NPR is launching a new innovation lab

NPR is hiring for a new initiative called Storytelling Lab, a sort of skunkworks to test out ideas for creative audio projects, Chris Turpin, acting senior vice president for news, and Loren Mayor, chief operating officer, announced in a staff memo Wednesday.

Also in the same announcement, John Stefany was named director of strategic projects, in charge of developing and managing “a range of projects across the newsroom.” Stefany, who is currently manager of new content projects, will coordinate with NPR’s digital divisions to improve coordination around the organization’s biggest initiatives.

Stefany will also help develop Storytelling Lab, a forthcoming innovation incubator for experimental content, Turpin told Poynter. The lab, which is currently looking for a senior producer, will be a place for NPR employees to test out ideas for new podcasts, newsmagazine segments or better ways to use the outlet’s digital presence. Employees will pitch their their ideas to a panel, which will determine whether it gets sent to the lab for two weeks of tinkering to develop a proof-of-concept. Read more


Why NPR didn’t publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons

NPR | The Two-Way

NPR decided not to publish controversial cartoons from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo because “posting just a few of the cover images” of the Prophet Muhammad “could be misleading,” standards editor Mark Memmott wrote Monday.

Publishing a few magazine covers, Memmott writes, might give readers the impression the magazine is “only a bit edgier” than similar publications. But a more thorough examination of the cartoons would violate “most news organizations’ standards regarding offensive material.”

At NPR, the policy on “potentially offensive language” applies to the images posted online as well. It begins by stating that “as a responsible broadcaster, NPR has always set a high bar on use of language that may be offensive to our audience.

In the aftermath of the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, news organizations have been divided over whether to publish cartoons from the magazines depicting Muhammad, whose likeness is sacrosanct among Muslims. Read more


Elizabeth Jensen will be NPR’s new ombudsman

Elizabeth Jensen, who has covered public media for Current and The New York Times, has been named ombudsman/public editor at NPR.

Elizabeth Jensen, who has covered public media for Current and The New York Times, has been named ombudsman/public editor at NPR. Credit: James Wrona.

NPR announced Monday Elizabeth Jensen will be its new public editor and ombudsman, replacing Edward Schumacher-Matos.

Jensen, a longtime reporter who has covered public media for The New York Times, Current and Columbia Journalism Review, says her career has positioned her well for the ombudsman role.

“My focus will definitely be narrower, but I’ve covered journalism ethics and decision-making for most of my career,” Jensen told Poynter. “So it seems to me to be a continuation of that — it doesn’t seem to be that much of a diversion.”

Jensen recently covered the sunset of Bill Moyers’ weekly series, “Moyers & Company” and Off-Broadway shows coming to a New York public television station.

Jensen will be active on social media and intends to contribute regularly to NPR’s ombudsman blog in much the same way as her predecessor. Read more

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NPR’s Melody Kramer will miss the newsroom during breaking news. Also free books.

NPR’s Melody Kramer announced Monday that she’s leaving NPR and journalism, headed for 18F, “a skunkworks shop located within the federal government. It started up last spring. They build digital stuff quickly and they do it in a way that’s completely open.” Kramer will work building digital products and services.

Kramer, a digital strategist at NPR, has earned a well-deserved reputation for her work in digital and social media at NPR. I spoke with her via email about what she’ll miss, what she’ll take with her and what she’s happy to leave behind.

KH: What are you going to miss about working in journalism?

MK: I am a voracious news reader and have loved being a part of newsrooms in the midst of breaking news. I will miss working in a newsroom during election night and during breaking news, when everyone goes all hands on deck and pitches in. Read more

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Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism: This American Life’s Harper High School

“This American Life” reporters Ben Calhoun, Alex Kotlowitz and Linda Lutton spent an entire semester embedded in Harper High School in Chicago — where the previous school year, 29 former or current students were shot and eight died.

Working with producers Robyn Semien, Julie Snyder and Ira Glass, the team created two hour long documentaries that captured daily life in a school and neighborhood racked by gun violence.

The story earned a Peabody Award, the Jack R. Howard Award for Radio In-Depth coverage and the Dart Center prize for journalism and trauma. Peabody judges called the work “vivid, unblinking, poignant and sometimes gut-wrenching;” Dart judges said the story was “profoundly moving” and “extraordinarily comprehensive and compassionate.”

Shortly after “This American Life” aired the story, President Obama hosted Harper students at the White House and Michelle Obama spent an afternoon at the school.

In an interview with Poynter’s Ellyn Angelotti Kamke for Poynter’s e-book Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism, Calhoun, Kotlowitz and Lutton discussed their extensive reporting process, and how they created a narrative that embraces an array of compelling personal perspectives. Read more

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Most memorable stories of 2014

S. Mitra Kalita is the executive editor of Quartz, on Poynter’s adjunct faculty, and a Spencer Fellow at Columbia University. She tweets @mitrakalita.

A friend of mine recently pondered the role of memory in journalism, saying an information overload has robbed his recall. Sometimes it feels like stories aren’t read as much as Facebooked, tweeted, toggled all day long. What actually gets absorbed, retained, understood?

This was my dilemma as Poynter asked me to compile the top 10 stories of 2014. Insecure about whether the best journalism had actually reached me, my inclination was to crowdsource the list. That felt dishonest. Key takeaway of my transition to digital media: only authenticity wins the internet.

So here are my picks, based solely on the top stories I remember from 2014. I whittled it down to the 11 that stayed with me long beyond the last line or my share. Note that I wrote this before newspapers began trotting out ambitious, investigative packages to make the Pulitzer deadline. Read more


Career Beat: Joel Lovell joins ‘This American Life,’ The Atavist

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community.

  • Joel Lovell will join “This American Life” and The Atavist. He was editing special projects for The New York Times. (Huffington Post)
  • Hernán Rozemberg will be editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current. He is metro editor for the Lafayette Journal and Courier. (Media Moves)
  • Mike Wilson will be editor of The Dallas Morning News. He’s the managing editor of FiveThirtyEight. (Poynter)
  • Byron Pitts has been named co-anchor of “Nightline.” Pitts is chief national correspondent at ABC News. (Huffington Post)
  • Ben Pershing will be editor at National Journal Daily. He’s the Washington editor at National Journal. Tim Alberta is now a senior political correspondent at National Journal. Previously, he was senior editor of National Journal Hotline. Shane Goldmacher is a senior political correspondent for National Journal. Previously, he was a congressional correspondent there.
Read more

Tasneem Raja named senior digital editor at NPR

Tasneem Raja, interactive editor at Mother Jones, has been named digital editor of NPR’s identity and culture unit, according to a staff memo from NPR unit executive producer Carline Watson and Lynette Clemetson, director of editorial initiatives at NPR.

Raja, who was previously an interactive producer at The Bay Citizen and a features reporter at The Chicago Reader, will join the unit’s 11-person team in late January, according to the memo.

Here’s the announcement:

Dear All,

We have great news to share from the Identity and Culture Unit: We have hired Tasneem Raja to be our Senior Digital Editor, and she is a catch!

Read more

Career Beat: Kevin Sullivan named EP for CIR’s investigative radio show, ‘Reveal’

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Kevin Sullivan has been named executive producer at “Reveal.” He’s the senior managing editor of “Here and Now.” (Center for Investigative Reporting)
  • Mike Hofman has been named executive digital director at GQ. He’s executive digital director at Glamour. (Email)
  • Steve Battaglio is now a TV and media business reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Previously, he was the business editor at TV Guide. (Email)

Job of the day: The Associated Press is looking for interns. Get your résumés in! (AP)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


Career Beat: Matt Thompson to join

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Matt Thompson will be deputy editor of He’s currently director of vertical initiatives for NPR. (Poynter)
  • Mat Honan will be Silicon Valley bureau chief for BuzzFeed. He’s an editor and writer at Wired. (Re/code)
  • Justin Yurkanin is now manager of multimedia at Alabama Media Group. Previously, he was a photojournalist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Email)
  • Sarah Karnasiewicz is now food editor of Previously, she was a writer at The Wall Street Journal. (Fishbowl NY)

Job of the Day: The (Rochester, New York) Democrat and Chronicle is looking for a senior engagement editor. Get your résumés in! (Career Builder)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


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