How Is Knight Creating "Transformative" News Leaders?

You may have noticed that journalism management has been in the news as of late. It seems as if foundations and universities are collectively saying, "Sure, we know journalism is changing. And we aren't entirely sure how newsrooms will operate in this brave new world."

It's a classic example of technology getting ahead of day-to-day operational management. And so foundations — Knight in particular — are trying to get ahead of the problem by proactively articulating a "next-generation" job description for news leaders.

For example, they recently announced a $1.8 million investment in the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships Program at Stanford University for a series of new initiatives, including the establishment of a workshop on "transformative news leadership." So how, exactly, can run a newsroom in a transformative way?

The short answer is "collaboration." The initiative calls for hiring a coordinator to help fellows "build on innovative ideas they examined during their fellowship year." This concept builds on Knight's "community platform collaboration" approach recently profiled here.

Think about it: Stanford has young, tech-savy fellows who resemble "hacker journalists" more than a suit-wearing Bob Woodward. However, due to their relative inexperience, they aren't able to effectively translate their ideas into a "repeatable process" that can be established in a newsroom. Enter the
experienced coordinator to make it a reality.

The initiative also aims to "operationalize" these sometimes ambiguous ideas by launching an "evolving, living technology curriculum" that will include content that can be shared widely with the field. In a way, this approach resembles that of a consultant. Identify best practices and share them far and wide.

The initiative also calls for a workshop on "transformative newsroom leadership," open to a small group of editors, publishers and fellows. The goal? To introduce one another to "new innovations and thinking."

In total, while this initiative aims to harness the power of innovation, the means by which they aim to accomplish it — workshops, modified curriculum, fellowships — are fairly pedestrian. It suggests that like its "community platform collaboration" approach, Knight understands that successfully moving journalism forward nonetheless requires them to keep one foot firmly planted in the traditional newsroom.

Of course, this doesn't mean Knight isn't thinking outside the box. They recently awarded a $250,000 grant to the American University School of Communication to launch a program that aims to train journalists in applying video game design to the challenges of leading a media organization. Read about it here.