April 9, 2015

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.

Maybe it was the budget that has shrunk so small it puts Cinderella’s waist to shame. Maybe it is the stampede of editors running over your neat narrative. Maybe it’s the endless beeping of the newsroom’s broken fire alarm. Something made you fall out of love with journalism, the profession you must have loved at one time. NewsU teaches skills and processes, but it can also provide inspiration. No matter what made you fall out of love with journalism, here are some courses that will make you want to buy journalism flowers and take it out to dinner again.

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1. The course to take when you are working so many hours your cat has learned to feed herself: David Barstow’s Master Class 

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Barstow reports on high-impact, high-stakes investigative stories. You can see his passion for finding the truth and doing justice to these stories in every sentence of this in-depth interview. You can feel the joy he feels when he describes his journey of finding out the truth in his Pulitzer Prize winning Wal-Mart story. In his Master Class, Barstow talked about finding the joy in investigative stories.

“That’s where I find my satisfaction from — feeling like, Wow, this really complicated scenario in Mexico would have been lost to history, would have disappeared under the sands of time. And through a crazy amounts of effort, myself and my partner in Mexico, we lifted this thing up and put form to it and placed it right out there for the world to see. There’s nothing that beats waking up on a Sunday morning and seeing something like that on the front page of the New York Times.”

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2. The Webinar to watch when you feel like there’s no point and nothing ever changes: Solutions Journalism Webinar with Tina Rosenberg

Solutions journalism is not just happy news, it’s not just public relations, and it’s not just fluff. This Webinar uses case-based teaching to show how reporters report not just on problems but also on how people approach fixing problems in our communities.

“The purpose of journalism, in my opinion anyway, is to hold a mirror up to society so society can learn how to change itself. We need to do that by covering what’s wrong with society, but we also need to strengthen that by covering how people are trying to solve those problems. That makes our journalism stronger, and it has the potential to make our society stronger.”

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3. The Webinar to watch when you forget how to find joy in your work: Telling Complex Stories Through Compelling Characters, with Zoe Chace, who was a staffer at NPR’s Planet Money at the time and now works at This American Life. Chace gives practical tips for crafting a story around a character and making the finding of the character the narrative of the story, but she emphasizes that you have to enjoy your work or your audience won’t enjoy it either.

“You have to be having fun with it, because that’s what people want to listen to. They don’t want to listen to somebody telling a story that’s really serious, that it’s like taking your medicine to hear it. The reason that people want to listen to stories is because they think they are going to enjoy hearing it.”

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4. The course to take when you feel overwhelmed and under-qualified: Master Class with Byron Pitts

Nightline’s Byron Pitts, who has learned and taught at Poynter said during his Master Class that giving voice to the voiceless and being compassionate are his priorities.

“Someone I heard here at Poynter said they would walk into a room, look for the person with no voice and go talk to them. Where the instinct for most might be to go to the person making the most noise. Theirs is to shed light there.”

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5. The Webinar to watch when you lost your writing inspiration: Roy Peter Clark’s 7 Tools for Next-Level Writing.

Roy Peter Clark believes strongly that everyone can and should write. He finds inspiration in everything from episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beatles songs, and of course, works of literature. Journalists shouldn’t be afraid to use literary allusions in their work, he says.

“The stories that you already know can illuminate the stories that you’re working on now. In literary studies it’s called intertextuality, but to me, I like to think of it as a little hall of mirrors, in which the reality that we’re writing about right now has a kind of history that we’re recognizing through our allusions and references.”

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6. The Webinar to watch when you feel like your budget doesn’t allow you to do anything impactful: How to tell Great Investigative Stories with Dwindling Resources with George Stanley, the managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.   http://www.newsu.org/courses/investigation-resources

Think you can’t do great work on a not-so-great budget? This Webinar promises you can.

“We’re doing three times more big investigative journalism projects now than we did when our newsroom was more than twice as big.”

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7. The Webinar to watch when you just need new toys to play with:  Tools for Mobile Journalism 2015 with Ren LaForme

NewsU interactive learning producer and digital tools catalog curator Ren LaForme launched us into 2015 with a Webinar highlighting useful apps for journalists, from Cogi, a tool that helps you record only the best quotes of an interview, to Glympse, which could help you to find your colleagues in a chaotic crowd. This Webinar might open your eyes to doing your work differently or finding ways to do it more effectively, but Ren emphasizes that you still have to do great journalism. “Stealing Batman’s toolbelt won’t make you Batman. Batman makes Batman Batman. You make yourself the journalist. Your skills are the most important. These are just add-ons that can make you a more powerful journalist.”

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8. The course to take when you’re out of ideas: 100 Ideas to Make Your Journalism Better 

This 2011 Webinar features past and present Poynter faculty popping in to offer quick tips for better journalism. One of the presenters is the late Poynter faculty member Paul Pohlman, who offered this tip:

“Longform coaching helps staff members grow, improve their performance and really gives you time to work on the relationship, to maintain it, to enhance it and to help staff members develop new skills.”

NewsU was funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Join NewsU’s birthday Webinar on April 10, featuring some of the best lessons, tips, tricks, hacks and bits of knowledge from 10 years of e-learning.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.

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