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 palabra, Report 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, Hearken, The NewStart Alliance, Subtext 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 America, STAT, URL Media and Blue Engine Collaborative.
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 TheJournal.ie
We’d love to hear from you.
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