Q. What’s in it for me?
A. Learning new skills that you can immediately apply to the job. Short-term financial reward (a $100 bonus for the first belt you earn, another $200 for the second, another $300 for the third, another $400 for the fourth and another $1,000 for your “black belt” and completion of the program). And skills that will greatly increase your career options and earning potential. There is not a single person in Journal Register Company today who meets the criteria and skill set of a “black belt” as outlined in this program. If you become one, you’ll have many options ahead of you in the new world of journalism.
Q. How do I get started?
A. It starts very simply with a meeting with your editor to go over where you stand now on the various skill areas covered in the Digital Ninja School. Then and in the meantime, use this site to start pursuing learning opportunities and trying example projects on your own beat or job. See “How do I earn a belt?” below.
Q. What belt should I pursue first?
A. That’s up to you. Many of you already have a head start in some areas, so if, for example, you are a confident user of social media already, you might want to start there. Or you might want to start in an area that is particularly critical to your job or beat, or an area where you feel the newsroom is under-represented and you can make an immediate difference.
Q. Can I work on more than one belt at a time?
A. Yes. The fact is, all five categories apply to your job. Many of you are already using some aspect of social media, blogging, digital publishing, etc., every day. You will naturally learn about multiple categories on the job, and so it’s OK to pursue training across multiple categories simultaneously as well. And if several months from now, you are all of a sudden ready to apply for awarding of two or three belts at once, that’s OK, as long as you’ve fulfilled the requirements and shown that you are consistently applying those skills to your job.
Q. How can I find the time to participate in training?
A. Our commitment to you is to provide time during work hours to participate in the training needed to complete the Digital Ninja School. Top editors in Connecticut have been tasked with developing a backup system in which another staff member is identified to cover your beat, part of a shift or task on a given day so that you have time to attend a class, participate in a webinar or practice a new skill. If you are having trouble arranging the time to participate, please contact Group Editor Matt DeRienzo directly, firstname.lastname@example.org. It is critical to us that you be allowed the time to pursue this program.
Q. Do I have to sit in a classroom to learn about each of these topics?
A. Yes and no, and it depends on how you learn best. Yes, there are a few aspects of each area where we’ll provide and suggest you take advantage of the opportunity for in-person training. We’ll also be offering webinars based on the demand for particular topics. But most topics can be studied through the numerous links to training and reading materials we’ve posted on this site. Another excellent source is checking this site to see which coworkers have posted examples of their work using a particular skill. Reach out to them for some direct advice.
Q. Do I get credit for stuff I already know?
A. Yes! Your current level of knowledge and how you’re applying it to the job will no doubt influence which belt you choose to pursue first. If you are a strong user of social media, or blogging, for examples, you’ve got a head start. The key is showing how you apply it to your job and how that impacts the results of your journalism.
Q. How do I earn a belt?
A. Here’s the basic process:
– Sit down with your editor for an evaluation of where each of you think you stand right now.
– While you can work on multiple belts at the same time, pick one area you want to master first and develop a plan and timeline goal with your editor.
– Learn the area’s core requirements and necessary electives through a combination of self-directed reading (lots of links on this site) and practice, in-person workshops we’ll be offering based on demand, training webinars that we’ll publicize as part of this process and reaching out to co-workers and editors who have mastered these skills.
– Show how you are applying each new skill to the job. Work with your editor and Chris March to showcase application of new skills in your day-to-day work. This site is set up for us to blog about those examples, which in turn become real-life lessons for the next person learning about that topic.
– Measure the results. Show how new skills applied to the job are impacting page views, community impact and/or reader engagement via story comments or social media.
– If you have already earned one belt and are working on your second, third, fourth or fifth, note that one of the requirements for earning the advanced belts is to show that you still know the skills learned in the earlier categories and are still applying them to your job.
– When you and your editor feel you’ve mastered an area, you can earn a belt after review by your editor, a top editor and a company expert in that topic.
Q. How do I get an example of my work towards a belt written up and posted to the Digital Ninja site?
A. It can be as simple as showing your editor what you’ve done and they’ll take it from there. Site administrator Chris March can also make that happen. But think about what would have helped you before you learned how to apply the particular skill to your beat. The more you document the steps you took, the problems you overcame, the tips you learned, the easier it will be for the next person to learn that skill. The more documentation and “how to” you can provide for the Digital Ninja site, the better.
Q. How do I request a webinar, workshop or training resource on a particular category or topic?
A. Talk to your editor about what you feel you need to learn the core requirements and electives you’ve chosen. You can also reach out to site administrator Chris March. Don’t be bashful about saying that you’d prefer an in-person workshop or one-on-one help in an area that is just too hard to fully understand by reading training links or doing a webinar. Please also point out where you feel our links are thin on particular topics, and most certainly, if you discover other resources, let us know so we can expand the links on this site.
Q. Do all of these topics really apply to me and-or my job?
A. I’m a photographer. Why do I need to learn about data? I’m a copy editor. Why do I need to learn about social media, or blogging? The short answer is that the lines between old job classifications are blurring and won’t and already don’t resemble a world focused on print. Check out Steve Yelvington’s blog post about “the new baseline skill set” for journalists.
Q. What happens if I don’t participate?
A. You are – and will continue to be – judged by the quality of journalism we do. Learning new tools is essential to maintain that quality because the foundations of how we are able to gather and present the news have fundamentally changed. We’re offering the Digital Ninja School to provide you time to learn, direct financial reward for doing so, and a foundation for advancing your career in a digital first era of news. But the five disciplines of the training program also match up with key aspects of how job performance will be evaluated.