How To’s

Quick tips for building journalism skills, from reporting to using Twitter. Suggest or submit a How To.

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Tips to make you a better storyteller

One of the few regrets I have in my life is taking up golf without first taking lessons. Lugging my dad’s rusty clubs to the nine-hole course at Carroll Park, I simply started swinging exactly as Arnold Palmer did on TV. Or so I thought.

Decades of hooks, slices and bad habits followed.

Occasionally I’ve tried to nudge my score south of 100 by taking 30 minutes of instruction from a pro. That has taught me another lesson: don’t try to learn too much at once. Because when I’m standing over the ball, preparing to hit, my head is filled with so many do’s and don’ts that I fail to do any of them well.

writing_Depositphotos_9491294_xsWriting tips can have the same paralyzing effect. No matter how good they are, we try to incorporate too many at once. Read more

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NewsU by the numbers (there are a lot of ewes)

Friday, April 10 is the 10th birthday of Poynter News University. In addition to other celebrations going on around Poynter, we’ve pulled together a series of lists from NewsU’s teaching and teachers the past 10 years.

In its first 10 years, NewsU has accumulated a lot of stuff: courses, users, even sheep. Here are 10 numbers that tell the story of NewsU.

1. 2 giant whiteboards

At NewsU, our best organization system is our whiteboards. Whether it’s writing down our wish list for Webinars, organizing courses or keeping track of our schedule, using the whiteboards lets us keep a quick, up to date plan that everyone can see. Or we can use it for other important things, like doodling or writing down quotes from coaches in honor of March Madness. Read more

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Tuesday, Apr. 07, 2015

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Graphic New York Times video seems justified

Screenshot from the New York TImes website.

Screenshot from the New York TImes website.

The lead image on the front of the New York Times website Tuesday was graphic raw video of a white North Charleston, S.C. police officer shooting an apparently unarmed black man who was running away after a traffic stop Saturday.

Tuesday, the officer was charged with murder in the case.

Why would the Times show such a graphic video of officer Michael T. Slager shooting Walter L. Scott eight times?  Is this just an example of gratuitous violence that will attract online clicks and sharing or are there solid journalistic reasons to let the public see this video?  Let me pose some questions that might lead us to a reasoned decision on how or whether to use this video:

What do we know, what do we need to know? Read more

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Here are 4 NewsU Webinars that didn’t age well

Friday, April 10 is the 10th anniversary of Poynter’s News University. In addition to other celebrations going on around Poynter, we’ve pulled together a series of lists from NewsU’s work from the past 10 years.

You have to give it to them. After 400 years of printing press hegemony, news organizations have scrambled to keep up with changes in technology. And News University has been there with them, with courses about coding languages, new social media networks and more.

But technology changes fast. We frequently need to add new courses and cull the ones that have lost relevancy. Here are fun lessons of yesteryear from four Webinars that might as well be from the Stone Age (and long unpublished from our site) and four you should try instead. Read more

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The pseudonym as a crutch:  A big lesson from the Rolling Stone scandal

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I can think of a half-dozen times in my writing career when I used a pseudonym for a character.  Every time, I regretted it.  The regret did not come from the exposure of some journalistic malpractice.  It came, instead, from my desire to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and being stymied from doing so. And it came, even with full disclosure, from a set of problems and temptations that I confronted after I wrote, “Let’s call her Dolores,” or “I’ll call him Timmy (not his real name).”  As a result of my inhibitions as a writer, I have turned from skeptic to cynic as a reader.  When I see, especially in a magazine story or a memoir, “not his real name,” I want to add “not his real story.”

Of all the problems with the Rolling Stone story, its promiscuous use of pseudonyms stands as a kind of gateway drug to more consequential forms of malpractice. Read more

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Friday, Apr. 03, 2015

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In the last 10 years, NewsU’s most popular courses have been about the fundamentals

Friday, April 10 is the 10th anniversary of Poynter’s News University. In addition to other celebrations going on around Poynter, we’ve pulled together a series of lists from NewsU’s work from the past 10 years.

In the last 10 years, we’ve developed more than 400 journalism courses at NewsU. That’s an ambitious training catalog of Webinars, online seminars and self-directed courses.

Since our core audience is journalists, teachers and students, our courses cover key journalism skills in the digital age: from digital tools to video fundamentals, social media strategies and search engine optimization.
All timely and essential topics, we agree. But the most popular courses, the ones with the most people enrolled, focus on the fundamentals.

Before we start the official top 10, I’d like include a couple of honorable mentions. Read more

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Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015

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Here are 10 Webinar presenters from NewsU’s last 10 years

Friday, April 10 is the 10th birthday of Poynter News University. In addition to other celebrations going on around Poynter, we’ve pulled together a series of lists from NewsU’s teaching and teachers the past 10 years.

Webinars showcase industry leaders and media experts across a wide range of topics, themes and techniques at Poynter News University. Here are 10 from the first 10 years, taken from our library of more than 250 Webinars and Webinar presenters.

Mark S. Luckie: You are What You Tweet: How to Engage with Your Readers on Twitter
Luckie, the creative content manager for journalism at Twitter, is a multi-platform journalist and editor, founder of the digital journalism blog 10,000 Words, and author of The Digital Journalist’s Handbook. He brings a big smile and big ideas when he teaches. Read more

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Monday, Mar. 30, 2015

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10 leadership lessons learned from NewsU’s last 10 years

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Friday, April 10 is the 10th anniversary of Poynter’s News University. In addition to other celebrations going on around Poynter, we’ve pulled together a series of lists from NewsU’s work and hosts from the past 10 years.

The producers at Poynter’s News University get to scout for talent and observe everything from the innovative ideas that percolate from the brains of talented people to industry changing norms. We interact with the journalism “celebrities” so we can tap into their genius to formulate, condense and disseminate teaching that can be bottled into one hour Webinars held almost every week.

Here are some of the lessons that we have learned here from our visitor instructors.

1. Listen and coach:

The best insights into people come when you listen carefully to what they have to say. Read more

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Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015

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Death and writing short – the missing SXSW session

I once heard the great Francis X. Clines of the New York Times tell a group of journalists never to apologize for writing about death.  “We tell the morbid truth,” he said.

I was scheduled to deliver a workshop on “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times” on St. Patrick’s Day at SXSW.  But on Friday the Thirteenth my mother, Shirley Clark, died at the age of 95.  I cancelled my trip to Austin and turned my writing skills to crafting her eulogy.

Here are some of the things I would have said at SXSW if I had been able to make the trip.  It riffs off my handout for the session, which you can access here.  When I picked the selections of short writing for study, I didn’t realize how many of them were about death:  dying, almost dying, fear of dying, recovering from a death, remembering a death, the legacy of death.  Read more

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Monday, Mar. 23, 2015

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Lessons from women in leadership in Europe: Speak out, innovate and do your homework

At journalism school, a Serbian colleague was advised to spend time in the kafana (a traditional local cavern) to source the best news stories. At the newspaper she later worked for, editors would start the day with coffee and a shot of raki. Eventually, she left after she hadn’t been paid for three or four months. Her experience maybe bubbles down to societal and cultural details; suffice it to say, she’s no longer in journalism.

In the European Union – which comprises 28 countries on the continent, not including Norway, Switzerland and most of the former Yugoslav nations, like Serbia – more women than men go to journalism school. A 2013 report from the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE), which has done the most comparative data fieldwork in this field, emphasized that for at least two decades, women outnumbered men at university level and in practice-based journalism programs. Read more

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