Guest Post: Journalists making a difference ... one step at a time

Guest Post: Journalists making a difference ... one step at a time

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Jane Jansen

Jane Jansen is a digital startup executive and a former director and manager at the Chicago Tribune Media Group. Jane was a coach for the Community Journalism Executive Training program (CJET) sponsored by the Investigative News Network, USC Annenberg School of Journalism and the Knight Foundation. CJET, based on the innovative Super Camp program developed by The Patterson Foundation, helps build paths to sustainability for independent news publishers. 

In October, I was one of seven business coaches for community publishers at the Community Journalism Executive Training program - sponsored by Investigative News Network, USC Annenberg School of Journalism and the Knight Foundation. More than 30, mostly nonprofit, community-focused digital businesses attended this weekend event.

My role involved coaching digital publishers to create 100-day actionable business plans. Participants were for the most part journalists who were passionate about serving their communities, had relatively little in-depth knowledge about running a business, but who were open and willing to learn.

I was a bit reluctant to accept this coaching gig at first since I had never acted in the role of a coach before. Nevertheless, Rusty Coats, a technology and new media journalism consultant for The Patterson Foundation, who was a coach organizer of the event, convinced me to take a leap of faith and accept the assignment, and I am glad I did. Of course I didn't mind being back at my alma mater!

On our first day we attended a cocktail reception and I knew immediately that I was in the right place - I felt completely comfortable and welcome. Unlike other conferences I have been to, I wasn’t nervous or anxious about meeting new people.

That evening, Janet Coats, new media journalism initiative manager for The Patterson Foundation, interviewed, via Skype, The Texas Tribune’s Editor-in-Chief and CEO, Evan Smith. It was wonderful listening to him speak about building The Texas Tribune’s business. He explained his editorial vision and mission, and conveyed his passionate desire to provide relevant, thoughtful stories that would help Texans understand current events in their state. His success seemed due primarily to two things: understanding the importance of creating quality content, and having the right combination of financial support from foundation grants, corporate sponsorships, events, and individual donors.

The next day I met with my group (color Turquoise) and we began working on their 100-day action plans. Group participants included Jason Alcom of InvestigateWest, Kelly Statton of WyoFile, Laura Candelas of Centro de Periodismo Investigativo and Diana Jean Schemo of 100Reporters.

Two themes emerged in our work together that seemed significant to all participants:

  1. The need to diversify funding. All participants relied on foundation donations to fund their businesses and it became clear that they needed to create other revenue opportunities in order to become more sustainable businesses.
  2. The need to market their sites more aggressively, and to leverage other mainstream media relationships in order to increase audience and brand awareness.

Participating in this event was one of the most satisfying professional experiences that I have had. I thoroughly enjoyed working with talented journalists who wanted to make a difference in their communities. I am hopeful that the few days we spent together will help them to build sustainable businesses, recognizing that it will take time and perseverance to make that happen.

Following the event Rusty wrote a blog about the CJET program and about the other talented coaches who helped to make the event a success. Please share that blog entry with others you know. In that way we can raise others’ awareness of the great work that is being done by these organizations, and by these journalists who are covering important and relevant news in their communities in as effective and efficient means as possible.

Jane may be reached at

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