The 2022 Media Transformation Challenge (MTC) Program: A Poynter Institute Executive Fellowship



The 2022 Media Transformation Challenge (MTC) Program: A Poynter Institute Executive Fellowship

Since 2007, more than 300 senior media executives have realized critical performance results, built life-long career skills and relationships, and made major contributions to industry transformation through this yearlong program (formerly operated as the Punch Sulzberger Program at Columbia).

January 10, 2022– January 9, 2023


  • As a senior news executive, identify and pursue the most significant business performance challenge you face.
  • Deliver real results with help from MTC’s world-class tools, concepts, coaches, peer group, and alumni network.
  • Receive personalized, in-depth executive coaching over the year to apply program tools to your performance challenge.
  • Coaches include: Charlie Baum, Quentin Hope, Karen Gordon, Amanda Barrett, Lauren Gustus, Stephane Mayoux, Robyn Tomlin
  • Build your lifelong leadership capacity through actually achieving outcomes.
  • Join a community of hundreds of alumni, who have made enormous contributions to reshape the journalism industry.
  • Travel to Poynter in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, for in-person training and group activities.
  • Applications for this yearlong executive fellowship program closed Dec. 3, 2021.



Learning Outcomes

With help from highly experienced coaches — including Charlie Baum, Karen Gordon and Quentin Hope — and deep ties to your peer group, you will learn:

  • A repeatable set of tools and concepts to deliver results and transformation
  • How to build your own leadership capacity as you actually lead the accomplishment of your challenge
  • Pragmatic, carefully curated tools of strategy, innovation, organizational change, racial equity and personal leadership




  • As a senior news executive, identify and pursue the most significant business performance challenge you face.
  • Deliver real results with help from MTC’s world-class tools, concepts, coaches, peer group, and alumni network.
  • Receive personalized, in-depth executive coaching over the year to apply program tools to your performance challenge.
  • Coaches include: Charlie Baum, Quentin Hope, Karen Gordon, Amanda Barrett, Lauren Gustus, Stephane Mayoux, Robyn Tomlin
  • Build your lifelong leadership capacity through actually achieving outcomes.
  • Join a community of hundreds of alumni, who have made enormous contributions to reshape the journalism industry.
  • Travel to Poynter in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, for in-person training and group activities.
  • Applications for this yearlong executive fellowship program closed Dec. 3, 2021.

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If you want to steer your organization toward a new level of success, build your lifelong leadership capacity with world class coaching, and become part of an incredible inter-connected alumni network, it’s time for you to join the Media Transformation Challenge (MTC) program at Poynter.

Since 2007, the MTC program has had unparalleled impact on the journalism world.

Virtually anywhere you go, whatever conferences you might attend, MTC Fellows and alumni are prominent in sharing their performance results, insights, and innovations as they help lead industry transformation — in their organizations and across the media world.

Note: From 2007-2018, MTC was widely known as the Punch Sulzberger Program at Columbia Journalism School. Since 2019, Columbia has operated a substantially different program called Sulzberger, that is unrelated to MTC in tools, approach, leadership, and alumni relationships. 

What makes MTC special

Most executive programs focus on their particular curriculum, with the hope that something will change back home. It rarely does, at least not compared to upfront expectations, and cost in time and money.

Our program turns this paradigm on its head. In MTC, Fellows are required to select and pursue an urgent, compelling measurable performance challenge (not a project or a “pitch,” but outcomes). Everything else — our tools and concepts, coaching, peer relationships, and the alumni network — are there to help you make that happen, with a caring dose of peer and program accountability to reinforce your own commitment. This is what makes MTC special.

Our performance-driven, challenge-centric approach, pioneered by Doug Smith and coaching colleagues, is unique in the media industry and beyond. It helps account for the extraordinary accomplishments of over 300 Fellows, and the common tools, disciplines, language, alumni community, and coaching relationships they share. Meet another Fellow? You will have an immediate connection and common understanding that makes collaboration so much easier.

Many now-common innovations in journalism either got their start or accelerated their development as part of the program. These include NPR’s Code Switch, CIR’s Reveal, the News Revenue Hub, NAHJ’s palabraReport for the World, ABC News’ use of one-person bureaus, Columbia Global Reports, Gannett/McClatchy’s Table Stakes program, the AP Video Hub, the Pulitzer Center’s education arm, HearkenThe NewStart AllianceSubtext and others.

Today’s most crucial journalism challenges demand focus and persistence over time. You can’t expect to change your enterprise in shorter-term efforts of three to four months, especially if those efforts dwell only on helping you make a pitch or learning technical skills or tactics. In MTC, you won’t be busy with checklists and technical projects over a few weeks, or tons of reading and lectures. Rather, you will focus deeply on strategic performance challenges right at the heart of your journalistic enterprise, and indeed the industry itself.

“MTC has been a game changer for me both professionally and personally. The cohort and the coaches became a like a second family. One of my favorite (tools) was From-To: It helped me with clarity as to the essential practices needed to ensure NAHJ’s palabra will be here for a long time.”
— Alberto Mendoza, Executive Director, National Association of Hispanic Journalists (now managing director of John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford)

The MTC value proposition

MTC’s fundamental value proposition is helping Fellows increase the odds of success at the challenges they and their organizations most need to achieve. Early wins – within weeks of the opening session – build insights, momentum, and Fellows’ own confidence to realize larger scale outcomes and change. Additional tools and concepts are introduced in absorbable chunks over the year — such that Fellows are much more likely to achieve success and learn a core set of tools. Your challenges are the program’s yearlong case studies, and everyone’s invested in each others’ success.

Fellows also grow as leaders by actually leading the accomplishment of outcomes that matter to your organizations, of whatever size or type. Not simply by talking or reading about leadership, though we do. Not simply through coaching, which we facilitate with multiple, diverse and deeply experienced coaches. And not simply with curriculum, which we originated and adapted over the last 14 years.

Instead, you will develop your leadership capacity by holding yourself and other Fellows accountable to achieving their own unique strategic performance challenges. Our approach offers Fellows the perspectives, tools, relationships and confidence needed for foundational, career-lasting success. This helps explain why so many alumni hold senior, influential positions in for-profit, nonprofit and public media organizations — and also why alumni have gone on to initiate so many impactful shifts in the industry including, for example, Report for AmericaSTATURL Media and Blue Engine Collaborative.

READ MORE: A Q&A with URL Media co-founders S. Mitra Kalita and Sara Lomax-Reese about connecting during the Media Transformation Challenge Program

MTC leaders and alumni have spawned many other challenge-centric programs that use MTC performance-driven tools and approaches. These include the cluster of Table Stakes programs in the United States and Europe, and various well-known accelerator programs. MTC has contributed to, and draws upon, insights and relationships across all these initiatives.

Our coaching team, with deep ties to these alumni since 2007, fosters alumni connections relevant to your own performance challenge and matches you with leaders who share your personal interests. A spirit of generosity, openness and connectedness is at the core.

So when you enter MTC, you simultaneously enter a broad community of leaders and organizations at the center of journalism’s transformation.

“I am the only Fellow to take part in the MTC experience twice (to pursue two different challenges), and each time, I grew personally and professionally. The tools I learned allowed me to apply rigor and an outcome-based thinking to the projects at hand. I continue to draw on them in my daily work, but they are only part of the story. Individual coaching made those tools come alive for me and the insights, friendship and support of my fellow alumni have been invaluable. I expect those relationships to last long into the future.”
— Amanda Barrett, deputy managing editor, Associated Press

A unique approach to performance-driven change

We build the entire MTC program around real performance challenges confronting the news enterprises of Fellows in the program. Along with our alumni community, this is the differentiator of our program.

Each Fellow selects and commits to unique, outcome-driven performance challenge, using criteria such as “one of the most urgent, crucial challenges confronting the enterprise.” In the 2021 cohort, these included:

  • Reaching and engaging with audiences, communities, and media enterprises across “Fault Lines” of race and class
  • Increasing and diversifying revenue for start-up and legacy media organizations
  • Generating substantially more mission-impact through new business models and strategies
  • Expanding the solutions journalism approach to new platforms
  • Building more effective networks and ecosystems for new product developers and Asian American journalists

Beginning with the first session, Fellows apply pragmatic tools of strategy, innovation, organizational change, racial equity and personal leadership to identify and articulate their overall “from/to” performance challenges — and then quickly and steadily accomplish important outcomes against them. It’s easy to get excited over a set of ideas and plans; it’s entirely different to translate them into outcomes that matter.

Four multiday sessions over the course of the year, plus a two-day wrap-up, are used for participants to share progress, absorb just-in-time content, and help each other move “up the S-curve” towards performance challenge outcomes.

“I applied to help save my business. My biggest customer was teetering on bankruptcy. I needed a strategy to survive. While my personal background was in journalism and general management, I didn’t have an MBA. MTC gave me the business skills necessary to develop strategy, manage change and measure results. The program helped me define my core business challenge and then, through classroom instruction and persistent focus, taught me the tools necessary to succeed.”
— Steve Jones, former VP & General Manager, ABC News Radio (now at Skyview Networks)

Each Fellow receives individualized coaching from highly experienced coaches deeply familiar with the tools and concepts in a broad array of applications. Our coaches:

  • Help Fellows select the most appropriate performance challenge for their MTC experience
  • Offer just-in-time assistance with the program tools throughout the year, geared to S-curve progress
  • Serve as confidantes regarding Fellows’ own leadership style and effectiveness
  • Hold participants accountable for their commitment to meaningful results and personal learning — well beyond what could be achieved without the program
  • Connect Fellows to the MTC alumni network and alumni of similar performance-driven programs

Each coach is deeply grounded in the tools of performance-driven change. Each also brings specialty expertise and relationships, whether in strategy, leadership, business models, public media or racial justice. Though one coach will be your “primary” coach, you’ll have access to all coaches, who also deliver much of our unique and curated curriculum.

“We believe so strongly in the value of the program that we have continued to send group leaders from our organization year-after-year from all departments. And each time, they grow their personal skill set and contribute more fully to achieving our overall company goals of growth, innovation and increased market share. And each time, they tell us it has changed the way they work. It has been nothing short of revolutionary for us.”
— Susan Daly, editor at

Click here to see a full list of participants since 2007.


We’d love to hear from you.

For questions relating to Poynter or travel, email

For questions relating to the MTC program, email

MTC Fellows meet four times a year for four to five days each. These sessions take place in January, March, June and September of 2022, with a final two-day wrap-up in January 2023. The June session will be held online.

Between sessions, we will have periodic virtual small group sessions for Fellows to share progress on their performance challenges. We also will offer content-related pop-up sessions for Fellows who want to go deeper on a particular topic.

Key dates (subject to minor change):

  • Jan. 10-14, 2022
  • March 14-18, 2022
  • June 13-17, 2022
  • Sept. 19-23, 2022
  • Jan. 8-9, 2023

READ MORE: How 2021 Fellow Madeleine Bair and El Tímpano is strengthening a web of community connections

January 2022

Jan. 10-14, 2022 is the kick-off week. Incoming 2022 Fellows overlap with the graduating 2021 MTC Fellows to build relationships and learn from their program experience. We then introduce MTC’s essential tools, frameworks and insights about leading performance-driven change, Fault Lines, strategy, and innovation. This is the first exposure to the key vocabulary and mindset common across all MTC Fellows. In large and small group sessions, Fellows apply tools to their own situation and initial sense of their performance challenges. Fellows also plan for early wins to be achieved prior to the March session, so that they can test ideas, achieve results, and build confidence for more. There also is plenty of time for socializing and building connections amongst your cohort.

Between January and March, Fellows simultaneously “design” (begin developing approaches to their overall challenge) and “do” (achieve wins against initial challenge articulation). During this time, Fellows engage in a series of coaching calls to get a clearer idea of the forces at work for their challenge, key gaps, “from-to” assessments, desired outcomes, who will be involved, and a sense of readiness and resistance. Coaches also will discuss Fellows’ own personal growth objectives for development through their performance challenges.

March 2022

The March session focuses on debriefing early wins and helping Fellows think further about their performance challenge for the year. Curriculum is introduced just-in-time – in particular related to schools of strategy for further challenge development, personal leadership dynamics, and thoughts on building momentum. Also, each Fellow presents their first “update” that helps others understand their organization, their role, progress made thus far, and further observations about performance challenge development.

June 2022 (virtual)

The June session focuses on mid S-curve dynamics. By this point, Fellows will have made substantial progress against their challenges — they will also have run into obstacles and opportunities as their challenges unfold. Roughly half the session will be devoted to challenge updates and peer conversation. The other half is dedicated to concepts of negotiation and influence, performance scorecards, personal leadership effectiveness, and ways to exploit momentum.

By this juncture Fellows also will have built more comprehensive approaches to their challenges, based on our hallmark mix of “design/do” loops. We also work on identifying each Fellow’s “crux” – the dynamics they will need to resolve in order to realize continued success.

September 2022

By September, Fellows are well up the S-curve and enjoying the outcomes of their efforts. We use the September session for sharing progress, showing how the tools come together at increasingly sophisticated levels, and reinforcing Fellows’ confidence in the skillset they now have. This session is also the “last call” for changes in approach, and “first call” for looking into 2023.

January 2023

At the final session in January 2023, Fellows present their results and insights, and receive their certificate of completion. In addition, Fellows describe their “next performance challenge” moving forward, and use this as we review and reinforce the core approaches of the program.

Throughout the year, Fellows are provided detailed assignments designed to drive success at the challenges. In addition, the coaches regularly speak with Fellows to assess progress, identify and address issues and provide guidance.

Who should apply

The Media Transformation Challenge Program is designed for senior news executives selected by their enterprises (of all sizes and types) to lead success against one of the most crucial challenges faced by the enterprise. Our philosophy is that “leaders grow as leaders by leading something real,” and alumni have built on their success as Fellows in the program to go on to positions of ever-expanding opportunity and authority.

Participants are from both the editorial and business sides of many different kinds of news enterprises in the U.S. and abroad, including national broadcast networks, worldwide wire services, local/state/national broadcast stations, national newspapers, social media companies, and start-up businesses and nonprofits serving this marketplace.

“Taking part in [this program] was challenging and inspiring in equal measure. It helped turn a back‐of‐a‐napkin idea into a reality which is now generating many millions of dollars annually and gave me skills that I still use daily.”
— Sue Brooks, former director, Associated Press (now at Reuters)

Our alumni include:

Ashley Suh Alvarado
VP Community Engagement, Southern California Public Radio

Amanda Barrett
Deputy Managing Editor, Associated Press

Samantha Barry
Editor in Chief, Glamour

Monica Bauerlein
CEO, Mother Jones

Neil Brown
President, The Poynter Institute

Sally Buzbee
Executive Editor, The Washington Post

Fiona Campbell
Controller (Head) BBC 3

Alfredo Carbajal
Managing Editor, Al Día / The Dallas Morning News

Brian Carovillano
Managing Editor, Associated Press

Andrew DeVigal
Chair, Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement, University of Oregon

Tim Griggs
Founder & CEO, Blue Engine Collaborative

Anya Grundmann
SVP of Programming, NPR

Sara Just
Executive Producer, PBS NewsHour

S. Mitra Kalita
Founder of Epicenter and co-founder, URL Media

Aine Kerr
Co-founder, Kinzen

Mark Lacey
Assistant Managing Editor, NY Times

Alberto Mendoza
Managing Director for the John S. Knight Fellowships at Stanford

Ben Monnie
Director of Global Partnership Solutions, Google

Andrew Morse
EVP of CNN US and General Manager of CNN Digital Worldwide

Jonathan Munro
Head of Newsgathering, BBC

Sara Lomax-Reese
President of WURD, co-founder of URL Media

Christa Scharfenberg
CEO, Reveal/CIR

Charlie Sennott
Founder, The GroundTruth Project
Co-founder, Report for America

Kerry Smith
SVP of Editorial Quality, ABC News

Patrick Stiegman
Vice President and Editorial Director, Global Digital Content, ESPN

Mackenzie Warren
Senior Director of News Strategy, USA Today Network

Irving Washington
Executive Director/CEO, Online News Association

[Click here to see a complete list of participants since 2007]

Application process

The MTC program regularly reaches capacity. The key step is to email Charlie Baum, the Executive Director, at to arrange a phone conversation in which you and Charlie will discuss your interest in the program, any questions you have about it, and a proposed challenge you face that can serve as the focal point of your participation. All applicants must speak with Charlie before they are accepted. Typically, it makes the most sense to do this before completing the application.

In addition to the phone call with Charlie and completing the application form, we require a letter of support from the applicant’s supervisor as well as a financial commitment.

The deadline to apply is Dec. 3, 2021. Fellows will be accepted on a rolling basis. Therefore, we encourage interested candidates to inquire and apply early.

Program cost

The MTC program is an investment of $29,500. This includes four week long sessions, one two-day graduation session, multiple “pop-up” content and peer meetings, and regular individualized executive coaching over the course of one year — as well as inclusion in the alumni network. A limited number of scholarships are available.

Here’s what some graduates say about the value of the program:

“When I was thinking of applying, I worried about the size of the investment for a small enterprise like West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Now, I can give you 10 ways I have earned that investment back with substantial interest, not to mention the friendships and soul‐supporting experience of being with people who have the same passion for telling stories.”
— Scott Finn, Executive Director, West Virginia Public Broadcasting (now president and CEO of VPR and Vermont PBS)


We’d love to hear from you.

For questions relating to Poynter or travel, email

For questions relating to the MTC program, email


Program leadership and coaches:

  • Charlie Baum
    Executive Director
    Charlie Baum has been associated with MTC since the very opening dinner of the Sulzberger program in January 2007.  While helping build the foundation, accomplishments,...
    Read More
  • Karen Gordon
    Karen Gordon is the founder of Strategic Horizons, Inc., providing strategic, organizational, and communication guidance, as well as executive coaching, to a wide range of...
    Read More
  • Fran Scarlett
    Faculty, Media Transformation Challenge at Poynter
    Fran Scarlett is passionate about helping news entrepreneurs and their organizations start, grow and thrive. She is a strategist by training and a pragmatist at...
    Read More
  • Quentin Hope
    Organization Management and Strategy, Independent Consultant
    Quentin Hope is an independent consultant with over 25 years of experience serving clients across a broad range of industries and organizations in the areas...
    Read More
  • Tim Griggs
    Program advisor
    Tim Griggs is an independent consultant and advisor to media organizations around the world, primarily on digital subscriptions and membership, audience-centric practices, revenue diversification, newsroom...
    Read More
  • Doug Smith
    Doug Smith is the founding executive director and architect of the Media Transformation Challenge. His challenge-centric design draws on more than three decades of helping...
    Read More
  • Stéphane Mayoux
    Stéphane Mayoux is an executive coach whose professional DNA is rooted in 25 years of BBC international journalism. Stéphane has been closely supporting media companies...
    Read More
  • Robyn Tomlin
    Robyn Tomlin is a veteran journalist, media executive and leader with a passion for using performance-driven change efforts to help news organizations transform and grow....
    Read More
  • Amanda Barrett
    Amanda Barrett is passionate about serving audiences and ensuring that journalism reflects the wide diversity of the world we live in. She is vice president...
    Read More
  • Lauren Gustus
    Lauren Gustus became executive editor of The Salt Lake Tribune in the fall of 2020. The Utah news organization was the first and remains the...
    Read More
  • Tasha Wilmore
    MTC Admin Support
    Tasha Wilmore, is the owner of Help On Deck, a virtual administrative and event logistics support company. Wilmore, a US Army veteran, is passionate about...
    Read More