Earlier this year, Kristen Czaban was promoted from managing editor to publisher of The Sheridan (Wyo.) Press, effective Jan. 1, 2018. She succeeds longtime community newspaper publisher Stephen Woody, who retired at age 64. When The Inlander met with Czaban, 31, during the Executive Voices meeting in Chicago, she had been acting as publisher of the 6,500 daily for a short time.
So, what’s it like to be a brand-new publisher?
I actually started two and a half weeks ago, and I’ve learned I have a lot to learn. You think you know what people in the other parts of the building do, and I do know some of that. But there are other things I need to know a little better to make the organization more efficient. We’ll get there. We’ve had good turnover on the staff with people coming in with good and fresh ideas.
I’ll bet you get this question a lot from people outside the industry: You’re young and you’re pursuing a career in newspapering. Why?
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to get into journalism. As a kid I would watch the evening news every day. And my dad would always read a newspaper. I am, though, the first journalist in my family.
What path led you to Sheridan, Wyoming?
I took journalism at Medill at Northwestern. When I graduated in 2008, I started contacting small-town newspapers across the country, and got a response from The Sheridan Press. I began as a beat reporter, covering a little bit of everything. (Czaban’s Press bio notes she covered “the entire gamut of beats including government, crime, business and the outdoors.”) In 2012, I was made managing editor.
Which at The Press is the top editorial position, correct?
You mentioned you’ve been recruiting for several open positions, and that the newspaper is attracting candidates from D.C. to California.
Our new editor is from Indiana, and we’ve got people who originally were from Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio and D.C. Our marketing director is actually from Sheridan. What I look for in (a job candidate) is curiosity. My boss Stephen Woody taught me that. If you don’t have curiosity you’re not going to succeed, you’re going to get stuck in the mud. And innovation. You need to see from the outside how we can do better.
While you’ve been in the publisher’s seat for just a very short time, you’re on your second year as an Inland Fellow. What impact has that had on your job at The Press?
It’s been great. My previous publisher was a good cheerleader for me, but it’s been great to have as my Fellows mentor Joyce McCullough (president of Miller Group Media, publisher of the NewsTribune in LaSalle, Ill., and an Inland board member). I felt I could talk to Steve about anything, but having someone outside your organization is just invaluable. For instance, we had some (human resources) issues early in the year, and she helped me through that.
Then there are the conversations with the Fellows themselves and the relationships and networking. I know I could call anyone and they would help me. Another good thing is that we bring different experiences. I came up really heavily on the news side. But we’ve got Fellows who came up on the IT side, another on the opinion pages. It’s a good mix, and you can learn from them about their areas.
You said you always wanted to be in journalism. Now that you’re there, what’s your take on its future?
Journalism is never going to go away. Quality news and quality reporting will always be important to the functioning of society. And whether its digital or some other form of technology, the reporting piece will be there. When it comes to technology, I’m kind of on the cusp of millennial generation. I grew up without a cellphone, but I’m using it really well now.
And the future of The Sheridan Press?
We’re small enough that there are plenty of opportunities for success because we’re flexible and agile.