News Take Episode 202: How the American Press Institute is Inspiring Cultural Transformation in News Media

“As a newsroom leader… live on your toes, on the balls of your feet, which makes it a lot easier for you to pivot. When that ideology permeates an entire shop, it becomes very easy to move. Because everybody is basically casting pebbles into the same lake – all of those pebbles ripple, and the ripples connect, and so you’re seeing the transformation spread, which is very exciting because cultural transformation is hard to make it stick. If you don’t do it right, then the movement stops when we leave where we are. And so cultural transformation only happens when people individually decide to commit and you hit a critical mass of those agents of change across one organization.”

– Samantha Ragland, American Press Institute

Guests: Samantha Ragland and Elite Truong, American Press Institute

What is cultural transformation, and how do publishers know if they’re doing it right? How can publishers cultivate real and lasting cultural change in newsrooms? How does cultural transformation in the newsroom translate to the content produced and thereby the relationships newsrooms have with members of their communities? 

In this episode of News Take, News/Media Alliance VP, Research & Insights, Rebecca Frank sits down with Samantha Ragland, Vice President of Journalism Programs and Elite Truong, Vice President of Product Strategy, both at the American Press Institute, for a candid and fascinating conversation about the work API is doing with news publishers to help them look at their organizations with a critical eye and evolve to better reflect the communities they serve and respond to their needs. They talk about their work with newsroom leaders on DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging), promoting and fostering a sustainable news organization from the inside out, and encouraging a culture of experimentation in the newsroom. Finally, they share lessons learned from API’s Table Stakes program and Inclusion Index, as well as their data centric tools for publishers, Metrics for News and Source Matters, and offer tips for how other news publishers can use data and related guidance at their own organizations to spark transformation.

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“We want to encourage folks who understand that if you want to get anything out of working with other folks and learning all of these lessons… you have to put some work in to be able to see some rewards, which is not revolutionary, but … it’s difficult to try to make space for all of the different things when you’re responsible for so much, but I think there’s always a little bit of room to look at ‘What can I let go of so I can invite more modern strategy in, or think about the long-term strategy once in a while.”

– Elite Truong, American Press Institute

Speaker bios

Samantha Ragland is Vice President of Journalism Programs at the American Press Institute. Previously, Ragland was a member of the faculty at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies where she also served as director of the Leadership Academy for Women in Media. As VP of Journalism Programs, Ragland leads API’s efforts to promote cultural transformation and business sustainability in media, helping news organizations serve diverse readers and communities more effectively. She leads API’s journalism programs portfolio, including The Table Stakes Local News Transformation program, Beyond Print, API’s work on diversity and inclusion in newsrooms and change management coaching for news companies of all sizes. While at Poynter, Ragland created custom workshops based on newsroom needs, including trauma and resiliency training developed in collaboration with clinical psychologists. She was also co-director of the Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellowship program for early-career reporters. Ragland previously led digital content strategy at the USA Today Network and managed digital storytelling at The Palm Beach Post. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Western Kentucky University. She’s an active member of and coach for

Elite Truong is Vice President of Product Strategy at the American Press Institute. She manages the existing API product portfolio, which includes Metrics for News, an analytics tool that aligns journalism metrics with an organization’s editorial values and business model, and Source Matters, a tool that allows publishers to track and improve the diversity of their organizations. As head of the Product Strategy team, she helps strengthen and expand the product portfolio, while also serving as a product coach and thought leader for the news industry. Elite is also the board secretary of the News Product Alliance, a nascent community of support and practice for news product thinkers. Elite most recently worked as director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post, where she led the newsroom R&D team to create projects and products driven by emerging technologies, including machine learning, artificial intelligence and 3D and augmented reality. Before joining The Post, Elite spent four years at Vox Media, three as the product manager for off-platform storytelling. Elite has been an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, where she created and taught an entrepreneurship class for journalism students. Elite earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Roosevelt University. She is a member of the Asian-American Journalists Association and the Online News Association, where she taught as guest faculty and coached participants in the Women’s Leadership Accelerator.

Related Links:

Inclusion Index report: Assessing the Pittsburgh news ecosystem’s commitment to DEIB

Metrics for News

Source Matters

Table Stakes Local News Transformation Program


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News Take Production Team:

Host and Executive Producer: Rebecca Frank, VP, Research & Insights, News/Media Alliance

Production Support, Editing & Distribution:

Georgi-Ann Clarke, Social Media & Content Manager, News/Media Alliance
Rachel Fox, Manager, Membership & Events, News/Media Alliance
Lindsey Loving, Director, Communications, News/Media Alliance

Audio & Video Engineer: Current Media Group

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