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Illustration: Emilee Beeson

Building work culture: A free email course for news leaders

A training course that will help create a more transparent, accountable and caring work culture

Building News Culture is a free email course now available to help you create a more transparent, accountable and caring work culture. 

What it is

This newsletter course is designed for news leaders who are building culture, with actions that can be used by anyone who wants to make change. 

Over six weeks, subscribers receive a weekly email that will guide you through thinking about how culture shows up in organizations. Each email will share either a framework from outside of journalism that you can apply to your work or an in-depth look at an inspiring news organization with examples of policies, programs and practices that define their internal culture. 

This course focuses on frameworks, tactics and examples that demonstrate what others have done to positively shape their work culture. It highlights news organizations that have thoughtfully built their organizations so that all training is grounded in practicality and first-hand knowledge. 

Along with looking at what’s working in journalism, the course also draws on frameworks from human resources and entrepreneurship that center transparency, accountability, and care. Readers can identify frameworks that are actionable within their own work cultures. 

The course includes six templates to help you build news culture and anchor into the specific needs of your organization, teams and the individuals who work with you. The downloadable Google Docs feature exercises to help you apply the frameworks and inspiration to your work.

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This course has been designed around building transparent, accountable and caring work cultures. 

  • Transparency addresses management best practices, including how leadership shares information about the business, upcoming projects and how they see staff roles developing over time. 
  • Accountability addresses staff expectations and reliability when it comes to colleagues and deadlines. 
  • Care addresses the ethos of the organization overall, how management and staff behaviors fit together and how mindful colleagues are of each other’s needs.  

Who it’s for 

News leaders who are building a better work culture. This training is informed by interviews with over a dozen newsrooms; meetings with three organizations that offer newsrooms training and financial support; survey data from over 100 individuals who work in news and numerous conversations with journalism colleagues. 

Early-stage organizations, which includes startup news leaders, managers and workers establishing and developing their organizational culture. These organizations will discover a foundational understanding of what work culture is, team dynamics critical for high-performing teams and how to foster a culture of belonging. The course is designed to address the needs of startup newsrooms early on — from creating structure to growing the team — and includes three deep dives into how people have built culture at early-stage organizations. 

Established organizations may also need guidance on how to create more transparent, accountable and caring cultures. This course will help news leaders, managers and workers who are interested in shifting or redefining their work culture, including intrapreneurs and those leading change within their organizations. It is especially useful for those who can set culture on teams, projects and through processes (i.e. hiring, project management, etc.). The course will also provide actionable guidance on recruiting and hiring, improving team communications and rethinking working with teams. 

Journalism support organizations, such as those that provide training or funding to news organizations — like foundations, educational orgs and affinity groups. Some might elect to take the course themselves as well as recommend it to the organizations they support.

Time commitment 

This email course spans six weeks. After sign-up, subscribers receive a weekly email. Each email includes advice from experts within the email, an exercise to apply the material to your organization and links to additional reading or resources. 

Setting aside 30 min each week will help you get the most out of the course, though you can likely read the materials in less than 10 min.  

By the end of the course you will have a set of documents to guide your strategy on improving your work culture. In the final email, you gain access to a library of all the frameworks and the  blank templates, so you can easily revisit any you may have missed or not completed yet.  

Why now

It is a critical time to invest in newsroom culture. Over the past few years, expectations around work culture and how the news industry can accommodate new ways of working have changed. Calls to action in recent years around labor concerns, racial justice, sexual harassment and discrimination demand better organizational accountability. News leaders at established organizations are taking action to shift or redefine the culture, making changes on teams, projects and how they work. 

Big investments in local news in recent years make now a pivotal moment to invest in training for leaders around work culture. These nascent organizations have the rare opportunity to do things differently without the institutional baggage of decades-old news organizations. Just as they are locating new, different and better ways to report and engage audiences, they should innovate how they treat employees.

Who built this 

This course was designed by Jennifer Mizgata, a consultant and coach. She coaches media and tech leaders on work culture improvement, team management, digital transitions and operational strategy. After a decade advising newsrooms through leadership training, grantmaking and coaching, she received an MBA to learn best practices from outside the industry. This course was developed while she was a Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow. She founded consulting company Little Key to help news organizations better understand audiences, launch products that respond to community needs and build sustainable organizations. 

Gratitude to

The news leaders at over a dozen newsrooms who agreed to talk on background about this work; over 100 individuals who work in news who took the time to respond to a survey on work culture and many journalism colleagues who have had conversations with me over the years. 

The Reynolds Journalism Institute for supporting this work. Brandon Soderberg and Laura Bertocci for editing copy. Emilee Beeson for creating the illustrations. LION and Arizona Luminaria for acting as partners throughout the development process and providing critical feedback. Arizona Luminaria (again!), Mutante and The 19th* for sharing insights about their workplaces in the three case studies in this course. Joy Jenkins at Mizzou for providing feedback on survey design that informed this work. And most of all, the news leaders who have shared their challenges with me during coaching sessions, leadership programs and fellowships over the years. I couldn’t have built this without seeing the change that you have been able to make over time in your workplaces. 

This project doesn’t assume there is one quick fix to making news culture better. Building News Culture is an investment in your organization, your team and the individuals you work with. The key takeaway is that we all deserve to work in transparent, accountable and caring work cultures.  

Cite this article

Mizgata, Jennifer (2024, March 12). Building work culture: A free email course for news leaders. Reynolds Journalism Institute. Retrieved from:


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