Success leads to transition at 22nd Century Media

Published on August 15, 2016 | 11:13 am CDT

In just 10 years, 22nd Century Media has evolved from a startup media company with innovative ideas to one of the largest and most influential media organizations in Chicago, publishing 15 newspapers and websites serving nearly 200,000 households across three branches. Over this time, the company has earned 135 awards for editorial excellence, including more than 20 at the national level.

Thanks to the sustained growth and success of the firm, Jack Ryan, who founded 22nd Century Media in 2005, is stepping back from operation of the company, beginning a transition of day-to-day activities and ownership to three longtime employees. 

With this transition, Executive Editor Joe Coughlin is taking the position of publisher, while former managing editor and Chief Events Officer Heather Warthen will be the chief operating officer. Andrew Nicks, longtime head of sales, will assume the title and responsibility as president of 22nd Century Media.

22nd Century Media continues its growth, which includes a magazine launch this fall, a digital overhaul, increased events, and more bigger, bolder ideas.

Combined, Warthen, Coughlin and Nicks — in charge of events, editorial, and sales and operations, respectively — sport 26 years of experience at the 10-year-old media company.

Coughlin started his career with 22nd Century Media as a freelance writer in 2006 and soon became a co-editor for The Frankfort Station. In the ensuing years, he spearheaded the launch of three newspapers, as well as the company’s second branch in 2010. 

As managing editor, the University of Illinois product directed content for the now-seven North Shore publications before being named in 2015 executive editor, overseeing all of 22CM’s editorial efforts, including the Malibu Surfside News and Chicagoly magazine. 

In his tenure, Coughlin has won more than 30 editorial awards, including a national first-place finish in the Best Feature category (2014) and nine state first-place nods for writing and editing.

Warthen was the first employee for 22nd Century Media, as well as the first managing editor. Under her editorial management, the company received more than 100 editorial awards, and she personally won several honors for work at The Orland Park Prairie, including the 2009 Editor of the Year for Non-Dailies from the Illinois Press Association.  

In 2014, the Lewis University grad launched 22CM’s events division. Planning, coordinating and executing community events and expos, Warthen grew 22CM’s revenue and engaged with thousands of readers and residents throughout nine unique expos and a handful of smaller community events. 

Nicks, out of Eastern Illinois University, started in 2007 as a classified sales rep and worked his way up to 22CM’s top revenue officer. 

After meeting success in classified sales, he was named classifieds sales manager, where he developed a sales team and grew classified sales more than 50 percent for three consecutive years. Nicks ascended to sales operations manager in 2010 and within three years, the company’s revenue doubled and still continues to grow year over year. 

In 2011, Nicks was promoted chief revenue officer and currently leads sales teams in three offices — Orland Park and Northbrook in Illinois and Malibu, Calif.

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