Creating Change in Newsrooms

A Proposal for Supporting Journalists as Agents of Change

Contributors: Scott Hall, Peggy Holman, Matlho Kgosi, Chris Peck, Jim Schaffer, Michael Skoler

This proposal focuses on inspiring and supporting working journalists and managers to seek change that will connect news organizations deeply with their communities and audiences. This change must start by connecting journalists with the passion and goals that brought them into the profession.

We are proposing to create a series of mid-career training/experience sessions that build on one other and an organization that will allow participants to stay connected and support each other between and after training sessions.

Phase 1
We will create two training programs, each lasting approximately one week. The two courses will invigorate journalists and managers to understand the need for change and envision how to change their organizations. They will also offer practical advice for leading change from wherever they sit in the organization.
• Reflective journalism: Connecting with our passion and purpose
o The course will use exercises, case studies and experience sharing to help journalists connect with their original passion and goals for entering the profession. After reconnecting with the “inner journalist,” participants will be asked to discuss and shape a vision for how to change their news organizations to support the passion and purpose common to those who enter journalism. This will be based on community connection.
o The content on leading change will focus primarily on how people who can become informal leaders of change and the need for change to come from the ranks of news organizations and not from the top down.
• Engaging the Audience
o The course will will use exercises, case studies and experience sharing to look at journalism within its purpose of engaging the audience. It will help participants tie the goals they embrace for journalism with the community connection needed to achieve those goals. In particular, it will shape a new perspective on the impact of various types of reporting. Its aim will be to provide “an appreciative lens for hard news” that empowers audiences rather than discourages them.
o The practical content in leading change will look at the issues and challenges more from the perspective of news leaders and managers than reporters, editors and producers.
The project will partner with one or two leading mid-career journalism programs (e.g., Nieman Fellowship, Knight Fellowship, Michigan Fellowship) and will test the courses with current fellows. The training creation team will debrief with the participants and refine the courses based on these discussions.

Phase 2
The project will partner with a journalism center, possibly the new Center for Innovation in Journalism at American Public Media in Minnesota, to provide the administrative home for the project, and to run ongoing training sessions throughout the year. These sessions will be available to individual journalists coming from many organizations or offered on-site to specific newsrooms that are interested in starting a change initiative.

In this phase, the project will create a set of ongoing means (i.e., newsletters, wikis, reunion/seminars) to connect all those who have participated in courses to share their experiences, both successes and failures, and to provide mutual support for working on change projects within their news organizations. This will establish, track and support a community of innovators in journalism.

The project will also create two more training sessions to expand understanding and creative approaches to change.
•    Marrying Historic values to New Technology
o    This course will focus on why values should determine use of new media technology and how that technology can enable media organizations to practice their values and meet their goals.
•    Experimental journalism
o    This course will focus on how organizations can use “greenhousing” techniques to foster internal experimentation.  It will encourage participants to experiment with fresh approaches to newsgathering and storytelling based on community involvement and will allow people to share and gain advice/tools for changing the culture within their organizations to allow experimentation.

We expect the project to both use and help identify case studies of change in journalism in conjunction with a handbook for change in journalism being created by Peggy Holman of The Open Circle Company and Jim Schaffer of the University of Southern Maine.


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