Doug Mitchell of Next Generation Radio
Doug Mitchell of Next Generation Radio

426. Building relationships for the next generation of reporters

For 20 years, Doug Mitchell has worked diligently to expand the skill set of young journalists, opening their eyes and tool kits to the power of audio reporting. 

His Next Generation Radio was designed to help people with an interest in public media develop storytelling and recording skills by participating in week-long training sessions. 

“We needed to train our next generation to really think about audio interviewing, digital media, tools that are available to share audio,” he says. Students begin the course on Monday and by Friday have completed their research, conducted interviews, edited the material and written accompanying material on the finished story. 

“The fundamental point is to find, train, and hopefully bring in to our system people who are either just out of college or less than five years into their career and either give them a refresher or a total immersion in audio,” he says.

Look below the surface and Next Generation Radio is more than that — it’s also about mentoring and developing relationships with students and helping them make choices in their careers that will benefit them in the long run. 

“Since 2013, we are now 72 percent women in our cohort and 60 percent women of color,” Mitchell says, of the more than 460 people now affiliated with the group as a student or mentor. 

His focus on building relationships and offering services and mentorship to young journalists also provided Mitchell the opportunity to dive more deeply into the idea of dealing with people on a transactional basis versus a relational one. 

Next Generation Radio is built on developing relationships, between mentors and students but also students and their sources, he says. 

“It’s about getting it done but also about building relationships,” he says. “It’s a long game. I don’t have the expectation — some people get jobs immediately, but a career is a life-long thing. It has to be built on relationships, not transactional.” 

Mitchell was asked to contribute a piece to Nieman Reports recently, titled “Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and the Pipeline Problem.” He knows from experience that if the doors aren’t opened, or found, for journalists of color, they will have a much harder time breaking into the business. 

“In public media, we need to continue to create new jobs, not just replacing someone who was in it, but replacing new jobs where people have more control over who they’re talking and it’s not just based on a screaming headline,” he says. 

Some outlets are found to have a shortage of non-white sources and journalists will say they don’t have time to find a more diverse group of people to contact. “NPR said some 70 percent of its sources are white. How did you find them? You had to find the time to find the people you had, so you can make the time to find the people you don’t have,” he says. 

If newsrooms say they’re not able to hire a more diverse team of reporters, the organization should ask why that is. 

“Are people not wanting to move to whatever city because they don’t think there are enough people of color,” he asks. “If you really want to truly recruit and develop relationships, there has to be some sort of acknowledgment of individuals you want to empower.” 

It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell is joined this week by friend of the podcast Doug Mitchell, founder of Next Generation Radio, to discuss the long-lasting importance of relational approaches to journalism, for today and the future.

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