W.Va., the Herald-Standard in Uniontown, Pa., and the Chowan Herald in Edenton, NC.

Layton has won various press association awards in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Layton and his wife Nicole, who is editor of the Chowan Herald, have three children: Samantha, Robert and Joseph. When Layton is not writing, he and family enjoy being on the water, sailing and kayaking through the various waterways in northeastern North Carolina.

Becky Pallack

Becky Pallack is a product manager at the Arizona Daily Star, where she collaborates with cross-functional teams to create innovative products including websites, apps, guides and email newsletters.

She was a longtime reporter who covered just about any beat you can think of and enjoyed being a generalist. She is passionate about community journalism that's helpful, relevant and valuable to readers.

In 2016 she co-founded a digital news vertical called #ThisIsTucson ( It operates as a startup venture and learning lab under the umbrellas of the Arizona Daily Star and its parent, Lee Enterprises.

The team is learning how to attract a younger digital audience and how to sell digital products in new ways. Pallack is an intrapreneur and mini-publisher. She is developing the business model, which includes sponsored content, events, and membership.

She is among the winners of the Google News Initiative’s Innovation Challenge and the Knight News Innovation Fellowship from The Tow Center at Columbia Journalism School. She is on teams that have received grants from the Facebook Journalism Project and the Online News Association’s Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education.Pallack is a four-time winner of the Lee Enterprises President's Award for Innovation in Digital Audience and a three-time winner of the Arizona Newspapers Association's Freedom of Information Award. She is president of the Arizona Press Club.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northern Arizona University.

Andrew Weiler

Andrew Weiler is an entrepreneur who has specialized in digital story producing for commercial, documentary and feature films. His core focus is to advance civic engagement and strengthen community identity through innovative journalistic methods. Andrew believes that a human-centric approach to business and audience development is how independent newsrooms can sustainably provide desirable, viable and feasible offerings. Through the NewStart fellowship, Andrew intends to become a leader of local independent newsrooms in rural communities.

In 2016, Andrew graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. His interest in non-fiction storytelling in particular inspired his pursuit of documentary filmmaking in Chicago. A summer internship with Kartemquin Films, a powerhouse documentary producer and incubator, provided Andrew opportunities in a variety of roles to tell human-centric and social-impact stories.

Eventually, Andrew was hired as an Operations Manager for another documentary producer, Kindling Group, where he started an immersive internship program and oversaw all organizational functions. Three years in the documentary industry was surprisingly unsatisfactory to Andrew because of the inaccessibility of the medium -- its technology, funding and process -- to independent filmmakers.

In response to documentary's limitations and because of a personal interest in serving underrepresented and underserved communities, Andrew made a shift to journalism. He believes that the medium of journalism can more efficiently address the information needs and be a watchdog for small towns.

Andrew is a fifth-generation resident of a rural community in Washington state where The Wahkiakum County Eagle , a weekly publication, has been based since 1891. Andrew now works remotely with The Eagle as a business development intern as well as provides local resources and news coverage of COVID-19 on their website.

Prior to the NewStart fellowship, Andrew attended Northwestern University's Media Entrepreneurship and Innovation graduation program through the Medill School of Journalism. The master's program focused on media product management, start-up business models, web development and design for local news. Through the program, Andrew spent three months in the Bay Area interning with an online local newsroom and startup, Berkeleyside. For Berkeleyside, he performed market research, business development support and human -centered design to supplement the newsroom's planned expansion into other cities.

The Media Solutions and Innovation program at the WVU Reed College of Media will provide Andrew with a rigorous educational experience and help define him as an industry leader. He looks forward to a career in journalism and serving communities whose information needs have historically been underserved.