An opportunity to learn something new
NEX GEN program lets participants step outside the box
As enterprise editor for LNP Media Group in Lancaster, Penn., Lison Joseph says 80 percent of his job is focused on print. When he applied for SNPA's NEX GEN mentoring program, he wanted to learn more about digital journalism from someone with hands-on experience.
Joseph was matched with Christy Oglesby, then managing editor/audience growth for Cox Media Group in Atlanta. With CNN also on her resume, Oglesby had expertise in using video to drive traffic to a website.
Joseph's job is fairly traditional. He oversees the enterprise team, a group of nine reporters with beats such as education, politics, city and county governments, agriculture, the environment, business and health care. Keeping track of reporters and editing stories takes up most of his time.
Joseph notes that his newspaper, now called LNP (www.lancasteronline.com), is among the oldest in the country, dating back to 1794. Current circulation is 70,000 Sundays and between 55,000 and 60,000 daily.
"Part of what we were trying to do was translate that legacy, that print legacy of over 200 years, to digital, and be able to have the same respect and credibility and reach online," he said.
Joseph believes newspapers are missing an opportunity by not using video. Oglesby said she was able to help him learn about balancing the needs of a video news operation and a print operation.
The pair usually talked by phone every couple of weeks, and both said they learned from a visit to The Palm Beach Post, a Cox newspaper (www.palmbeachpost.com). The Florida paper has similar circulation and demographics to LNP, Oglesby said.
Joseph found that the West Palm Beach paper was dealing with a similar issue to Lancaster, that of balancing the needs of older, retired readers with those who are more urban. "The needs of those readership groups are very different," he said.
Oglesby said Joseph not only talked with the executive editor and the investigative team, but met with members of Ideabar, the Post's full service marketing and advertising agency. "It was a jam-packed two days," she said.
Oglesby learned some things, too. When Joseph asked questions about ad blocking and SEO best practices, she did some research to come up with the answers. "It was beneficial to me," she said.
Oglesby also visited the Lancaster paper in June. In July, however, Oglesby was laid off by Cox. She is now freelancing and looking for another job, but she refused to let what happened to her affect her mentoring.
"In terms of our discussion, I would say nothing changed, really. I wanted to let him know from the beginning, I'm committed to finishing this," she said.
Joseph advises others interested in NEX GEN to take the opportunity to network within the mentor's own network.
"If I were to go back and do it again, one thing I would do is increase the networking element of it," he said. "Expand it beyond just that mentor. Use that mentor as a launching pad."
It's also important to understand each other's roles and how they work day to day, he said. In retrospect, he suggests that mentors ought to visit mentees at their workplaces sooner rather than later in the program.
Joseph also recommends staying in touch with the mentor's organization after the program is over, establishing formal ties if possible.
Oglesby said she enjoyed meeting Joseph and others in the NEX GEN program at an introductory dinner in Savannah, Ga. The gathering built camaraderie among people with diverse roles in the newspaper business.
"I'm really grateful that SNPA started the program," she said.
Read about additional NEX GEN participants' experiences:
Jane Nicholes is a veteran journalist based in coastal Alabama and is a regular contributor to SNPA. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suggestions for future stories and comments on this piece are welcomed.
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