The Poynter Institute and NABJ Launch the Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media

journalistsA new program for journalists of color has just launched and the good news is that there?s a digital component.

The Poynter-NABJ Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media, a leadership program born out of a partnership between the National Association of Black Journalists and The Poynter Institute, is now accepting applications for its inaugural week-long, tuition-free program, beginning in December, that will address the unique issues that journalists of color face when trying to rise up in the ranks in newsrooms and other areas across the media spectrum.

According to Kelly McBride, VP for Academic Programs at The Poynter Institute, Poynter has had a long tradition of forming leadership academies where media leaders come to learn the skills they need to become truly effective. Two years ago, the organization started a leadership academy for women in digital journalism in response to the firing of Jill Abramson (replaced by Dean Baquet) from the New York Times as executive editor. McBride said that that symbolized a broader glass ceiling for women and also people who were qualified for jobs in journalism, but who were not breaking through the glass ceiling due to a perceived lack of strategic thinking, communications style, or the particular advocates that one needs to be successful in a corporate career.

This is where the new program for diversity comes in.

?After launching that program for women, which ended up being incredibly successful, we realized that people of color have the same problem that women have which is that they enter the journalism business at perfectly fine ratios and then they leave the journalism business at much higher ratios than white men and as a result, you see very few people of color in leadership roles. We wanted to address the same exact problem to try and diversify the ranks of the C-suites in media,? McBride told in a recent interview.

For journalists interested in applying, applications are open now until mid-August. ?We will accept 25 individuals who will come to the Poynter Institute for one week in December and work with us intensively over the course of a 6-day seminar period and then we will follow up with them as a co-hort group. We will keep a mentoring relationship with anyone who wants one,? explains McBride.

Criteria for applicants will include their leadership experience thus far, a recommendation from someone in their organization, evidence of a project they led, and their particular competence in the digital part of digital journalism.

The emphasis here is on digital.

?We believe that given where the media industry is going, all leaders will come from the digital side of the work in the future so we want to invest in those who have the strongest chance of making it into executive leadership,? notes McBride.

Led by Mizell Stewart, vice president of news operations for the USA TODAY Network, who developed much of the program and its curriculum, the academy has a 3-year commitment from a couple of funders. After that, Poynter plans to look for more sponsors to keep the academy going.

For NABJ?s part, the organization serves as a partner. “The partnership between the Poynter Institute and NABJ is something that is new this year in this capacity, so I am very excited to jump start a lasting relationship with an internationally known journalism training organization. For NABJ, it positions us to be able to continue to serve our members in the journalism industry,” Sarah Glover, NABJ President, told in an exclusive intervew.

She continues, “I also see it as the first opportunity of many to create much-needed programming that speaks to the core issues that surround diversity in our industry. Now, we will be able to fill a void in programming in this area. I don?t look at this as a one-hit wonder or a one-stop program; I see this as a great opportunity for us to generate, create and develop a partnership with a world-class organization. Again, I am very excited and I feel as though the opportunities are limitless in terms of what the impact is going to be with this particular program and with other programs that we will develop as it relates to our partnership.”

Says McBride, ?We obviously needed a partner. We would never presume to have the expertise to speak to people of color and we wanted to partner with one of the professional organizations dedicated to journalists of color.?