September 10, 2020

The 2021 Fellows will begin the program online with a new executive director, a more diverse coaching team, and new insights from the coronavirus-era successes of the 2020 Fellows.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2020) —  The Poynter Institute, a global leader in journalism, fact-checking and media literacy education, announces today that applications are open for the 2021 Media Transformation Challenge (MTC) Program: A Poynter Institute Executive Fellowship.

The MTC program began as the Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia University in 2007 under the direction of program architect Douglas K. Smith. It became the MTC Challenge at Harvard in 2019, and officially moved to Poynter in 2020.

While there is a core curriculum of tools and concepts that endure and evolve over time, the MTC program is built around real challenges confronting the news enterprises of Fellows in the program. This year, that included ramping up essential coverage while working remotely, boosting digital operations and focusing on racial equity in journalism. Already, 2020 Fellows are progressing faster than previous cohorts toward reaching their goals.

“The 2020 Fellows and their colleagues at work have built on the stellar track record of program success dating back to 2007,” said Smith. “Like those who have come before, they have used a focus on real results to drive significant change in their enterprises and, by doing so, help lead an industry beset by so many difficulties toward a stronger, more journalistically and financially sustainable future.”

After the opening session in January, the program easily transitioned online by following an e-learning model used by another Smith-designed program at Poynter, Table Stakes. Poynter led the journalism education community online by founding News University more than 15 years ago and was uniquely positioned to translate in-person learning experiences into a digital environment. The remainder of the 2020 MTC program will take place online, and the 2021 Fellows will begin online as well with support from Poynter’s NewsU.

In addition to an evolved teaching format, the 2021 MTC program will feature a new executive director, Charlie Baum, who has been involved since program inception as coach and then operating director. Smith will retire from the program at the end of this year.

“I deeply appreciate the people in this program, their commitment, their perseverance, their outcomes, and their utter willingness to engage with each other — both during the program and well beyond,” said Baum. “MTC truly is a community of leaders committed to common ways of working, realizing outcomes, and doing more than their part in leading industry change critical to society. I am grateful to Doug for his leadership, brilliance, support, and collegiality throughout the 14 years of this program.”

Smith, Baum and other program leaders have worked closely with 2019 and 2020 Fellows to create tools and disciplines needed to address the historic shortfalls exposed by the George Floyd murder. Issues related to racial justice and diversity, equity and inclusion are now more central to the program’s curriculum — and coaching staff.

Fran Scarlett

In 2021, Fran Scarlett will join the MTC coaching team at Poynter. For most of her career Scarlett worked in legacy media, but since 2016 she has worked with nonprofit news organizations at the Institute for Nonprofit News as Chief Knowledge Officer and business coach. Scarlett was a 2019 Fellow in the MTC program, and is a coach in UNC’s Hussman School Knight Table Stakes program, a sister program to the one held at Poynter. She has a B.S. in Mass Communication from Boston University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

“Being a coach is the most fulfilling part of my work,” said Scarlett. “I am truly honored to join the team of MTC coaches. Transformational change work is important and now, more than ever, is necessary for journalism.”

Apply now for the 2020/21 Media Transformation Challenge.


About Poynter 

The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a global leader in journalism education and a strategy center that stands for uncompromising excellence in journalism, media and 21st-century public discourse. Poynter faculty teach seminars and workshops at the Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and at newsrooms, conferences and organizations around the world. Its e-learning division, News University, offers the world’s largest online journalism curriculum, with hundreds of interactive courses and tens of thousands of registered international users. The Institute’s website produces 24-hour coverage about media, ethics, technology and the business of news. Poynter is the home of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, the International Fact-Checking Network and MediaWise, a digital information literacy project for young people, first-time voters and senior citizens. The world’s top journalists and media innovators rely on Poynter to learn and teach new generations of reporters, storytellers, media inventors, designers, visual journalists, documentarians and broadcasters. This work builds public awareness about journalism, media, the First Amendment and discourse that serves democracy and the public good.

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Mel Grau is the senior product specialist at The Poynter Institute, focusing on Poynter's training experiences and newsletters. She previously edited The Cohort, Poynter’s biweekly…
Mel Grau

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