January 29, 2015

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.

“We want to make sure that people have an opportunity to get out of their day jobs, to get out of their routines, to have an opportunity to have a little bit of head space to do the really amazing idea they’ve been sitting on but just haven’t had a chance to play around with,” Turpin said.

NPR also announced new positions aimed at strengthening the bonds with its network of 900-plus member stations nationwide. The new positions are designed to help NPR make better use of its network of member stations, which collectively employ about 1,400 reporters, Turpin told Poynter. They will also allow stations to use NPR’s resources more effectively.

“That will help us at the national level be a true national network and be able to reach into every corner of this country with great, really important reporting, and we have some skills that can help our local stations build that capacity,” Turpin said. “And when they have that capacity, they can help us do the kind of reporting of impact and distinction and depth that really distinguishes our work.”

Here’s the memo:

As you know, over the past year we’ve been reshaping the newsroom. Our overarching goal is to ensure that we are serving our audience wherever they are and however they are finding us with exceptional journalism, balancing the needs of our traditional broadcast listeners with those whose connection to NPR’s work is through our many digital platforms. We’ve broken down the walls between digital and radio by embedding digital staff into the desks; we have created the Newsdesk under the Holmes Brothers to improve coordination and communication throughout the newsroom; we’re building a culture of critique; and we have deepened our journalism by developing new verticals in the critical areas of education, global health, and identity and culture.

Today, we are formally announcing some newsroom moves designed to improve coordination and cooperation in two critical areas: between the newsroom and other departments at NPR, as well as with our Member Stations.

Over the past year, we have been working to find ways to improve the relationship between stations and the NPR newsroom, especially collaboration around news coverage. To drive these efforts forward, we are creating two station-focused roles.

–Brendan Banaszak has been promoted to Director of Collaborative News Strategy. In many respects, Brendan’s new role is an extension of the excellent work he did coordinating the development and implementation of the new newsmagazine clocks. Key functions include ensuring NPR news initiatives are informed by the perspectives and needs of Member Stations; improving communication between the news division and stations; and developing and sharing best practices around the use of NPR news programming. Brendan will report to the Executive Director for News Programming, while also working closely with Gemma Hooley and her team in Member Partnership.
In addition, we have now posted the position of Collaborative Coverage Editor. This position will sit at the heart of the newsroom, reporting to National Editor Vickie Walton-James. The Collaborative Coverage Editor will work closely with the Newsdesk and the current Bureau Chiefs, to ensure that station reporting is integrated more effectively into our daily coverage both on-air and online. Over the past few years the number of Member Station reporters has grown considerably, while we have maintained the same number of Bureau Chiefs. This role, along with Brendan’s new responsibilities, will increase the number of touch points between stations and our newsroom. You can see the job description here. If you have ideas for the perfect candidate, please send them our way!

As we look to ensure NPR’s financial future, it is more important than ever that News coordinates closely with those parts of NPR responsible for generating the visibility and resources that lets us do the work we do. To aid in this, we have asked Lynette Clemetson and John Stefany to take on new roles.

–Lynette has been promoted to Senior Director of Strategy and Content Initiatives, expanding on work she has started in her current role as Director of Editorial Initiatives. Lynette’s task is to ensure the newsroom and other content divisions work as effectively as possible with partners in Development, Sponsorship, NPR Presents and Audience Development. She’ll ensure our new products and initiatives are positioned for success and sustainability. For example, Development will submit 100+ funding proposals this year that need to mesh with the priorities and aspirations of the newsroom. As anyone who has worked with Lynette knows, she is perfect for this role: a superlative journalist with a track record of fostering successful innovation. Lynette will report to COO Loren Mayor, while continuing her work with news leadership, the newsroom and the Identity and Culture Unit.

–Also, John Stefany has been promoted to Director of Strategic Projects. Working with Loren, Lynette and News leadership, John will develop and manage a range of projects across the newsroom and beyond. He will continue his work around Collaborative Coverage, manage the initial implementation of the Storytelling Lab and also partner with Digital Services, Digital Media and Digital News to improve alignment and coordination around some of our major initiatives. John brings to everything he does exceptional organizational skills, grounding in a variety of project management methodologies, along with a deep understanding of the news business and the ecosystem of public broadcasting.

One other quick note: We have now posted the position of Senior Producer of the Storytelling Lab. We will have detail on how the Lab will work at this week’s All-Staff meeting, which takes place this Thursday, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in Studio 1.

Please join us in congratulating your colleagues on their promotions and evolving roles.
Thank you all for such a successful start to 2015. If you have any questions, we are happy to answer them.

Chris and Loren

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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