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BET Executive to Direct New Media Innovation Lab

June 21, 2007

Retha Hill

Retha Hill, a senior executive at BET and digital media leader who helped launch The Washington Post’s first Internet news operation, will join the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication as director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University.

Hill joins ASU from BET, where she is vice president for content for BET Interactive, the online unit of Black Entertainment Television. In that senior role, she is in charge of content strategy and convergence with the television network.

She replaces Tom Mohr, the former Knight-Ridder Digital president who last year launched the New Media Innovation Lab, which serves as a research and development center for media companies exploring new digital media products.

In its first year, the innovation lab conducted a major research project for Gannett Co., a major media corporation and the nation’s largest newspaper publisher. The idea for the New Media Innovation Lab was conceived by ASU President Michael Crow and Sue Clark-Johnson, president of Gannett’s newspaper division. The lab continues to work closely with Gannett executives and The Arizona Republic on digital media projects.

As lab director, each semester Hill will lead a group of about 15 students from journalism, computer engineering, business and design. She will hold the faculty rank of professor of practice.

“Retha Hill possesses the extraordinary skills of a natural teacher, a charismatic leader, an industry executive who treasures the most important values of great journalism, and a true digital media innovator,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “We’re thrilled she will be joining the Cronkite School.”

Hill came to BET in 1999 as the founding chief editorial officer of BET.com, the award-winning Web site that is the most visited site specializing in African-American content on the Internet.

Earlier this year, Hill was honored in Washington by the National Association of Minority Media Executives as the recipient of the New Media Catalyst Award. She also has been president of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and a fellow at the McCormick Tribune Management program and the Al Fitzpatrick Leadership Development Institute.

An adjunct professor at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, Hill is a frequent guest speaker at Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, the Poynter Institute, the Online News Association, the American Press Institute, the Freedom Forum and the National Press Club.

Before joining BET, Hill was executive producer for special projects at washingtonpost.com, developing new products for The Washington Post’s Web site. She joined The Post’s early online operations in 1995 as the editor for local news, arts and entertainment.

A graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit, Hill started her journalism career as a reporter at The Detroit Free Press in 1983. She went to The Charlotte Observer in 1984. Three years later she was hired by The Washington Post as a metro reporter.

“I am thrilled to be joining the stellar faculty and staff at the Cronkite School and I look forward to working with the bright students there,” said Hill, who will start in August. “The media industry is evolving and the innovation lab will be a fabulous resource in helping editors and media leaders think through all the changes they face and how technological innovations can get information to their users when and how they need it.”

The New Media Innovation Lab, located in the Computing Commons on ASU’s Tempe campus, will move to the Cronkite School’s new building in downtown Phoenix next year.

The lab will work closely with the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, which will open later this year. The Knight Center will foster the creation of digital media products by individual students and small student teams.