30 Under 30 with Adam Playford

News Media Alliance announced the winners of its first “Top 30 Under 30” Awards program at mediaXchange 2016 in April, which honors young leaders working in every aspect of the news media who are contributing to the future success of the industry. Over the next several weeks we will feature profiles on the winners, highlighting their work and ideas, and how they’re helping the industry grow and evolve.

Adam Playford, the director of data and digital enterprise at The Tampa Bay Times, is much more than just a “data guy”; he’s an investigator, journalist and innovator.

He has learned many valuable lessons from his career, but he says the most important is “the power of being multi-disciplinary and working with a multi-disciplinary team.” He has enjoyed his exposure to both the reporting and digital web-based sectors of his field.  As he puts it, “In my career, having done both has really helped me.”

His talent is not limited to just one specialization; he worked as an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post and a data specialist atNewsday before starting his current position at The Tampa Bay Times. And he’s thankful for the varying opportunities he’s had; “I’m lucky enough to work with amazing reporters, programmers and writers.”

He balances his expertise in data and reporting. As Christopher Davis, a deputy managing editor at The Tampa Bay Times, wrote in his nomination of Adam for News Media Alliance’s “Top 30 Under 30” awards, “In our newsroom, he moves easily from one department to the next, like Pied Piper, coaxing people to challenge traditional thinking and to experiment with new ways to tell stories.”

At The Times, Adam contributed to a ground-breaking series on the failures of five local elementary schools in Florida’s Pinellas County. The series, titled “Failure Factories”, presented the shocking reality of the teachers, students, families and district officials involved in the struggle at these violent, failing schools. This investigation led the paper to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.

But Adam’s accomplishments in the industry extend beyond just his current position. He has been a transformative and essential figure in all three of the newsrooms he’s worked in. When Adam left Newsday to begin his job at The Tampa Bay Times, his editor wrote this about his departure: “There’s not a wordsmith alive who could convincingly spin this as a positive development, so I’m not even going to try.”

As a leader in digital enterprise, Adam acknowledges the progression of technology is changing the news industry. “Our ability to tell stories on the internet is vastly different than it was before,” he says.

And Adam has been in the industry for a long time now. He got started in high school, joining his school’s newspaper in hopes of learning more about writing. After that, he says he “caught the bug.” He continued on to be the Editor-in-Chief of his college newspaper at New York University, The Washington Square News.

As one of News Media Alliance’s “Top 30 Under 30” award recipients, Adam distinguishes himself as a young leader in the news media industry. As Christopher Davis says, “Adam Playford’s accomplishments belie his years on this Earth.”


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