Articles about "Journalism education and training"

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Every American needs ‘the critical thinking skills of a journalist,’ university says

The Brookings Institution

Stony Brook University in New York teaches a course in “news literacy” to students based on the idea that “every student in America should acquire the critical thinking skills of a journalist.”

Why would anyone prize the skill set that comes with a job that just edged out lumberjack in a recent report on desirable careers?

“The reason is simple,” James Klurfeld and Howard Schneider write in a new paper published by the Brookings Institution Wednesday:

In the Digital Age, the ultimate check against the spread of rumor, pernicious falsehood, disinformation, and unverified reports masquerading as fact, will never be just more and better-trained journalists and professional gatekeepers. Instead, it will require a generation of astutely educated news consumers, as well as native producers and distributors, who will learn to be their own editors and identify for themselves fact-and- evidence-based news and information.

How it works

Schneider, a former editor of Newsday and the dean of Stony Brook’s J-school, was “taken aback” when he found out how few students had received an H1N1 vaccine after the school recommended it in 2009. Students cited spurious sources when he asked why not.

Stony Brook’s News Literacy course tries to turn “news exposure into news awareness,” Klurfeld and Schneider write, training students to view information as “neighborhoods,” so they can discern “what constitutes legitimate opinion journalism from mere bloviation,” for example.

It uses a couple of acronyms to help parse out reports: “VIA,” which stands for “Verification, Independence and Accountability,” the three characteristics the course says all journalism must have, and “I’M VAIN,” a slightly more tortured mnemonic device:

  • Independent Sources are better than self-interested sources.
  • Multiple sources are better than a single source.
  • Sources who Verify are better than sources who assert.
  • Authoritative/Informed sources are better than uninformed sources.
  • Named sources are better than unnamed sources.

But does it work?

Stony Brook has done two studies of students who took the course, compared to a control group of students who didn’t. (It plans another round next year, Klurfeld and Schneider write.) The result:

After completing the course, the News Literacy students routinely consumed more news from more sources, rated keeping up with the news as more important, registered to vote in higher numbers, could deconstruct some video news stories more effectively, had a higher regard for the “watchdog function” of the press and had a more nuanced view, in general, of the news media. For example, at the outset of the semester only 17 percent of those taking the course felt the media treated both sides of a story fairly; by semester’s end the number had jumped to 52 percent.

Where does it go next?

A similar program called The News Literacy Project teaches middle school and high school students.

Stony Brook is “developing a Digital Resource Center that will provide teachers with curated, multi-media New Literacy materials customized by grade-level and theme,” they write. But “Ultimately, it will require more than individual champions to scale the program; it will require entire districts or states willing to integrate and pilot a new curriculum as part, perhaps, of the Common Core,” Klurfeld and Schneider write. (In a statement that seems like it was scientifically designed to drive some conservatives insane, Diana Hess of the Spencer Foundation told them “If I didn’t know better, I would think the field of News Literacy was invented to address the Common Core standards.”)

And they’re looking to take the course beyond the U.S. Stony Brook has done training in Bhutan and China. Richard Hornik, a former journalist at Time and Time Inc. publications, is “convinced that the future of the news media in America rests not with journalists, but with the audience,” they write.

Correction: An earlier version of this post quoted from a early version of Klurfeld and Schneider’s paper that contained an incorrect number: The percentage of students who at the outset of the semester “felt the media treated both sides of a story fairly” was 17, not 13.

Related training from Poynter: News & Media Literacy | Watching TV News: How To Be a Smarter Viewer Read more


Morning media roundup: Anonymous sources, FOIA ‘terrorism,’ Chelsea Clinton’s salary

Twice in the last two weeks, New York Times reporters got burned by anonymous sources, Jack Shafer writes. The Times and The Washington Post “tend to rely more heavily on” anonymous sources “than other print outlets” — “In the past four days, the Post cited unnamed sources in at least 18 pieces and the Times did the same in 17 stories ranging from the Iraq civil war to a smartphone app that predicts what a user will type next.”

• “I have nothing against anonymous sources who help guide reporters toward the verifiable — I just draw the line at routinely printing what they say,” Shafer writes.


  1. Jason Leopold was a sloppy journalist who realized that FOIA scoops meant “no one sharing it had to worry about whether they could trust the person who had unearthed the documents; they only had to trust the documents themselves.” Jason Fagone writes a fascinating profile of a self-described “FOIA terrorist.” (Matter)
  2. Former employees at the Salt Lake Tribune have filed suit to suspend changes to the newspaper’s joint operating agreement with the Deseret News. “The group argues the agreement gives the Tribune too little revenue to publish its print edition long-term and also jeopardizes its website, which relies on print revenues,” Michelle L. Price reports. (Associated Press)
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Letter from Poynter India’s Workshop Team

Kochi, India, Workshop Participants. March 25, 2014 — One of the nicest traditions at The Poynter Institute is the seminar photograph. This is a record of a special time with colleagues and faculty and of new friends made.

When I first thought about the idea of bringing a group of faculty members to India to conduct a series of workshops, I had that moment of self doubt that affects most of my new or innovative projects. That pesky inner voice of doubt whispered: What could we teach that would be relevant? What will the participants want from our teaching? Would we have an impact?

After three workshops and traveling more than 500 miles within India (not counting the 8,000 miles to get here), I found my answers (and doubt silencer) in a participant’s tweet:

Teaching in any new environment is always a challenge, but organizing a workshop with six great teachers who had yet to work together was a bit of a magic trick. Any credit for our success goes to them. I’ve organized workshops at Poynter but never something like this. To me, the real magic emerged during the first workshop on the first: It was the collaborative spirit of the faculty members, Vidisha Priyanka, Tom Huang, Sue Bullard, Casey Frechette, Zella Bracy and Jeffry Couch.

Sue Bullard, left, and Zella Bracy, right, take a selfie with a group at the Chennai workshop.

Later we would joke as we walked through airports and through crowded and bustling street markets that “no Poynter faculty would be left behind.” It was in the seminar where that saying came to life, with each faculty member helping the other, each presenter knowing that if there was a stumble, a fellow faculty could share a perspective and add to the teaching. It was a generosity of spirit.

That generosity was also in the seminar room, with participants sharing their ideas and experiences. It was about helping Poynter faculty to learn about India and its journalism training needs — as well as its strengths. It even extended to helping with a shopping trip.

That tweet from the Kochi workshop participant also reminded me about the impact of social media when it comes to capturing key learning points from a workshop. It has been fascinating to see which points resonate with participants. And they even served as a “tease” from one workshop to the next. Capturing those tweets for our Storify pages was a challenge as sometimes the flow was fast and furious.

Zella Bracy (second from right) and Howard Finberg (right) speak with participants at the workshop in Kochi.

Since the faculty is the heart of the workshop, here are their own impressions:

Sue Bullard, associate professor of journalism at the University Nebraska, Lincoln

India is colorful, chaotic and charming all at once. At first glance, from the backseat of an auto rickshaw, you can’t help but think about how different we are. Crazy traffic — motorized rickshaws, cars, buses and motor scooters packed with families — snakes its way down crowded streets where lanes and rules appear to be suggestions at best. Markets teem with vendors selling fresh coconut juice, silk scarves and aromatic spices. India sounds different than the quiet plains of Nebraska too. In India, the blast of honking horns, the melodic call to prayer, the Babel of many languages spoken on crowded streets remind us we’re across the world.

Yet despite all of the differences, the Poynter workshops show a different reality. Editors, educators and students here have much in common with us too. They are passionate about journalism, about exposing wrongs, about learning new ways to tell the stories of India. They’re curious, challenging and eager to be heard. On the first day of each series of workshops, we all are cautious, wondering if this will work. By the third day, we’ve bonded. We share a common goal, making journalism succeed despite the challenges of today’s world.

Tom Huang, right, discusses a point with Kochi workshop attendees.

Jeffry Couch, executive editor, News-Democrat, Belleville, IL

India has been a trip of discovery for me.

I’ve learned that we have much in common with our Indian colleagues. We have similar missions – to do excellent public service journalism that holds public officials and institutions accountable. We’re connected by many of the same professional values, such as accuracy and fairness. We’re passionate about what we do, and we want to do it well.

I’ve also discovered that we are very different. Indian journalists face challenges that we don’t have, including issues of personal safety. Newspaper circulation is mostly growing in India, and digital transformation at most places is in its early stage.

Like Howard, I had a twinge of doubt about what American journalists and educators could possibly offer that’s useful to Indian journalists. That’s been my biggest surprise. Indian journalists have been hungry to hear our view on craft issues, digital transformation and new tools. They’ve been engaged in our teaching, and have pitched into discussions with vigor.

Teaching in India has been invigorating and exhausting. Thanks to our Indian friends and my teaching colleagues, the trip will rank as one of my most rewarding professional experiences.

Zella Bracy, business development for Tru Measure, a division of The McClatchy Company

I have always believed that the work of journalists really matters, that journalism is needed to support democracy. The research I undertook to prepare for my session truly drove home in a painful manner the brutal financial realities that affected newsrooms in the past few years. The data around the future could also be perceived as bleak. The facts around the loss of revenue are enough to jade even the heartiest optimist.

Yet, through the days of training, as I listened and learned from the participants, my optimism returned, fed by the passion from the students and my colleagues. I plan on using the powerful combination of passion and optimism to double down on working to drive revenue in support of great journalism because my belief in the work continues to thrive.


Vidisha Priyanka, left, and Howard Finberg, middle, listen to a Kochi workshop participant.

Casey Frechette, visiting assistant professor, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

As our time in India draws to a close, I know I’ll look back on these workshops with great gratitude and fondness. In each city we’ve visited, we’ve received a warm welcome from journalists committed to improving their craft. In some cases, attendees traveled great distances to be with us. Participation in our sessions has been outstanding, creating a rich dialog and a chance to begin learning about the complexities of Indian media and society. The chance to discover India and learn from participants alongside gifted, generous colleagues and friends has made this a truly special experience.

Tom Huang, Sunday and enterprise editor, Dallas Morning News and Poynter Diversity Fellow

One of the most powerful moments for me came during the Kochi workshop. During one of our first sessions, a veteran journalist decided to play the role of embittered cynic. Several times during a presentation on brainstorming, he reacted dismissively, saying that there was no way to come up with new story ideas or new approaches to storytelling. Now, I like tough questions, but I grew frustrated, because I felt that he was trying to encourage a certain closed-mindedness.

But over the course of three days, something seemed to click with him. I think he began to understand that, even though we may fail as we try new approaches, it’s important to at least try, because that is how you learn. At the end of our final session, to all of our surprise, the journalist stood up and publicly thanked Poynter. Later, he walked up to me, looked me in the eye and thanked me for my teaching.

I was struck, then and there, by how much we share as journalists, whether from the U.S. or from India. We all face the fear of change. We are all going through profound change in our newsrooms because of the digital disruption. I realized that Poynter’s journey to India was not only about teaching and learning, but also about reassuring one another that we can figure this out together.

Vidisha Priyanka, interactive learning producer at Poynter and a native of India

In my head, I knew the Poynter training would be well-received in India. After all, we are a people who pay a lot of attention to good education and training. In my heart, I had a little bit of trepidation about how many people would finally be able to make it to the training. The reality is, that ongoing, onsite training in journalism is hard to come by here. As people streamed in for more every day of the three-day workshop, I was overwhelmed by their eagerness and enthusiasm. The passion for journalism in the room was clearly palpable and in turn we gained energy from the people in the room. It was a good feeling to give back something of what I had learned over the years to my own people.

Just as important as the faculty’s reflections are the thoughts of the participants. At the end of each workshop, we ask for their thoughts about what they have learned. Here are a couple of reflections recorded on the project Web site that touches our hearts, which is a Poynter experience, no matter where you are in the world.

From the Chennai workshop:

 “Poynter has broken communication barriers and brought together all types of journalists offering a bright future for them. It’s a pointer to professional excellence in journalism.”

From the Kochi workshop:

“The training was mesmerizing. With three days touched all the subjects comprehensively .And switched a synergy of change process to equip Indian journalists to meet the future challenges and to change the perception of luddites in newsrooms. The windows of mind were opened, filled with the fresh air of knowledge .And refueled with spirit of integrity and commitment. We were flying to cope with the enthusiastic team of Poynter.”

That’s a good way to end this letter from India. Read more

Shown are the main offices of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper in San Francisco, Friday, March 13, 2009.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

S.F. Chronicle social ‘boot camp’ changing culture, practices

The 148-year-old San Francisco Chronicle has invested in an off-site incubator for its journalists to learn about and experiment with a variety of digital tools, including social media. PBS Media Shift explored goals of the “boot camp” in January.

Now that the effort is underway, I reached out to Marcus Gilmer, newsroom social media manager at the Chronicle and (He and I worked together at the Chicago Sun-Times last year.) Gilmer joined the Chronicle in December and has spent time at the incubator teaching social media skills and tools to reporters and editors. (This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.) Read more


What’s in a name? Not ‘journalism’ for some universities adapting to industry changes


On Wednesday, Adam Feibel reported in the University of Ottawa’s Fulcrum that the Canadian school’s journalism program would remain in a freeze for another year.

Admission to the program was frozen for the current academic year after a 2012 report to the university senate called the program “deeply troubled” and suggested its elimination. In August, it was revealed the program would be suspended in order to undergo improvements and would be reopened for the 2014–15 school year.

But it’s not quite there yet.

The university won’t be accepting any new students to the program next year, either. In an email to the Fulcrum, program coordinator Evan Potter said the university needed more time to review the program, and that the faculty and department are in discussion about where to go from here.

While not frozen, some schools have started dropping the word journalism from their names. On Feb. 24, Poynter reported that West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism plans to become the Reed College of Media. In October of last year, the board of trustees at Indiana University approved a new Media School, combining the journalism school with several other departments. In 2012, Emory University decided to close its journalism school. Read more

SXSW Interactive and Film Festival attendees crowd the Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 9, 2013 in Austin, Texas.(AP Photo/Jack Plunkett)

Poynter at SXSW: Welcome back to the WED dance

Editor’s Note: Poynter will be at South by Southwest, the annual music, movie and interactive festival, March 7-16, in Austin, Texas. Look for our Poynter faculty members, Roy Peter Clark, Ellyn Angelotti and Kelly McBride, and digital media reporter Sam Kirkland. Here is the first in a series of posts on what we’ll be doing at SXSW.

One of the great libels against newspapers is that they’re averse to change. It’s true that newspapers could have changed more to forestall their decline. But they have changed — the newspaper of 2014 little resembles the newspaper of 1984.

I recall Orwell’s famous year – 1984 – as a tumultuous one in the history of the news business. Old gray papers were suddenly filled with color. Vertical columns gave way to modular boxes. Word processors replaced typewriters, and new forms of news writing challenged the inverted pyramid. Page designers entered the building – some with little experience in journalism – bringing with them a new lingo about white space, grids, and color saturation. Women and minorities began to establish themselves in newsrooms, reforming our sense of mission and purpose.

These innovations challenged old ideas and created friction among the players. One memorable standoff pitted the “word” journalists against the “visual” journalists. The VJs disdained writers who produced endless columns of gray text, while the Wordinistas ridiculed designers who wasted news hole with poster pages that crowded out more important content.

That was the historical context in which I began to work with Mario Garcia, the man who in the last three decades has changed the face of news across the globe, redesigning newspapers, magazines, websites, and now tablets and mobile platforms. I was the first full-time teacher hired at the Poynter Institute. Mario was the second. I taught writing. He taught design. We came to admire each other’s work. What can I say, we fell in love.

And one day, we decided to get married.

That marriage, of course, was metaphorical, a union of the minds and of professional disciplines. Mario gave it the acronym WED, the marriage of Writing, Editing, and Design. The WED concept became the subject of numerous conferences, seminars, essays, and countless newsroom conversations across the globe. We even created avatars for ourselves (though we didn’t call them that back then), manifestations of our more single-minded points of view. My avatar was Raymond Burr, the actor who played Perry Mason, a solid gray eminence so stoic and purposeful he never seemed to smile. Representing Mario was the Brazilian film actress of the 1940s Carmen Miranda, a woman of a thousand colors and textures, often photographed with a headdress that looked like a bowl of fruit.

If Raymond Burr (who in real life was as gay as a day in May) hooked up with Carmen Miranda, Mario and I could have been their love twins.

The WED honeymoon turned into real work, a re-imagining of how creative and effective news organizations could be.

We imagined:

  • that the old assembly-line production model of news could not and should not survive.
  • that collaboration across disciplines would improve journalism and serve the public good.
  • that visual and word workers had more in common than they thought, including elements of craft such as focus, emphasis, shape, color, dimension, detail, information, the power of white space, and, most important, story.
  • that versatility would become an increasingly important virtue. Versatility did not require designers to write stories or writers to design pages – although we tried that in workshops — but it did require the development of a common critical vocabulary that allowed one craftperson to speak to another “without an accent.”

One example will suffice: I learned from designers that white space was a crucial element in the creation, say, of an informational graphic describing the primary causes of an economic downturn. That white space was an antidote to clutter, visual ventilation that let the page breathe and helped relax the reader. I took that concept and began to apply it to text. Turns out there’s white space within a story or report too. Most of it occurs in the margins. But within the text itself there are bars of white space that mark the end of one paragraph and the beginning of another. I teach journalists that the words immediately before that white space get special attention from the reader. Save a key word or phrase to use in that location, I tell them. It will play jazz.

One objection to the WED concept was that it did not include enough of the players or disciplines. Where was leadership? a colleague asked. Where was photography? Why limit the players? If we added leadership, they argued, it could become the LEWD concept. Well, I said, we could add Leadership, Photo, and Ownership and create the PLOWED concept. “Turn your weapons into plowshares,” could have been our motto.

But we never intended for our WED concept remain an exclusive club of three. Writing’s W included all the word workers in the shop. Design’s D included all the visual workers. And Editing’s E included all those in a position of leadership, who needed to build bridges across disciplines. The editor needed the ability to work with words and visuals the same way that the director of a film had to understand the elements of acting, cinematography, editing, music scoring, and all the other tools of filmmaking.

During Mario’s travels around the world as a news designer, it’s become clear to him — and now to me — that the values, virtues, and practices of WED are more important than ever. In the age of the Internet, more disciplines than ever must be integrated into the creative process — including, for example, computer programming, Big Data, stories written from Big Data, data visualization, and multimedia. Journalists of every stripe must work across platforms, including mobile delivery systems. Maybe in the morning, it’s our job to help the reader lean forward with her iPhone; or at night to lean back with his iPad.

So Mario and I would like to welcome you to iWED, the integrated marriage of writing, editing, and design – a collaborative process of planning and execution that gets the very best from all creative workers in the enterprise and produces multiple products designed to build audience and serve the public interest. The two of us know no better framework for balancing the enduring values of journalism with the innovations necessary in an age of tumultuous change.

Please join us at SXSW in Austin, Texas, on Monday, March 10, at 12:30 pm. Who knows? Maybe we will end our session, as we did 30 years ago, with a dance. Read more


WVU drops ‘journalism’ from j-school’s name

The Daily Athenaeum | The Charleston Gazette

West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism will rename itself the Reed College of Media, Carlee Lammers reports in the school’s independent Daily Athenaeum.

“We thought our name wasn’t necessarily reflective of really where we are right now with our programs and where we want to go,” Dean Maryanne Reed (no relation) tells the paper.

“Journalism is, of course, important to the school. We will always teach journalism,” she said. “We don’t know what will be under our umbrella in years to come as the industry changes. So, everything we do intersects with media.”

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Journalism education site hopes to become hub for ‘solutions journalism’


PBS’ MediaShift launched a site focused on journalism education Wednesday. EducationShift hopes to become “the central hub for journalism educators, students and professionals to find resources, tools and support for transforming their work,” University of Wisconsin professor Katy Culver writes in an introductory post. Culver, who has taught and written for Poynter, is EducationShift’s curator.

EducationShift went live with a collection of articles that suggest its focus will indeed be on “solutions journalism,” as Culver puts it: Sue Robinson on “Creating a Social Media Class Out of Nothing“; Erica Salkin on how student journalists can avoid legal scuffles; Irving Washington on how to win a challenge grant for journalism education. The effort is funded by Knight and its “charter sponsor” is Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.

The publication plans biweekly Twitter chats; this Friday at 1 p.m. ET Poynter’s Howard Finberg and Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation will discuss whether j-school is necessary. Some texts you might want to bone up on if you’re planning to tune in:

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PoynterVision: For Journalism teaches journos to code

Dave Stanton introduces For Journalism, a platform aiming to equip journalists with technical skills to succeed in data journalism jobs.

Stanton, ringleader of the Kickstarter-backed project, and a stellar team of working journalists including those from NPR, ProPublica and the Associated Press have created courses with screencasts, code repositories and discussion forums targeted at mid-career journalists, students and professors. Participants work on real-world projects that can be implemented immediately in the newsroom.


Related: Live chat on what students need to know about code and data viz | PoynterVision: Create a data résumé | Live chat on how journalists can learn to code — and why it’s important Read more


Texas A&M brings back journalism major


Texas A&M will bring its major in journalism back next fall, the school reported on its website Monday. The decision was announced after approval Monday from the faculty senate.

According to the school: “It will be a small, rigorous program limited to 25 entering freshmen per year.” Students will also have to pursue two minors.


Ten years ago, True Brown was a junior pursuing a journalism major and the editor of the student newspaper. He helped start a petition opposing ending the major and a web site dedicated to preserving the program. At the time, the student newspaper, The Battalion, ran a blank page with just these words: “THE TEXAS A&M ADMINISTRATION’S VISION OF JOURNALISM.”

According to a 2003 story from the Student Press Law Center, the school said it stopped offering the major because it couldn’t afford extra professors to keep the program going. Read more