How do I…? Guides for writing, reporting, funding and more

February 27, 2020

This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter following the digital transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can subscribe here

Think, for a moment, about all the things you’ve had to learn to do your job. If you work in journalism, that list likely includes:

  • Reporting
  • Creating something with words, images or sound out of that reporting
  • Building knowledge and relationships with sources into a beat so you can continue that reporting
  • Fact-checking
  • Editing
  • Using some kind of a content management system so people can actually see your work
  • Learning or using social media to share that work

These are just the basics, I know. You might also have things like filing FOIA requests, creating databases, building apps, designing products, writing webby headlines, creating documentaries, hosting events and on and on.

I spent a lot of the early days of my career focused on storytelling and narrative journalism. I attempted shooting and editing video and audio. And a few years ago, thanks to a Poynter fellow, I learned a skill I use nearly every week: how to make a GIF. Now, I make GIFs of illustrations, images and animations for stories I’m writing about, both for social media and for the story itself. It might seem silly, but I love it.

This week, here’s an invitation: What’s something you want and need to learn to be even better at your work? Maybe it’s a big idea thing like starting your own newsroom. Maybe you want to engage with your audiences better. Maybe you just want to make a GIF.

Below, I’ve rounded up 10 guides and tip sheets that can help.

Happy learning, and if you make something out of what you learn, I’d love to see it!

How to make a GIF

Gurman Bhatia, the journalist who came to Poynter as a fellow, shared this technique for making your own moving image on repeat. It was created by ProPublica’s Lena Groeger.

Writing tips

There’s a lot here, from grammar to style to writing tools to inspiration from the words of famous people.

Reporting tips

How should you use a press release? How do you build sources? How do you get public records? It’s all here.

Finding funding

This quick guide from a few years ago includes links to fellowships and projects that are helping fund journalism.

Starting your own newsroom

This guide from Democracy Fund’s Local News Lab has important questions to answer before diving in.

Holding events

More and more local newsrooms are holding events to engage with their communities and make money. This guide from Local News Lab has what you need to know before you send out those invites.

Newsletters

Local News Lab’s guide has lessons on choosing your platform, monetizing and gathering metrics. Delia Cai, who writes the daily media news newsletter Deez Links, recently shared a presentation about how she’s grown her newsletter audience. And my colleague Mel Grau spoke with the Seattle Times’ Kris Higginson on how she’s cultivated a newsletter following.

RELATED TRAINING: How to accomplish more with your newsletter

Solutions journalism

There are several guides here, including a tool kit for getting started with solutions journalism, topical coverage guides, and a guide for editors who want to bring solutions journalism into their newsroom.

Collaborative journalism

The Center for Cooperative Media has several guides and tip sheets on best practices for collaboration.

Content management systems

Poynter and NewsCatalyst worked together to share what you need to know before getting a new CMS and a look at what five popular publishing platforms offer — and you can now see the videos from three open demos.

While you’re here:

  • Does your newsroom have a coffee shop/bar? This one does.
  • Speaking of newsroom tourism, here are two pieces from our archives on a newsroom hotel and a newsroom Airbnb.
  • Last fall, I reported on a digital turnaround at the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail. Last week, they let go of the editor who helped make that happen. This week, Ken Ward Jr., someone I’ve interviewed a lot here, announced on Twitter that he had left the paper, too.
  • What’s it like to work at an Alden paper? Poynter’s Rick Edmonds found out.
  • Read this from Matt DeRienzo on the audiences local newsrooms are leaving behind.
  • Check out this project from NPR and its member stations, which are working together to listen to people ahead of the 2020 election.
  • Local Media Consortium has a new scholarship for students who want to study journalism.
  • Investigative journalism in South Florida got a $2.5 million boost thanks to a local auto dealership family.
  • And finally, if you’re in the market for a job or looking for the right person to fill one, check out Poynter’s Media Jobs Connection.

Kristen Hare covers the transformation of local news for Poynter.org. She can be reached at khare@poynter.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare