This issue, “10 Questions” checks in with new Colorado Press Association board member Jill Farschman, who became publisher and co-owner of the Washington Park Profile along with husband Jay after purchasing that newspaper in February 2015.
They bought two more area publications in June 2016: Life on Capitol Hill and Neighborhood Life. All three are free circulation monthlies, covering a contiguous metro Denver area with circulation of 50,500. Jill is responsible for client and agency relations, national account sales, community relations and business strategy. Jay is the newspapers’ tech/design/production guru. The couple lives in the Denver neighborhood of Platt Park with Comet, a 4-year-old rescue Pomeranian. Here’s Jill’s take on her life, her newspapers and the industry:
1 – Where were you born, where did you grow up, and what were you interested in as a kid, especially considering your mother was a newspaper editor?
I was born in Niscayuna, N.Y., and spent my formative years in Iowa before the family moved to the Bay Area in California. I lived all around that area before relocating to Denver in 1995. My mother was always inspiring – bright, articulate and witty. It wasn't until us three kids were in high school that she finally got to apply her degree from Northwestern. She started out as the “Question Man” for the Gilroy (Calif.) Dispatch and was eventually promoted to lifestyles editor. Growing up, I was always attracted to the humanities – music, art, theater, writing, dance, whereas my two brothers and father lived on the other side of their brains. They thought quarks, mathematical equations and black holes were acceptable topics for casual dinner conversation. At her core, my mother is a creative person and that resonates with me.
2 – As far as education, you earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in speech communication from San Francisco State University. How did you decide on your major, and what career path had you planned?
I started out as a marketing major and fell in love with speech communication when I took a public speaking class as a freshman. I realize that makes me a weirdo since most people abhor public speaking. My original career path was to be a college professor, something I did as an adjunct faculty member during and after graduate school. I taught all around the Bay Area, driving about 600 miles a week between different community colleges.
3 – You started out in advertising management and editorial for a monthly publication in San Francisco, then a sales assistant for another company. So began a long, varied career, including as a grant writer, executive director, adjunct college professor, district service manager, training manager, digital vice president, and several posts in workforce management firms. And now you’re a publisher. How did the change from corporate to journalism worlds take place?
As eclectic as my background may seem, being in publishing is an incredibly varied profession. I need to sell, collaborate, write, lead, mop the floor, deliver papers. By the time I am ready for retirement, I suspect this job will have exploited every bit of the seemingly disparate skills learned throughout my career. I am particularly grateful for my ability to read financial statements. Today, Denver Metro Media LLC is the parent company for our full-services digital agency and monthly community newspapers. The company is owned by me and Jay Farschman, with our editor Haines Eason having an interest as well.
4 – You were selected by CPA Board President Bart Smith to fill an in-term vacancy after a director recently resigned. How did that come about, and what will you be working on for the boards in 2017 – including the new SYNC2 Media board beginning in April – on committees and such?
Originally, Jerry Raehal reached out to gauge my level of interest. Because our team has benefited greatly from CPA/SYNC2 Media membership, it seemed right to step up. Organizations like CPA/SYNC2 Media are a reflection of their members’ levels of engagement. I was honored to be asked. As for committees, I am such a newbie that my plan is to apply my skills wherever I can be of service.
5 – You’ve said you want to represent monthly community newspapers and help them become more involved in CPA. What specifically do you think would benefit these newspapers the most in the industry?
In the age of fake and fast news, monthlies have the luxury of producing accurate, slow news. We all need to know how to maximize productivity while maintaining the highest editorial standards possible. We also benefit from fostering a high trust environment where it’s okay to be vulnerable. Sure, at the end of the day, we’re all competing for advertising dollars. But, I have an abundance mentality and believe there is enough to go around for everyone to succeed.
6 – Among your many professional certifications, you are an SPHR – Senior Professional in Human Resources. How has that training helped you hire and manage staff in the newspaper industry?
Actually, it was a big decision to let my SPHR lapse this year because the certification process was pretty grueling. I’d say the residual benefits from my HR background are that I have a decent chance of keeping our workplace safe, legal and staffed with talented people.
7 – You began working in January with the South Pearl Street Association, in your own neighborhood. What is your job function for them, what’s in the planning stages and what are the challenges of that organization?
South Pearl Street Association is a nonprofit trade association of merchants located on or in near proximity to South Pearl Street in Denver. It was an easy decision to join their volunteer board since our office is located in this neighborhood where we’ve also lived for 20-plus years. We have a vested interest in ensuring the neighborhood remains vibrant. The challenge of all such organizations is similar to that of a local community paper – getting people to think and shop locally.
8 – Would you name your top three mentors and how they influenced you?
There were a couple of very generous professors at College of Marin (in California) who gave me a lot of encouragement. My thesis advisor, Dr. Susan B. Shimanoff, was brilliant and an expert in gender and communications. I was fortunate to have her take me under her wing. Finally, in the corporate arena I had a beloved mentor, Bob Valentine, who was very special. I worked under his leadership at two different companies and he never stopped pushing me to be my best. He really believed in me and knew how to build high-performing teams. He was tragically killed in a car accident in 2007 – a loss that haunts me to this day.
9 – You support a wide variety of charitable and other organizations. Which do you anticipate working more closely with and on what projects in 2017?
Like everyone else, my spare time is extremely limited. So, for the next few years my volunteer time will focus mostly on professional organizations like CPA/SYNC2 Media and South Pearl Street Association. To assuage my guilt for not doing more, I financially support organizations, particularly those working for women’s equality and human rights.
10 – Do you have a neat office, desk, email, and what would we find there?
Frequently you'll find our dog Comet on my desk although he’s not really crazy about anything resembling work. My desk is neater than most, but only at the start and end of each day. There are times when my desk looks like it’s been attacked by a rabid badger, but for the most part I keep things organized or it makes me anxious.