News Improved: NPR’s Transition from Public Radio to Public Media
Publication Date December 14, 2011
"How National Public Radio Embraced Digital" on KnightBlog (6/8/2010)
In 2007, National Public Radio adopted a multiyear plan to increase the organization’s digital footprint and begin transforming itself from a public radio company to a public media company. Achieving that transformation required staff members to improve their digital skills and to understand the relevancy of NPR’s digital news strategy and structure to their own work. In addition, it required a culture shift in the organization to break down barriers and encourage collaboration between radio and digital staff.
NPR initiated the most comprehensive training in its history. Six hundred staff members, including reporters, producers and editors, were taught to write for the Web, create digital products including videos and photographs, and use the latest audio production tools. During the course of that massive effort, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, NPR and Knight learned important lessons about conducting effective digital media skills training.
These lessons are also relevant to other news organizations as they move from a single platform — whether audio, print or video — to a multimedia platform delivered via the Internet.
In November 2010, the Knight Foundation retained TCC Group to evaluate the training with an eye toward identifying best practices for both NPR and other journalism enterprises. While the training’s goal was to improve NPR’s digital content and audience engagement, TCC’s evaluation design focused on assessing direct outcomes — including improvement in individual digital skills, integration of digital media throughout the organization and changes in attitudes toward digital storytelling — and examining what factors matter most in achieving these outcomes. TCC administered a 360-degree evaluation survey to NPR staff members and conducted in-depth interviews with 18 people.
Overall, the evaluation found that the Knight-funded NPR training resulted in a positive shift in individual and organizational attitudes toward digital news. Best practices to improve both individual and organizational outcomes included providing hands-on relevant training, applying it immediately and offering support after the training.