Poynter Producer Project (Spring 2019)


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Poynter Producer Project (Spring 2019)

The Poynter Producer Project helps newsrooms grow their own producers using both online learning with in-person coaching and mentoring. Thanks to generous support from CNN, 50 percent tuition scholarships are available to members of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA.

The deadline to enroll is March 1, 2019.


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Teaching dates

March 26-April 23, 2019
In-person at Poynter April 12-14

Live video sessions

Tuesdays, 12-1 p.m. Eastern: March 26, April 2, April 16 and April 23

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

Nearly every broadcast company has a need to hire newscast producers. It may be the single most difficult position to fill because we demand so much of producers. The Poynter Producer Project helps newsrooms grow their own producers. We have decades of success stories — many of our graduates are now news directors, executive producers and network executives.

This seminar is practical, affordable and we offer parts of it in live online sessions to make it fit the demanding newsroom schedules.

Tuition and scholarships

The cost is $499, 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 percent tuition scholarship. If you are a member of one of these associations, please email advorak@poynter.org to receive your scholarship code.

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.

“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 Poynter Producer Project helped me level up in my career, expand my skill set, and shape me as a leader in the newsroom. 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. You’ll also come to Poynter on April 12-14 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.

During each week of the online portion of the course, you’ll join live discussions, and Al will have office hours to discuss your work one-on-one. Can’t attend the live sessions? We’ll make replays available of all the live events.

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.

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.


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.

Tompkins has taught television news producers, reporters, photojournalists and managers in his workshops in 49 states, Canada, Egypt, Ecuador, Denmark, Cayman, Iceland and South Africa. 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.


Ramon Escobar

Ramon Escobar is the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for CNN Worldwide. In addition to his role with the Diversity Council, Escobar oversees the recruitment and development of on-air talent as Vice President of Talent Recruitment and Development. He will be based in New York.

A media veteran with 25 years of experience in news and entertainment in local, cable and network television as well as digital/new media, Escobar has the unique perspective of having worked in both English and Spanish-language media. Has developed expertise in both the U.S. Hispanic market and Latin America having traveled extensively throughout Latin America working with international media companies around the globe. Escobar came to CNN from Telemundo where he was the head of the news division. Prior to his time at Telemundo, Escobar was Vice President of Consulting at Sucherman Group where he worked closely with a cross-section of news and entertainment networks on programming, news and digital media strategy.

Kirsten Wolff

Kirsten Wolff is the news director for WESH 2 in Orlando, Florida. She has held this position since 2014. Previously, she was the station’s assistant news director. Before arriving in Orlando, Wolff worked as an executive producer at KCRA 3, the NBC and Hearst Television affiliate in Sacramento, California. A native Californian, Wolff graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in French language. Her path into broadcast journalism was an unorthodox one. Armed only with a foreign language degree, she was able to land a job as a videographer, transitioned into producing and then into management. She started her career in Bakersfield, California, moved to Monterey, Sacramento and finally to Orlando. Wolff was named Broadcast and Cable’s 2016 News Director of the Year for guiding her team through the Pulse Massacre. She is the winner of Five Emmy Awards. Her proudest achievement is assembling a team of professional journalists who work together to cover the news and weather events that impact the Central Florida communities that they serve.

Michael T. Rodriguez

Michael T. Rodriguez is the president and general manager of WTSP in Tampa, Florida. Michael Rodriguez has spent nearly 20 years in the media industry. In 2012, he was named vice president and general manager of Univision’s flagship stations in South Florida. Under his leadership, Univision-23 remained the highest-rated station in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, regardless of language. Prior to joining Univision, Rodriguez spent 10 years with NBC/Telemundo. In August 2002, he was named vice president and general manager of Telemundo 51 in Miami. As general manager, the station became the number one rated 11pm news in South Florida, regardless of language. He is the only general manager in South Florida TV history to lead two number one rated stations on two different networks.


This schedule is tentative and subject to change. 

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

Part 1 (Online, March 26, 1:00 p.m.): Finding focus, story shapes and optimizing your storytelling. This is vital to producers who also have to write leads and teases.

Part 2 (Online, April 2, 1:00 p.m.): 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.

Part 3 (At Poynter, April 12, 13, 14): 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

Part 4 (Online, April 16, 1:00 p.m.): 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.

Part 5 (Online, April 23, 1:00 p.m.): 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 info@newsu.org.

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