Daily Maverick invests in editorial education, professionalism

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


Journalism training is, in my experience, an often neglected part of running newsrooms and in trying to prepare news organisations for the future.

Remarkably few journalism schools seem to address the critical question behind the INMA Newsroom Initiative, which is to focus on the “business of journalism” and connect it to the rest of the publishing industry: goals, finances, business models, and culture.

One of the most effective academic journalism programmes I have seen is the CUNY, City University of New York Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism’s Executive Programme in News Innovation and Leadership set up by outgoing professor Jeff Jarvis. It is focused on the business of journalism and is full of lessons from publishing and other industries.

(We featured a model for product development from a CUNY executive programme graduate Gabriel Sama in a Webinar for the Newsroom Initiative. We also had the founder of the executive programme, Anita Zielina, speak in the last Newsroom Initiative master class along with her successor, Niketa Patel.)

Styli Charalambous, a co-founder of the innovative and fast-growing independent news site Daily Maverick, went to the CUNY programme to fill some of the gaps he knew he had from being an early-stage founder and creating a journalism organisation from the ground up.

He turned his experience into an ongoing transformation of the Daily Maverick. The plan recognises the business pressures, the need to drive change, how to professionalise an organisation, and how to give it a future beyond those first years that the energy of founders creates. None of those problems are unique to journalism, but tech startups are often more grounded in process.

It appears to have delivered results: Maverick is using data on audience needs more effectively, has launched a counter-intuitive but innovative print edition, and is investing in staff training to help it get beyond the critical role of its original founders — a step many organisations fail in.

“Daily Maverick will have more efficient and effective practices putting it in a better position to achieve its strategic goals,” Styli said in a lengthy paper to his team created after CUNY.

Styli quotes a range of more general non-media business and change management experts from the legendary John Kotter to Professor Scott Galloway in an effortless way that shows how much we as journalists and media leaders have to learn from other industries.

It is in part about standing up for the vision of what the Daily Maverick can be and its mission. And no, they are not necessarily the same thing:

  • Vision (why): “Know more. Know better.”
  • Mission (how): “Defend Truth.”

There is a reason those business books seem simplistic to journalists; they are, but they contain basic truths built on motivation and experience.

The results speak for themselves:

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About Peter Bale

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