Justin R. Lessman, general manager and co-owner of Jackson-based Livewire Printing Co. and publisher of the Jackson County Pilot, the Lakefield Standard and the Livewire, is the new president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association.
Lessman was elected president at the organization’s annual meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11.
He assumes the office most recently held by Chris Knight, regional president/publisher for APG’s northern Minnesota region. Knight will transition to the position of past president on the MNA Board of Directors.
Chad Koenen of Henning Publications is the association’s new first vice president, Crystal Miller of the Albert Lea Tribune is second vice president and Diann Drew of Alexandria Echo Press is third vice president. Other board members are Mark Weber of APG-East Central Minnesota, Tara Brandl of the Tracy Area Headlight Herald, Lisa Schwarz of the St. Cloud Times and the newly elected Kelly Boldan of the West Central Tribune of Willmar.
Lessman began his career in journalism with his hometown newspaper, the Tracy Headlight Herald, and later interned with the Marshall Independent. He earned his undergraduate degree in agricultural journalism from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. As lead staff writer for the SDSU Collegian, he was awarded a William Randolph Hearst Award for in-depth reporting.
He edited an award-winning semi-weekly newspaper in Powell, Wyo., for three-and-a-half years, overseeing a talented news staff annually recognized for excellence in journalism by the Wyoming Press Association.
He taught journalism at Kansas State University’s A.Q. Miller School of Journalism from 2006 to 2007 while earning his master’s degree in mass communications. His thesis explored ethical decision-making processes of community journalists and the effect of community standards on those processes.
While at K-State, he also served as interim adviser to the 90-member news staff of the daily K-State Collegian and assistant adviser to the 15-member staff of the school’s alumni magazine. He coauthored and edited the book, “Community Readiness Communications: Accurate Messages in Times of Crisis,” published in 2007.
He joined Livewire Printing Co. in 2008 and helped lead the flagship Jackson County Pilot to first-place general excellence honors in the MNA’s Better Newspaper Contest for several years and to the title of Minnesota’s Most Outstanding Weekly Newspaper and the coveted Mills Trophy in 2015.
He is a 2010 graduate of the Minnesota News Media Institute and Blandin Foundation Rural Editors and Publishers Community Leadership Program and has served on the MNA’s Journalism Education Committee, Advertising and Digital Media Committee and Member Services Committee. He has chaired the MNA’s Advertising and Digital Media Committee and Member Services Committee and is current president of the Minnesota News Media Institute. He was elected to the MNA Board of Directors in 2015, most recently serving as vice president.
He makes his home in Jackson with his wife, Amber, and three children, Taryn, 15; Caledon, 12; and Messina, 9.