Digital Ninja School, a ‘digital first’ experiment in newsroom training, launches today

We’re pleased to announce this morning the formal launch of the “Digital Ninja School,” a newsroom training pilot project for Journal Register Company‘s editorial employees in Connecticut.

The employees and management of traditional newspapers have an entirely new set of skills they must learn to be relevant, to compete and to adapt as new ways to gather, organize and present news and information become available every day.

Providing access to comprehensive training and the time and motivation to do it, however, have remained a mystery for most news organizations.

The Digital Ninja School is our attempt to make training and applying that training to the job an integral part of the newsroom culture.

The premise is simple:

– We’ve identified five areas we think are key areas of knowledge for every newsroom employee – Digital Publishing, Social Media, Blogging, Video and Data Journalism. The program is modeled on a martial arts-style “belt” system. You earn a “white belt” for the first category you master, a “yellow belt,” for the second, right up to becoming a “black belt digital ninja” for completing the entire program.

– We’re paying employees extra money to participate in training. Each employee – managers included – is eligible to receive up to $2,000 this year for completing the Digital Ninja School program ($100 for the first “belt,” $200 for the second, $300 for the third, $400 for the fourth and $1,000 for the final, “black belt”).

– To earn a belt, you must complete a core set of training as well as electives of your own choosing. You must show that you’ve applied your new skills to the job, and demonstrate how that has impacted the metrics around your work (page views, unique visitors, more or better story sources, reader engagement, etc.). To earn a second belt, you must show that you are continuing to use the skills learned from your first belt, and so on.

– We’re using to blog about how employees are using their new skills on the job, and each example is tagged and categorized to develop online portfolios for the students of the Digital Ninja School, as well as a repository of real-life examples for others who are learning about a specific topic, for example, how to work with Google Maps. It is also being used to aggregate links to training resources, both internally produced and available on the web from other sources.

– Beyond the up to $2,000 in bonuses employees can receive this year for completing the program, we believe the Digital Ninja School will position graduates for career advancement and tens of thousands of dollars in additional earning potential.

More information can be found in our FAQ, FAQ for Staff, FAQ for Editors and our section on Core Requirements.

The Digital Ninja School is only for Connecticut newsroom employees of Journal Register Company at this point, but we hope that by making a public website, others from across JRC, Digital First Media and journalists from outside the company can take advantage as we discover training resources and put new skills to use.

Follow us on Twitter @digitalninjas.

Follow us on Facebook @digitalninjaschool.


About mattderienzo

Matt DeRienzo has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter, editor, publisher and corporate editorial director and has been recognized nationally for leading newsroom innovation. He teaches journalism at Quinnipiac University, writes a monthly column for Editor & Publisher magazine, and serves as interim executive director of LION Publishers, a national network of local independent online news site publishers. Previously, he served as group editor of Digital First Media's publications in Connecticut, including the New Haven Register, Middletown Press, Register Citizen and Connecticut Magazine, and Northeast regional editor for Digital First Media. He also served as publisher of The Register Citizen, Middletown Press and a group of weeklies in Northwest Connecticut, and before that was corporate director of news for small dailies and non-daily publications for the former Journal Register Company. In early 2011, The Register Citizen was named one of Editor & Publisher magazine's "10 Newspapers That Do It Right," and DeRienzo was named to its annual "25 Under 35" list of leaders in the newspaper industry. In the fall of 2011, The Register Citizen was awarded the Associated Press Managing Editors Innovator of the Year Award in recognition of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe, an "open newsroom" launched in Torrington, Connecticut, in December 2010. He led a team of more than 100 journalists in covering the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in late 2012 and 2013, and has been honored for his editorial writing and leadership of public service and investigative reporting. In 2014, his efforts at the New Haven Register were recognized with the APME's and ASNE's Robert C. McGruder Award for Leadership in Newsroom Diversity. DeRienzo is a former longtime board member of the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, and served as co-chairman of the United Way's annual fundraising campaign in 2009 and again in 2011. In 2011, he received the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.
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6 Responses to Digital Ninja School, a ‘digital first’ experiment in newsroom training, launches today

  1. Pingback: Digital Ninja School: A plan and incentives for newsroom training « The Buttry Diary

  2. Joe Norley says:

    I would like to see this extend in the near future to community journalists who are making serious efforts to expand their personal skills and improve the product offered by our local papers. In West Chester, the Daily Local News now has an incredible community media room and a broad spectrum of talented bloggers who would like to enhance their skills. It would be great for all concerns if latter day journalists (me) and bloggers could get this kind of support from the JRC papers they work with.

    • mattderienzo says:

      Love that idea, Joe. We made this website public so that it could be a resource for self-directed training for journalists throughout the company, for journalists outside the company, and for citizen journalists, bloggers and community members, too. When we do in-person training in Connecticut, we’ll have to remember to extend an invitation to our blogging partners. I will share that idea with other JRC editors, too.

      • Joe Norley says:

        Thanks for your prompt reply Matt. It has been a large learning curve for many of our bloggers as many are 35 plus and never attended journalism schools or we have learned our digital first skills on the fly. For me personally I feel I have some visionary insight into models that would financially work for all parties but do not know how to fully fill in my personal digital first technology gap. The more training that the Mother Ship can provide the faster the dream can be realized. Inspiration is strong and technology frustrating.

  3. Joe Norley says:

    BTW Matt, I’ve started to look at some of the links provided here and really appreciate the substance that is being made available. Good stuff.

  4. Pingback: – Beyond Print: From Newspapers To News Media

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