Top 30 Under 30 with Nate Kelly

  • Kirsten Ballard
  • 06.13.2016

nate-kellyNate Kelly was a TV kid. At restaurants, his parents had to sit him where he couldn’t see the screen.

“I’m a very visual person,” he says. “I was so enamored with it.”

It paid off; Kelly is now the Senior Digital Video Planning Editor at The Arizona Republic. His fascination with television and technology grew into a passion for journalism. He enjoys the ability to see a story, the emotion and action.

He describes his work as “controlled chaos,” but in the best way. His days are spent looking at analytics and finding the right video opportunities. He carefully sorts through the proper video content for each story.

“We’re not going to spend three months working on a long-form video that we know the engagement time isn’t going to be eight minutes,” he says. Some stories only get text on a screen or a voice over. “There’s a certain intuition that comes with it,” Kelly says. He worked in viral video for three years, and suggests that newsrooms look for the novelty in the story.

The photography team at The Republic has been trained to shoot video on the DSLR cameras. It was a difficult transition, but now the newsroom has footage from each story.

The videos are loaded in a building block format. He doesn’t wait for it to run in the press the next day.

“Give me the nuts and bolts of a story,” he says, so he can have expertise, even just from the reporter, to run in the video. The article and video are published online and married on the site.

Then he does another interview, more video, and slowly builds it into a package. Experts are brought in.

“It’s the antithesis of print, where you make sure everything is perfect and you can’t change it,” he says. “Get something up, get something up quickly and then build on it. It’s something that can be grown as it happens.”

Looking at digital media, Kelly wants to be aggressive at a local level. He works with his team to experiment with virtual reality and 360-degree video. He says it is a challenge to work with technology that is outdating itself in three to six months.

“It’s about understanding how we can tailor not just content, but actual journalism and finding the right way to tell that story through such a new medium,” he says.

As one of the News Media Alliance’s Top 30 Under 30, Kelly thinks it’s a person’s attitude and not age that gives them an edge.

“I have reporters 30 years older than me doing video and coming to me with video ideas. I think the elephant in the room is obsoletion; the industry as a whole fears that, reporters fear that,” he says. “We have to be proactive about the reality. Resting on laurels and saying we’ve always done it that way is kind of poisonous.”

He thinks publishers are in a good place, and refers to it as the golden age of news. Having come from TV, he enjoys the freedom of not having to do a nightly newscast and time it out with commercials.

“[Newspapers are] competing with TV stations and TV stations are stuck. Nobody goes to a TV station website like they do with a newspaper website. I think we’re in a really good spot. As people continue to cut their cable cords and grow digital, broadcast is about to go through the same slump newspapers did five years ago.”

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.


  • Kirsten Ballard
Kirsten is the Social Media and Blog Editor at the News Media Alliance.