COLUMBIA — The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism has selected Randy Picht, long-time Associated Press journalist, as the new executive director. The institute has been considering candidates for the position, vacated by founding director Pam Johnson, since the end of 2011.
Picht was selected by Dean Mills, Dean of the Missouri School of Journalism, with the input of faculty and a screening committee. Mills estimated 30 to 40 people expressed interest in the job.
Picht said the position appealed to him as a great opportunity to help the journalism industry and to put to use all of the skills he's developed at The Associated Press.
"When I was interviewing, I mentioned a couple times that I thought all the different jobs I had at the AP actually had been wonderful preparation for this director's job, because this job gets involved in so many different aspects of journalism," Picht said. "It just seemed to me to be a great fit."
During almost three decades at The Associated Press, Picht has worked as a business editor, overseen the AP's stock market tables, trained newsrooms to use AP content, worked as an online sales specialist, and has most recently worked on the AP's licensing and tracking project, called the News Licensing Group, and a AP-owned government news startup called Capitolwire.
"He had an unusual combination of all the things that we wanted for an RJI director," Mills said. "He's a star in all of the areas where we need leadership."
Mills described Picht as a pioneer in innovation for news technologies.
"I think the institute needs to be the place that news organizations turn to for new ideas, new tools, new research," Picht said.
The institute, launched in 2004, brings citizens together with media professionals and student journalists to strengthen journalism with new techniques.
"There's some exciting projects underway, there's some in the works, and I think my main goal is going to be to try to get them out into the industry where they can be tried out and hopefully be successful for all different types of media organizations."
In the past, Picht has helped newsrooms innovate and generate new revenue streams. He also created a showcase for the best new ideas in media, called "Innovation in Action."
Picht plans to address business models and new ways to sustain journalism.
"I think that's another big part of the mix, coming up with new analytics that media organizations can use to provide advertisers more information, and coming up with better ways that media organizations can maximize the use of tablets and smart phones, in terms of making money," he said.
Picht, who graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism in 1980, said he's excited to return to Columbia.
"It holds a special place for me," he said. "The school helped me get my first job in journalism, and I've made really good friends there. It just feels really good to be there."
Picht will begin work on April 20.
"I'm really excited," he said. "I would have started yesterday, if I could."