CJET coaches: Not the usual suspects

Long before the Community Journalism Executive Training (CJET) brought together 32 non-profit and for-profit news entrepreneurs for intensive business training, I started recruiting coaches. And I knew from the outset that, for the program to be successful, I’d need to look beyond the usual suspects.

It was a challenging task, given the diverse field of applicants. Some news publishers are mom & pop operations with budgets written in Microsoft Word; others are large nonprofits with a monthly burn rate in excess of $1 million.

CJET was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and administered through theInvestigative News Network. It was based on the innovative Super Camp program The Patterson Foundation funded for 12 hyperlocal publishers at Block by Block. Because of the huge impact Super Camp had in building paths to sustainability for independent news publishers, Knight, through INN, wanted to expand the work to a broader base.

As head coach and developer of the curriculum for Super Camp, I knew that the real magic was in the coaching. Entrepreneurs build business plans all the time; one CJET participant admitted to downloading more than a dozen business plan templates from the web, but never got past the first few questions. But when you add a coach – someone who will challenge, goad and inspire you, someone who will hold you accountable to your word – everything gets real.

On The Patterson Foundation’s Learning and Sharing blog, I write about the coaches, their diverse backgrounds, and how looking beyond the usual suspects can have lasting impact.