February 10, 2020

The first participants to kick off Poynter’s programming in 2020 were an impressive bunch: the Fellows of the Media Transformation Challenge (MTC) Program: A Poynter Institute Executive Fellowship. These C-suite executives hailed from a blend of some of the world’s most prominent brands, including the Associated Press, the BBC, CNN, ESPN, Google News and NPR as well highly impactful groups such as The News Revenue Hub, Report for America, the Maynard Institute, Chicas Poderosas and The Trust Project. They were at Poynter in January to lead transformational changes at their organizations that respond to new realities amidst constant technological disruption.

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 this year.

Using Smith’s innovative “challenge-centric” design, each MTC Fellow identifies one of the most crucial challenges facing her or his enterprise, then uses the program’s resources, methodology, coaching, peer support, and alumni community to define and achieve success at that challenge.  Since its inception, the program has brought together about 300 media executives from across the industry and around the world – leaders who have consistently produced real results and new institutional capability and capacity for their enterprises.

RELATED: Why the Media Transformation Challenge program moved to the Poynter Institute

A great advantage of the program is the overlap of graduating and incoming MTC Fellows in the first session of the calendar year. While the graduating Fellows presented their final outcomes after a year’s worth of rigorous planning, coaching and refining, the incoming class learned the core methods and disciplines of the program’s approach which blends powerful tools of strategy, innovation, leadership and change that inform their challenge selection and goals for the next year. In addition, the new group and graduating group get time to meet, discuss the program and network in ways that, over time, have made this program’s alumni community a crucial asset of the program itself.

“I’ve had the incredible opportunity to both participate in and host the MTC program,” said Neil Brown, Poynter president and MTC Fellow. “This is a dynamic group of movers and shakers who hold each other accountable for leading meaningful change not just in their respective newsrooms, but in the media industry as a whole. Though 2020 started with a series of intense news stories, from the conflict in Iran to fires in Australia to impeachment articles in the U.S., the year at Poynter started with determination, innovation and grit to take on these challenging issues. Now is the time for the news media around the world to shine.”

Poynter congratulates the graduating MTC Fellows:

  • Gavin Allen, Head BBC News Output, BBC News
  • Phil Alongi, Executive Producer NJTV News & Director, Program Development, NJTV
  • Ashley Alvarado, Director, Community Engagement, SCPR
  • Neil Brown, President, The Poynter Institute
  • Neal Carruth, General Manager, Podcasting, NPR
  • Travis Daub, Director of Digital, PBS NewsHour
  • Katie den Daas, Managing Editor ABC News Live, ABC
  • Jason Farkas, VP/GM CNN Business, CNN
  • Ignacio Fidanza, Director, La Politica Online
  • Noreen Gillespie, Deputy Managing Editor, U.S. News, the Associated Press
  • Nation Hahn, Chief Growth Officer, EducationNC
  • Lee Hill, Acting Executive Producer, The Takeaway, WNYC
  • Anna Johnson, News Director, Europe and Africa, the Associated Press
  • Mitra Kalita, SVP National News, Programming & Opinion, CNN Digital
  • Amy Kovac-Ashley, Vice President and Senior Director, API
  • Sally Lehrman, Founder/CEO, The Trust Project
  • Sara Lomax-Reese, President/CEO, WURD Radio
  • Sam Lyon, Managing Editor Global Digital Soccer and UK content across all sports, ESPN and now VP, Global Content, Eurosport
  • Maeven McGovern, Arts Exec Producer/Director Youth Outcomes, YR Media
  • Bill Nichols, Spotlight on Poverty & Opportunity, VP/GM, Freedman Consulting
  • Erika Owens, Director, Opennews
  • Birgit Rieck, Associate Director, Knight-Wallace
  • Mark Sappenfield, Editor, Christian Science Monitor
  • Fran Scarlett, Chief Knowledge Officer and Business Coach, Institute for Nonprofit News
  • David Smydra, Head, News Product Experience, Google News
  • Jeff Sonderman, Deputy Executive Director, API
  • Tory Starr, Director Social Media, WGBH
  • Mackenzie Warren, Senior Director News Strategy, Gannett
  • Alex Watson, Head of Product, BBC News
  • Morwen Williams, Head of UK Operations, BBC News
  • JJ Yore, General Manager, WAMU

The 2020-21 MTC program has 25 Fellows, several supported by others including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund and the inaugural group of five GNI Grantees supported by the Google News Initiative.

We welcome the incoming MTC Fellows:

  • Natalia Antelava, CEO/Editor in Chief, Coda Media (GNI Grantee)
  • Sean Cavanagh, Managing Editor, EdWeek Market Brief, Education Week (GNI Grantee)
  • Neil Chase, CEO, CalMatters
  • Allan Donald, Head of Product, the BBC
  • Kevin Grant, Co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Ground Truth Project and Vice President of Strategy for Report for America
  • John Hassell, Senior Vice President and Editorial Director, Advance Local
  • Lizzy Hazeltine, Fund Coordinator, North Carolina Local News Lab Fund
  • Cierra Hinton, Executive Director-Publisher, Scalawag
  • Evelyn Hsu, Co-Executive Director, Maynard Institute (recipient of Knight support)
  • Jim Iovino, Visiting Assistant Professor of Media Innovation, West Virginia University
  • James Jordan, Deputy News Director Europe, the Associated Press
  • Chris Krewson, Executive Director, LION Publishers (recipient of Knight support)
  • Tristan Loper, Executive Vice President/Co-Founder, News Revenue Hub
  • Alberto B Mendoza, Executive Director, National Association of Hispanic Journalists (GNI Grantee)
  • Katie Mercer, Vice President Content, Local News Network; Director of Social Media, Glacier Media & Glacier Media Digital, Glacier Media
  • Margarita Noriega, Editor, Glitch.com, Glitch.com
  • Martin Reynolds, Co-Executive Director, Maynard Institute (recipient of Knight support)
  • Mila Sanina, Executive Director of PublicSource, PublicSource
  • Simone Swink, VP + Executive Broadcast Producer / GMA, Disney / ABC News / GMA
  • Troy Thibodeaux, Data Science and News Applications Editor, the Associated Press
  • Lindsay Thomas, Content Director, WUNC, North Carolina Public Radio
  • Lia Valero, Chicas Poderosas Audience Editor and Ambassador in Colombia, Chicas Poderosas (GNI Grantee)
  • Sarah Ward-Lilley, Managing Editor, BBC News and Current Affairs, BBC News
  • Fara Warner, Independent Editorial Consultant, Solutions Journalism Network (GNI Grantee)
  • Ricardo Zuniga, Deputy Editor Americas, ESPN


About The Poynter Institute

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 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, poynter.org, 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 teen digital information literacy project. The world’s top journalists and media innovators come to 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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