Poynter Producer Project (Spring)

DEADLINE: February 17, 2020
TEACHING DATES: March 10 – April 7, 2020
LOCATION: Online and in-person at the Poynter Institute
COST: $550

Thanks to generous support from CNN, 50% tuition scholarships are available to members of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA.


Program details

Making stories work involves more than just teases and live shots. This unique seminar will help you expand your expertise as a TV producer with new writing, storytelling, coaching and ethical decision-making skills.

We’re combining the best of online learning with in-person coaching and mentoring to help you tell stronger stories and make those tough calls on deadline. Here’s what some recent graduates said about their experience:

“The Poynter Producer Project reignited the passion for what I do and made me a better producer in every way. I learned to be a better newsroom leader, which led to a promotion to Executive Producer.”
Jim Bob Breazeale, KEYE, Austin, TX

“The Producer Project gave me perspective on managing workflow and egos — both of which are vital with political coverage.”
— Brian Calfano, KOLR TV

“The course was a meaningful experience and excellent networking opportunity.”
— Sara Shyiak, CTV

In the online portion of this seminar, Poynter’s Al Tompkins will guide you through weekly readings, activities and live group discussions. Tompkins will have office hours to discuss your work one-on-one. You’ll also come to Poynter on March 27-29 for a weekend of in-person coaching and feedback.

Throughout this course, you’ll gain practical and creative ideas to share with your colleagues and a new energy to bring to your work.

Most importantly, you will get 360-degree feedback from your newsroom to understand what you are doing well and where you could get stronger. This is the kind of feedback producers tell us they want most.

In-Person Teaching Dates

March 27-29, 2020

The Poynter Institute

St. Petersburg, Florida


Live Video Sessions

March 10, 12-1 p.m. Eastern

March 17, 12-1 p.m. Eastern

March 31, 12-1 p.m. Eastern

April 7, 12-1 p.m. Eastern

If you’re unable to attend a live session, there will be a recording available.

What will I learn?

  • How to find stories that others miss
  • How to find a focus for your story
  • A framework for making ethical decisions on deadline
  • How to write clear, clean copy
  • Techniques for managing peers, managers and subordinates


Who should take this course:

Producers at any stage in their career, including associate and newscast producers as well as executive producers.

Tuition and scholarships

The cost is $550, which includes tuition for the four-week online group seminar and in-person training at Poynter. Travel to and from St. Petersburg and your hotel is on your own, but we have arranged for discounted hotel accommodations.

Thanks to generous support from CNN, members of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA may apply for 50% tuition scholarship. If you are a member of one of these associations, please email advorak@poynter.org to receive your scholarship code.


Al Tompkins, Senior Faculty, Broadcast and Online

Al Tompkins

Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world. His teaching focused on writing, reporting, storytelling, ethics, critical thinking, photojournalism, social media and online journalism.

Al has taught television news producers, reporters, photojournalists and managers in his workshops in 49 states, Canada, Egypt, Ecuador, Denmark, Cayman, Iceland, South Africa, Japan, and Czech Republic. He has taught and coached print newsrooms in the U.S. and abroad how to build interactive news websites, how to use video more effectively online and how to manage ethical issues that arise online.

Tompkins is the author of the book “Aim For The Heart: Write, Shoot, Report, Produce for TV and Online,” which is being used by more than 150 universities as their main broadcast writing, reporting and ethics textbook.

Al co-authored four editions of the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation’s “Newsroom Ethics” workbook. In 1998, Tompkins joined Poynter’s faculty from his job as news director at WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tenn. For 24 years, he worked as a photojournalist, reporter, producer, anchor, assistant news director, special projects/investigations director, documentary producer and news director.


Ramon Escobar

Ramon Escobar is vice president of talent recruitment and development and the vice president of diversity and inclusion for CNN Worldwide. He is responsible for the recruitment of all on and off-air talent for CNN U.S., CNN International, CNN en Español and HLN. He also advances the internal development of all anchors, correspondents, contributor and producers. Escobar is based out of New York City and has held his position of vice president of talent recruitment and development since 2012. He also served as the vice president of diversity and inclusion for CNN Worldwide from January 2017 to June 2019, and continues to play a vital role in diversity and inclusion efforts for WarnerMedia News and Sports, the parent company of CNN.

He came to CNN after several years spent at Telemundo, most recently as executive vice president of network news, overseeing the entire news division including all international news bureaus and the development of on-air talent. While at Telemundo his other roles included senior executive vice president of entertainment and senior vice president of news and creative services.

Sally Ramirez-KHOU

Sally Ramirez

Sally Ramirez Executive News Director at KHOU TV in Houston, Texas. If you can’t find Sally in a crowd, survey the room and follow the buzz of energy. Sally is a non-stop news and leadership machine, and is known for generating a fountain of ideas, and specific plans for execution, all delivered with a smile and her signature, “We can do this!” And throughout her career, she has proven she can.

Ramirez jumped feet-first into the news industry, when she landed her first job as a producer at KTSM in El Paso. She later worked as a producer in Tucson, Arizona and Washington D.C., before heading off to Chicago as an executive producer for WGN. After she got married, she accepted a job in Sacramento and was a champion for special projects there. When KGW in Portland hired her as an executive producer, they knew they’d found a rising star. They later promoted her to assistant news director, and watched her passion for storytelling and enterprise reporting elevate the station’s content. It was that success that lead TEGNA to ask Ramirez to come on board as Executive News Director at its Houston station, KHOU 11 News.

Shortly after Ramirez was hired, hurricane Harvey delivered a nasty blow to Houston, and to KHOU specifically. With their building flooded, the staff was forced to evacuate and to spend months working out of multiple locations, with minimal equipment, and a set that was pieced together on the fly. Ramirez didn’t flounder. She used her positivity and determination to keep morale lifted, and lived out the KHOU brand to Stand for Houston, by standing for her staff. She pooled resources, and with the help of TEGNA as a whole, made sure they had what they needed to get their jobs done.

Even though Ramirez joined the industry at a time when there was only one screen, she’s quickly adapted to feed valuable content to other platforms as well, and is an ambassador in the newsroom for thinking digital first.


This schedule is tentative and subject to change. 

We break the course into five parts. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Online: March 10, noon, Eastern — Finding focus, story shapes and optimizing your storytelling. This is vital to producers who also have to write leads and teases.

Online: March 17, noon, Eastern — Story motivators and visual storytelling: Producers must understand how to powerfully leverage the sometimes limited visuals they have available. They also shape the storytelling by coaching the reporters/MMJs/photojournalists to attach the stories to one of eight key motivators that will make the story more interesting to a wider audience. You will learn these motivators and how to use them to shape not just the stories but also teases and promotions.

At Poynter: March 27, 28, 29 — When the producers come to Poynter for three days, they are in for an action-packed learning experience. In our three days we will focus on:

  • What every producer needs to know about tease writing
  • The power of active writing
  • Making ethical decisions on deadline
  • 360-degree feedback from their newsroom colleagues and bosses
  • What great producers do to stand out from the pack
  • The skills of online and social media writing

Online: March 31, noon, Eastern — Feedback on your teases. This is a two-hour session online where every producer will submit samples of their work and the group will give live feedback.

Online: April 7, noon, Eastern — Developing a career path, exploring ratings and uncovering new income opportunities. For many producers, it is the first real look inside the business of their business.

About online group seminars

In an online group seminar, you will gather with other participants in a virtual space, logging in from anywhere, day or night, over the course of several weeks. A faculty member guides the group through new material, moderates discussions and provides individual feedback.


We’d love to hear from you. Email us at seminars@poynter.org

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