Retha Hill: From Washington Post Byline to My Teacher for An Hour

I learned a lot from Retha Hill, director of the Cronkite School’s New Media Innovation Lab, who spoke Thursday at the Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute.

PHOENIX– During my days as a news-editorial journalism student at Howard University, I remember reading stories written by Retha Hill in The Washington Post.

This afternoon that former reporter, who also did a stint at the Washington Web site, became my teacher, at least for a one-hour session on “Innovation” at the Scripps Howard Entrepreneurship Institute this week at Arizona State University.

Retha Hill, formerly of The Washington Post, now directs the Innovation Lab at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The topic on our agenda was “Turning Ideas into Working Code.”  But this presentation was not about Java Script or DJango or PHP or HTML-5.

It was all about how to build confidence in our journalism students that THEY TOO can be innovators.

Hill, who directs the New Media Innovation Lab, just finished her master’s degree. But, she’s brought so much more to the Cronkite School that a master’s degree could not give you.

She’s taught students how to separate from the mainstream and “iterate quickly and fail cheaply.”

She has students building APPs for major companies and doing innovation projects for Gannett, which owns both the local newspaper and NBC affiliated television station in Phoenix.

I walk away from this presentation with some strategies for how to facilitate an “Ideation Session” where you’re throwing up ideas on a wall, grouping them together and organizing into an innovation that a client needs.

phoenixfilingsGetting a so-called “MVP” (Minimally Viable Product) is what Hill suggests students take to customers for a broad discussion that does not involve leading the customer to respond a certain way.

Who would have thought 20 years later, I would be sitting under the feet of such a giant in journalism innovation?    I can’t wait to put some of Hill’s ideas into action in my classroom.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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