Newspaper program takes off

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New media begets new jobs, and those jobs are generating opportunities for minorities in the newspaper industry.

One newspaper executive moving up in new media is Ivan Martinez, sales development manager for the Yakima (Wash.) Herald-Republic's Web site (www.yakima-herald.com).

Mr. Martinez instituted the site's launch after completing a minority fellowship in new media under the auspices of the Newspaper Association of America.

"It allowed a non-technical person like myself to bring the newspaper online," Mr. Martinez says.

The executive completed the program in June 1998, and launched the Web site that month.

The New Media Fellowship is a yearlong program designed to give minority and women newspaper professionals a working knowledge of new media and its relevant applications in the newspaper industry. It combines classroom instruction with practical experience.

"The area of new media is going to help boost the percentage of minority and women jobholders in the newspaper industry," says Toni Laws, senior VP-diversity for NAA.

"New media has implications for all functions of the newspaper, especially for the business side where minorities and women are under-represented," Ms. Laws says.

RESPONSIBLE FOR PROJECT

Each participant must produce a project for his publication, his community or the industry.

Of the 59 fellows who completed the program since 1996, 30% have earned increased responsibilities, a promotion or new positions in other departments.

The NAA minority fellowship program also offers courses such as "Consumer Marketing Strategies," "Advertising Executives," "Leadership for Online Directors" and "Online Management Conference."

David A. Knight, manager of advertising, planning and development for Philadelphia Newspapers' Philadelphia Inquirer and News, is another NAA Fellow. After completing the fellowship, he was able to assist his company in repackaging its Web site (www.philly.com) to mirror its print products.

"Philly.com was already online, but [the program] opened the door [for me] to [suggest new] revenue opportunities," says Mr. Knight.

The program "also gave me the background to talk [with the interactive staff] on their level. I could better integrate online and print projects. Prior to the program, there was no movement toward consistent packaging between print and online."

BUILDING A DATABASE

Now when Philly.com sponsors an online contest, entries can be compiled into a database that can be used by the newspapers, Mr. Knight says.

"It is a very exciting time to be here while all this is going on," he says of his role in new media. "It's like the first car rolling off the assembly line. I could imagine people saying then, `Wow, we can drive on wheels.' That is what it feels like sometimes in meetings with Internet people."

Mr. Knight developed an industry presence as a result of his participation in the fellowship program. He was named to the NAA Diversity Committee.

In addition, Philadelphia Newspapers now looks to Mr. Knight to develop its in-house diversity teams.

He oversees job fairs sponsored by his publisher at historically black colleges and universities and high schools with large enrollments of African-American and Hispanic students.

DIVERSITY TRAINING

Mr. Martinez also is helping his publisher with its diversity efforts. Last month he participated in an NAA course, "Train the Trainer," where he learned how to develop a diversity training program.

While Messrs. Martinez and Knight deal with retention issues, lack of minorities in entry-level positions is also a problem.

Ms. Laws says if the newspaper industry can continue creating more business-side opportunities for younger professionals, it will become easier to attract new talent.

"Quite frankly, it is our fault. We have been very lax. In fact, our industry almost has a `hands-off' approach," she says. "It is the glamor and lure of [high-tech jobs] that is making us do a better job of making the industry more exciting."

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