Our Team

Aaron Mandel – Founder



Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the former editor and publisher of the Clarion Content, a multimedia and consulting company. For more than five years, the Clarion Content’s media arm, under Mandel’s direction, has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content’s consulting arm represents a bevy of artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs; from classically trained painters and sculptors to hip-hop MCs, from professors and consultants to inventors.

Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer, produced numerous art shows, and was recently a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference held in Durham, NC. He was also the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league, this summer. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana and Baja California, Mexico.


Jess Dilday – Editor-in-Chief, Publisher



Jess Dilday is Clarion Content’s current Editor-in-Chief and regular contributor. Jess originally moved to Durham to be a part of vibrant communities centered on music, art, and activism. She sees Durham as a place where people don’t just sit at a bar and talk about great ideas and rad projects – we put them into action.

Her other alias is DJ and producer, PlayPlay. She is in a constant musical conversation with her public, speaking across generation, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality to create an all-inclusive dance floor. PlayPlay has opened for Big Freedia, MC Lyte, TT the Artist, Dai Burger, Double Duchess, Le1f, Jubilee, MikeQ, Cakes Da Killa and others. She is one of the organizers and resident DJs behind Party Illegal (a monthly dance party in Durham) as well as the creator and organizer of several themed parties at the Pinhook, including the Dreaming of the 90’s and Dark Entries parties.

Jess is also an independent scholar, regularly guest lecturing at universities.

Javier Sandoval – Vice President



Javier Sandoval is a teenage entrepreneur who now teaches entrepreneurship at Brown University.

Hired as an office assistant during The Clarion Content’s startup stage, Sandoval went beyond and was promoted to vice president and given part ownership in early 2012. Sandoval is now responsible for managing team members and client accounts, improving the company’s efficiency, and growing the clientele base.

​With The Clarion Content, Sandoval has consulted, marketed for, and/or promoted  TriClean, Runaway Clothes, Alchemy Dimensional Products, Vaguely Reminiscent, LiLa, Mark Coffman, Sustain-a-Bull, and many more.


Justin Laidlaw – Columnist, Podcast Co-Host


Columnist, Justin Laidlaw, aka Buddy Ruski, is a renaissance man. Born and raised here in Watts-Hillandale, Durham, his interests range from the music business to politics, from Durham’s history and culture, to the world beyond. He is an avid hoops fan and self-proclaimed “Steph Curry of the YMCA.” The co-host of the Clarion Content’s podcast, he is fast becoming a veteran columnist.

He is a fashion model and marketing associate with Runaway Clothes, creative consultant for Hip-Hop producer Funkleberry, collaborator with Durty Durham Arts Collective, and more.

“…style not only reveals the spirit of the man but reveals his identity, as surely as would his fingerprints.”

– E. B. White


Thaddeus Hunt – Technology Director

Tad Hunt

Personal Website: ThaddeusHunt.com
Business Website: ConduitDesigns.com

Tad is a freelance writer and web designer based out of the heart downtown Durham, NC.

He’s been writing since he figured out to pick up crayons as a child and he’s been creating things with ones and zeroes since the 90’s. He uploaded his first website over a blazingly fast 56k modem in rural New England where he was born and raised.


Ned Phillips – Film Director


Ned Phillips is an accomplished filmmaker and editor living in Durham, North Carolina. After finishing his collegiate career in Baltimore as an All-conference lacrosse player, he moved to Paris, inspired by the semester abroad he spent in Salamanca, Spain. In France, he worked as a tour guide, travel writer and photographer, journeying to and documenting Japan, New Zealand, Brazil, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic and The United Kingdom.

​As a writer, Ned has been published in Live Your Life, a travel E-zine with over 200,000 subscribers and on the Clarion Content, an online media piece covering Durham art and culture. He has directed and produced music videos for musical sensations, Lila, and Hammer NoMore the Fingers. He has also created content for local start-ups and successful fundraising campaigns. While at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke, his film “Becoming Ironman”, about a triathlete who beat Leukemia, made him a finalist for the Lewis Hine Fellowship. His short film “Wendi’s Garden” took top prize at Nicholas School for the Environment’s “Green in 3″ video competition. Since 2007, Ned has worked with the award-winning Warner & Company, helping produce and edit videos for various educational institutions and non-profit organizations.

In his spare time, Ned can usually be found playing basketball, making it rain in one of the local parks.