Q. What am I responsible for in the Digital Ninja School process?
A. Editors play a crucial role in the execution of the Digital Ninja School. You are responsible for assessing the skills of your staff at the start of the process, guiding them through the program and keeping them on track, helping coordinate in-person training and webinars with other editors based on demand, then participating in the final assessment process that awards belts and financial bonuses to those who’ve successfully completed the program in a topic area. Another key responsibility is helping staff document how they’re applying new skills to the job. Showcasing these examples on this site will give students more practical examples of how to learn and use these skills and encourage staff to learn from each other.
Q. Where do I begin?
A. The process starts by updating our Digital Skills Assessment for each staff member you supervise, and then meeting with each employee to go over it and set goals around which belt they want to pursue first. You should set a timeline goal with each employee and sketch out a plan for how to get there (self-directed learning based on training materials posted on this site, mentorship by other staff members in key areas, in-person training, how to apply new skills to the job, etc.). In-person training and webinars on specific topics will be scheduled based on the biggest demand as editors compare notes about what belts staff are pursuing first.
Q.How am I supposed to free staff up for training when we have all of this work to do? The news won’t stop to accommodate us.
A. We’re asking editors to create a comprehensive backup system (good policy anyway, just for covering vacations and sick days) for every job in the newsroom, because we can’t offer this to employees and ask them to participate if there is zero time in their work day to spend on training and experimenting with new skills. So if the city reporter is taking the evening to attend a workshop or participate in a webinar, his or her backup might be a suburban reporter, and we’d decide which is the most important topic or meeting to cover among the two beats that night, just as if someone was out sick. Even at full staff, we make decisions every day about what stories we can’t get to. This is important enough to be a big part of how we schedule staff time in 2012. It will pay dividends for months and years to come.
Q. How do I find the time to manage this process in addition to my regular duties?
A. Good question! First, just as we’re asking you to create a backup system (see FAQ for Staff) to free your staff up to be able to participate in training, we want editors to cover for each other so that you can devote time to learning. Second, there’s “never a good time for training,” so we have to carve out time, even if it’s very formal, as in the first hour of each day spent checking in with staff on Ninja School progress. Finally, it’s a chicken-and-egg process. Take the time to help your staff through this process, and their work improves, and your job gets easier. Chances are you don’t have the time in part because they don’t know these skills. Don’t take the time to train, and you’ll never have time because they won’t learn to do for themselves.
Q. What about me? How can I help staff learn this stuff if I don’t know it myself?
A. Just as you are guiding your staff through the process, you should be meeting with your supervisor to discuss learning new skills and pursuit of the belts in this program. You can’t effectively manage others in using new tools if you do not understand or use them yourself. It’s important to lead by example and to set the pace for your staff.
Q. Am I eligible for the financial rewards associated with the program, too?
A. Yes, absolutely. As you earn belts, you will receive the bonus schedule outlined in this program – $100 for the first, $200 for the second, $300 for the third, $400 for the fourth and $1,000 for the fifth, final, “black belt.”