Journal Register Launches Digital Ninja School

Journal Register Company is putting a new spin on newsroom digital training for editorial employees of its Connecticut properties.

Those employees can now go to Digital Ninja School, a martial arts-themed training program. The program covers five areas that are essential for anyone working in the newsroom of 2012: digital publishing, social media, blogging, video and data journalism. Completing each category gets you a new “belt” — right up to completing all categories, when you get a digital ninja black belt.

But to advance to the next belt, Journal Register is smartly requiring more than just the training to be completed. Students must show how they’re applying what they learned to their workplace, metrics included.

As an incentive to participate, employees receive a financial award for each belt they receive. Employees who get their black belts will have gotten $2,000 total.

“We believe the Digital Ninja School will position graduates for career advancement and tens of thousands of dollars in additional earning potential,” wrote Matt DeRienzo, group editor of Journal Register’s Connecticut publications.

Getting employees excited about digital training has been challenging for newsrooms. Oftentimes, employees who have worked years in the newsroom are hesitant to adapt to the new technologies used. They see it as more work and something that doesn’t necessarily concern them.

This training program looks structured, competitive and it will put more money in the pockets of those who take the time to participate in it. If successful, this pilot could expand to other Journal Register properties, other properties of JRC’s parent company, Digital First Media (which also owns MediaNewsGroup, the owner of papers like the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News and Salt Lake Tribune) and even journalists outside the company.