Meet Our Board Members


Eric NeSmith

Vice President of Development Community Newspapers Inc., Athens, Georgia; Publisher, The Bitter Southerner

Eric NeSmith got ink in his blood through his fingertips. He was 8 years old when he started inserting at his father's weekly newspaper, The Press-Sentinel, in Jesup, Ga. He stood on a Coca-Cola crate to help him reach the inserting table. That was over a quarter-century ago.

Majoring in journalism at the University of Georgia, Eric plunged into reporting in Cashiers and Highlands, N.C., where he was a college intern for several months.

The seasonal reporting job for the Community Newspapers Inc.-owned papers turned into a 10-year career in the mountains. During that time, Eric also served as a sales representative and later became publisher of CNI’s first real-estate magazine. He was then promoted to publisher and editor of the Highlands paper, The Highlander, in 2007. At 26, he was the youngest publisher in the company.

Under Eric’s leadership, The Highlander received many accolades, including a first place for general excellence from the North Carolina Press Association and being named Best of CNI in the company's Better Newspaper Contest, which considers both editorial and financial performance.

Four years ago, Eric was promoted to vice president of development for the company and moved with his family — wife, Connell; son, Bayard; and daughter, Stella — to Athens, where CNI is based, and was named to the company’s board of directors.

In his current role, Eric develops and implements strategies to guide the growth of CNI’s publications in the digital age – never wavering in his belief that strong newspapers build strong communities. In 2016, Eric formed a new division of CNI — Community New Media — and invested in The Bitter Southerner, an award-winning digital publication that covers the American South. In addition to his duties at CNI, Eric serves as publisher of The Bitter Southerner.

Last year, Eric and Connell were members of the Leadership Georgia class of 2015. And Eric continues to serve on the alumni board of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, where he currently serves as its past chair. He also serves locally on the Prevent Child Abuse Athens board of directors as well as the Athens-Clarke County Bike and Pedestrian Committee.

Eric's other honors and activities have included:

  • Being recognized nationally as one of Editor and Publisher magazine’s 25 under 35.

  • Named one of Georgia Trend magazine’s 40 under 40, as well as the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 under 40.

  • Serving on various boards, including Leadership Highlands, Highlands Rotary Club, the Highlands Chamber of Commerce, the Highlands Historical Society and Big Brothers Big Sisters. In 2012, his last year in Highlands, the Chamber named him one of two Lifetime Honorary Members, and the community chose him for the Robert B. Dupree Award for “outstanding community service” in Highlands.

  • In 2013, Eric received the National Newspaper Association’s Daniel M. Phillips Leadership Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership to the community newspaper profession.