September 7, 2023

When I took over the Poynter Institute‘s Leadership Academy for Women in Media from the inimitable Samantha Ragland last year, I believed one thing to be true: Most of journalism’s problems are people problems. And nothing I’ve learned in two decades spent trying to solve intractable content and revenue problems has convinced me otherwise.

An empire of thought leadership has been built on handwringing over whether journalism’s business model is obsolete (maybe) and the public’s appetite for truth is somehow irretrievable (conceivably). But the End of Journalism as We Know It isn’t my particular soapbox these days, nor is it a narrative in which I find much reason to persist. It is, however, the climate in which I find myself as a facilitator — and from which the most exciting future newsroom leaders are emerging.

It’s nobody’s fault that professional development isn’t a top-line budget item this year. Newsrooms have all they can do to stay staffed up enough to report the news their audiences can’t get elsewhere, and carve out a little slice of brand recognition in the midst of so much media noise. It is the work of our professional lifetimes. 

I’d like to direct our attention elsewhere for a moment, and posit that people problems are the problems our industry can solve. In fact, we must: No newsroom sustainability strategy can succeed without an equally robust plan to grow and support an empathic, emotionally intelligent leadership team. 

One reason we haven’t yet cracked the journalism funding code writ large? It’s at least, in part, because our industry’s most progressive minds are too tied up in the demands of the zero-sum-bias content model to think and act strategically. 

And how do we stop burning out our best talent before they make their biggest impact on our business model? One way is to empower them with negotiation skills so they know how to ask for (and get) the resources they need to succeed in their roles. 

These are the skills we teach in the WLA. Sure, they are practical, day-to-day tools that can improve the way newsrooms run. But the intangible Poynter “magic” is found in WLA’s journalism community — 550+ strong and counting — a group of people with immeasurable expertise and talent, speaking the same language around what newsrooms of the future need to survive.

Being a member of the 2022 WLA cohort kept me in journalism, even though I was certain I had no good work left in me. The program restored my vision and unearthed the deeply held (and temporarily buried) values that now guide my efforts as a facilitator. 

It is the honor of my professional life to build on the work of the WLA’s co-founder Katie Hawkins-Gaar, the Online News Association, and countless Poynter faculty members by extending the reach of this deeply meaningful program that has changed my trajectory and impacted the professional lives of hundreds of other leaders. 

If, like me, you believe that our industry’s sustainability and your own professional success are directly linked to how well we can manage change and play to the strengths of our newsroom talent, I want you to apply to join us in one of three cohorts we’ll seat in 2024. 

If you’re curious about what we do for a week in St. Petersburg — and more important, how it can help you prepare for the unexpected, build your own journalism community, and navigate heaps of industry uncertainty — here’s the Q&A I did with Poynter’s senior product specialist, Mel Grau, on nuts and bolts. Want some advice on how to submit your best application? Find it here.

It’s up to us to make journalism a business we want to work in. I’m all in. Come join me in the effort.

Applications for the 2024 sessions of the Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Media are due on Sept. 8, 2023. Please apply online here. Need a deadline extension? Shoot us a note at and we’ll provide a few additional days.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.

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