After 20 Years as an Entrepreneur, Alumna Returns to News Industry as a CEO
In March 2021, Lacy Starling, '02, got a call from a community organization in northern Kentucky looking for a CEO for a start-up news organization.
They knew Starling only for her business background; after earning her Bachelor of Science in journalism from Kent State University, she went on to earn her M.B.A. For 20 years, she had been an entrepreneur.
"‘We want to start a news organization for northern Kentucky and we need a CEO,’” Starling remembers them saying. “They had no idea that I had a journalism degree, they just knew that I was an entrepreneur.”
Starling says that phone call was her “full-circle moment” to re-enter the journalism world. Today, she oversees all editorial operations for the LINK Media LLC, a solutions-focused independent media organization in northern Kentucky. She is focused on making sure the news organizations cover things in ways they haven't been covered before in the region.
“My job is to make sure that the organization runs well, that we meet our mission, follow our guiding principles and that we are a high-integrity independent news organization that does both digital and print,” she said.
With a lot to prove and not a lot of time to work on it, Starling said she immediately started to acquire editorial responsibilities and work with other companies and the team that brought her in.
“The one guy was just like, ‘You don’t know anything about this,’ and begrudgingly about six months in, he had to admit I was actually a pretty good journalist,” she said. “I just (have to) remind myself of all that, and ask people smarter than I am for help when I had sticky situations or ethical questions.”
Starling said she accredits her love for journalism to Kent State and the School of Media and Journalism (MDJ) specifically. As a former businesswoman, and currently teacher and CEO, she said she recognizes the quality of a journalism program and how MDJ prepared her and others for the journalism field.
Her own college experience was a bit unconventional. She was a dual enrollment student during her senior year of high school and took classes at Kent State Stark. She then studied journalism for two years at Ohio University, returned to the Stark Campus, and finally, completed her senior year at the Kent Campus.
Because the Stark Campus didn’t have many opportunities for her to get involved in student media, she wrote for the Canton Repository, and got involved with The Kent Stater during her senior year in Kent.
“It was unusual only doing one year on main campus but it was great,” she said. “I really enjoyed all of the journalism classes I got to take and the professors I got to work with while I was there.”
Today, as she hires people right out of college journalism programs, she says she appreciates the fact that her professors expected her to act as a professional reporter and get real sources for class assignments.
“I really appreciate the fact that Kent State was very rigorous in that training,” Starling said. “I also really appreciated the First Amendment classes I took there … I think that’s really important, especially in this day and age.”