2019 Spring Conference Speakers Announced

We are excited to welcome a great line up for the 2019 Spring Conference.


Virgil Smith’s media career spans forty-four years with McClatchy and Gannett companies.  During his stint in McClatchy he served as city circulation manager for The Sacramento Bee, Circulation Director and Consumer Marketing Director for The Fresno Bee.  At Gannett, he worked in a number of roles including assistant to the Senior Pacific Group President, Associate Publisher and President and Publisher of The Stockton Record, President and Publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times, and Vice President of Talent Management, Talent Acquisition and Diversity for Gannett.
In 2015, he retired and launched the Smith Edwards Group.  He is the principal consultant and works professionally with the Asian American Journalists Association, Z Smith Reynolds Foundation and FOX News.
Smith holds a Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degree from the University of San Francisco and an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of North Carolina, Asheville.  He is married to Dr. Joann Smith and they have three adult children.
Aaron Kotarek is Senior Vice President - Audience & Operations at Oahu Publications, Inc. (OPI), the flagship operation of Black Press. He joined OPI in May of 2015 as Vice President, Circulation. Aaron is responsible for publishing and building operations, overall audience growth, consumer revenue enhancement, digital platform engagement and supply chain logistics for the media company’s entire product portfolio. Aaron also spearheads national and global sales & marketing efforts for the industry leading and award winning Digital Billboard Network location based video platform.
Aaron recently received special recognition from the Inland Press Association as he was named to their prestigious “Top 18 to Watch in 2018” list.
Kotarek has also held various executive leadership positions within several large media chains including Thomson, A.H. Belo, Cox Enterprises, Morris Communications, the Omaha World-Herald Company, and Ottaway-Dow Jones. While at Thomson Newspapers, Aaron was twice awarded the prestigious President’s Award for Marketing Excellence by then Thomson President & CEO Stuart Garner.
Kotarek is regularly a featured speaker at industry summits nationwide on topics ranging from consumer subscription revenue growth, audience extension, digital engagement strategies, how to become a broadcaster and business transformation. He is a self-proclaimed brand ambassador for print/digital publishing and broadcast industries, and he doesn’t apologize for being a print evangelist.
Wendy Reeves is a seasoned sales and marketing professional with over fifteen years of hands-on management experience in the publishing and retail industries, and is passionate about leading diverse teams through new initiatives.
Wendy manages the relationships with the LEAP client coalition. She uses her marketing experience and knowledge of the media industry to provide expert advice to her customers. Prior to joining LEAP, Wendy worked for McClatchy for thirteen years. In her most recent role as the Regional Director of Audience Development – East Region, she  delivered more than 90,000 new customers annually via national and regional award-winning marketing programs driven by direct response, print and online advertising, email marketing, social media, telemarketing and intercept sales; as well as targeted and special event marketing and public relations. She also led efforts to increase audience engagement with McClathcy’s digital products.
In 2015 she lead the East Region through a newspaper redesign and lead a corporate team working to launch a corporate-wide loyalty program. In 2012, she led the cross departmental team that launched metered access for The News & Observer’s mobile and online products, coordinating technical and marketing staff in a massive effort throughout the McClatchy company. One of her most innovative achievements was the creation of the “N&O Zone,” a loyalty rewards program that set the standard across the company and led to her being named one of Presstime Magazine’s “20 under 40” in 2008.
Wendy is also active in annual United Way campaign drives, having previously served as the Vice Chair for Wake County and garnering the Chairman’s Award of Excellence for Employee Participation. In 2007 she helped launch The News & Observer’s annual charity event, Feed the need
Need, to support the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC.    She is a 2002 graduate of the University of Virginia and lives in Apex, NC with her husband and two children.
John Newby after a 10-year stint as a weather forecaster and climatologist in the U.S. Air Force, John moved into a successful 28 year media career leading various departments and newspapers from the Omaha World-Herald, Sandusky Newspapers, The Small family and finally in Muskogee with the CNHI.
He is the Founder of the 360 Media Alliance, a news-media industry think tank as well as the Founder of Uniquely USA – a tourism marketing and branding initiative rolling out in several States.
Recently, he became very active in community economic development and branding. He is the Founder of Starved Rock Country, a regional branding initiative in Northern Illinois generating tens of millions in new growth spinning off regional branding initiatives including concerts, marathons, events, magazines and aggressive E-commerce business platforms.  Since he was named the poster child of the Newspaper Next initiative with the “Delivery QC” loyalty platform years ago, he has a passion for building customer loyalty and retention programs that build loyalty and grow revenue.
His favorite quote sums up his outlook on transformation; “If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.”
John’s hobbies are history, economics, sports and traveling so that he and his wife Kathy can see their nine children spread throughout the country.
Christian (Chris) Hendricks is managing partner for Extol Digital, a business consultancy focused on helping media and media-related companies create and execute successful strategic and tactical business plans. He is also president of the Local Media Consortium.
Chris currently serves on the board of directors for Moonlighting, Recruitology, the Local Media Association Foundation and the Maynard Institute. He is also an advisor to LiveIntent, Admiral, The Fresh Toast, and Impact Venture Capital.
Chris is a well-known media executive, having served a 25-year executive stint at McClatchy where he led its digital efforts from 1994 until retiring in 2017. He has also served on boards of many for-profit and non-profit companies and organizations including Cars.com, Careerbuilder, Apartments.com, and the News Media Alliance.
Managing Partner, Extol Digital
(916) 207-0047
Tony Simmons is Director of Distribution Operations & Technology with Gannett Company and a member of the executive committee of the Gannett Publishing Services division. He is based at their corporate headquarters in McLean, VA. Tony is responsible for developing and managing GPS’ technology vision and strategy, including its distribution network optimization efforts, enterprise reporting and national postal operations. In 2011 Tony managed the deployment of RouteSmart Online for Gannett’s community newspapers, and in 2013 opened its Route Optimization Center, which supports route optimization strategies across Gannett’s 109 local markets. In 2017 he led the implementation of a parcel delivery program in Phoenix, Arizona, and last year he led the implementation of the DoorFront Direct magazine delivery program at 26 of Gannett’s largest newspapers. He works closely with other Gannett divisions to align GPS strategies with broader corporate priorities.
Prior to accepting his current role in 2013, Tony served in senior leadership positions in circulation, market development, IT and production operations, including stints in Louisville, KY, Westchester, NY and Asbury Park, NJ.  Tony is an eighteen-year Gannett employee and a three-time winner of its prestigious President’s Ring.
Tony came to Gannett after ten years with the former Journal Register Company of Trenton, NJ, having most recently served as corporate circulation director.
He is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelors’ degree in Organizational Leadership. Tony is married with a thirteen-year-old son. He and his family live just outside of Washington, DC.
Arvid Tchivzhel Senior Director, Product Development has over ten years of experience leading strategy and guiding companies to make analytics actionable. He currently oversees development and delivery of new products and services, as well as internal processes, analytics, staffing, and business development.
In response to the revenue shift in the media industry, he led the development of Listener a modern data platform built from the ground-up to solve the most critical questions for media companies across audience, advertising, and content. The platform enables services that blend Big Data technology and predictive modeling, hands-on strategic business consulting, and the experience to create a vision and act. He strongly believes the path to success with clients is based on trust, partnership, and a focus on long-term goals.
Arvid’s past engagements working with lotteries, hotels, services firms, non-profits and “big box” retailers include analysis and projects such as optimal payout studies, demand estimates, high-level sales forecasting and retailer-level stocking models, retailer segmentation, retailer density analysis, measuring price elasticity, measuring marketing impact, and customer segmentation.
Arvid holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish, both from Furman University.



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