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Meet Doug Mitchell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Doug Mitchell.

Hi Doug, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was selected as co-editor of my high school newspaper. That decision, when I was 17, a black student in a mid-size college town in Oklahoma, convinced me I could do journalism. From there, working at the NPR station at Oklahoma State for 3.5 years as a student did more.

Before graduating, I spent a summer as an intern on Capitol Hill in DC. During that internship, I learned I didn’t like politics with all its cliquishness, but I did want to live in the DC area. Along this journey, I listened to NPR and decided I wanted to do “that.”I moved to DC, with no job, but landed at NPR through old-fashioned relentlessness.

While this is the short version, you can read of all the “seeds” of how Next Generation Radio is where it is today.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Smooth? What’s that? I don’t think we learn very much if things are “smooth.” And, we’re not aware of how to add value to work and life, if things are smooth. Instead, I put in place (with my colleagues) a prudent amount of intentional bumps in the work. Just the other day I was working with one of our editors on the story pitch assignment we send to those whom we choose as finalists for each of our five-day, digital media sprints. I reminded this editor that we cannot tell our finalists exactly what to do.

We need to intentionally leave out information and have our finalists go find it. This is journalism. We can guide, be a resource, and provide a lot of support. But, we need people who will dig and dig to find out what they need. Next Generation Radio needs to remain a teaching project first and foremost. The learning is not in the end product, but it’s the journey along the way. And even then, life-long learning is a hallmark of our community.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Each of our Next Gen projects is created through a “reverse engineering” process. I start with the end (project closing presentations) and work back to when we close the application window for each project. This year we are doing 11 one-week sprints. So, that’s 11 opportunities to reverse engineer our project development process and look for what works and what doesn’t. Also, each project has fairly different staffing. We’ll do 11 one-week projects in 2022 with 11 fairly different staff members working with a total of 55 to 60 selected people throughout the year. To aid in this, I have a roster of 60-70 working professionals (many of whom are Next Gen alumni) who raise their hands to work on projects and I keep track with a spreadsheet.

Finally, my late Father (a tenured college professor) told me the best student-teacher ratio is 1:1 (one-to-one). For more than 20 years, I have kept that ratio, with selected cohorts paired 1:1 with a working professional journalist/teacher and together they report a single story with audio, video, photos, and a full written piece. Yes, in five days. It’s pretty intense and intentional. I think the difference between what we do and other media training is the 1:1 mentorship/coaching, the self-actualization I see happening in real time, and the long-game connections that are initiated and kept. We have more than 600 members in our community.

Next Generation Radio “Slack” has an organizing committee of seven, co-community managers and we’ve held career-focused training for our alumni. I should add, that Next Generation Radio is FREE. And, in 2022, all of our selected cohorts are paid a stipend of $500 for the week. Getting paid to work and learn. [I want to] remove “I can’t afford it” from the conversations for those who are interested. Our professional teams consist of freelance and staff journalists and all paid to do this work, whether a fee or as an “in-kind” donation from an employer. No one “volunteers.”

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
I was a club DJ in college. It was every Thursday night, $4/hour, and all the beer I could drink. This was well back in the previous century and with vinyl records. Yes, it was. It took me a few months (the drinking age in those days was 18, not 21) to realize being a professional DJ and beer are not a good mix.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Illustration by Halisa Hubbard and Lauren Ibanez with photos by Doug Mitchell

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