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Digital Leads: 10 keys to newsroom transformation

by: Michele McLellan |



           Executive Summary
           1. Strategy
           2. Research
           3. Staff ownership
           4. Process and planning
           5. Leadership and culture
           6. Organization-wide buy-in
           7. Training and tools
           8. Organizational change
           9. Priorities
           10. Feedback loops


<<Previous: 6. Organization-wide buy-in

7. Training and tools

Summary:  The initiative included KDMC and company training in digital strategy and literacy as well as skills training, encouraging adoption of simple tools. It relied heavily on obtaining free or low-cost training as well as partnerships with the Poynter Institute and Investigative Reporters and Editors.  Stewart also created regular opportunities for peer learning within and amongst the newsrooms.

Training was central to the initiative. In keeping with the goal of creating more strategic and adaptive cultures in the newsrooms, the training provided went well beyond basic skills.

Training came from several sources:

KDMC: The center provided training in digital strategy and plan development through on-site visits and webinars while the committees developed franchise plans.

Once they had their plans, KDMC training consultant Jerry Monti visited each newsroom for several days to offer training in best practices for multimedia and social media. This training was intended to jump-start digital activity as franchise plans were implemented.

Corporate: It soon became obvious to Stewart that the intensive, tailored on-site or even online training, while valuable, could not be sustained and offered to additional staff members within the company budget.

Stewart adapted in two ways: He identified easy to use tools such as Videolicious and Scribble Live that offered free tutorials and he sought low-cost off-the-shelf skills training from organizations such as Poynter’s online News University through a partnership developed in the spring of 2014.

“I came to the conclusion that buying training from other people - even though it’s not perfectly aligned - was good enough,” Stewart said. “It also demonstrated a commitment to newsroom learning and development that continues today.”

In addition to information sharing, the biweekly series of webinars that Stewart organized included skills training. For example, Investigative Reporters and Editors provided a series of webinars for all staff on techniques and digital tools for watchdog reporting.

Newsroom: Some newsrooms developed additional training activities to meet specific needs they identified as they implemented Four Platform and franchise coverage.

In Ventura, for example, each editor and staff member created individual training plans that were implemented in 2014, an initiative that was picked up and rolled out to the rest of the company’s newsrooms later in the year.

“These plans allowed for individualized discussions on areas of interest and need with follow up to see what was being applied,” Moore said. “The greatest value here was in the continued evolution of digital first and social media, with nearly all of the staff now on board and comfortable with the broad tools to implement.”
The newsroom also implemented “one-to-few” training sessions, in which an in-house expert worked with a one staff member or a few to learn a specific application for a story the staff member was working on. Moore said this was highly effective. “This direct application is probably the most long-lasting, because the staff members learn from peers while doing a story where they are already invested.”

Continue 8. Organizational change>>

Michele McLellan

Michele McLellan is a writer, editor and consultant who works on projects that help strengthen the emerging local news ecosystem,
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