Diverse Voices image

The Power of Diverse Voices: The Poynter Minority Writers Workshop

August 17, 2018
Teaching Date
Nov. 1-4, 2018
The Poynter Institute, St. Petersburg, FL
Free for Selected Applicants

The Power of Diverse Voices, taking place Nov. 1-4, 2018, at Poynter’s campus in St. Petersburg, Florida, is a transformative four-day seminar that helps journalists of color find their voice and build skills for writing opinion pieces and personal essays.

Opinion writing plays a vital role in explanatory, features and watchdog journalism, and is important in a thriving democracy. This four-day seminar will foster the diversity of voices necessary in the profession and train the next generation of opinion writers from a wide spectrum of backgrounds. The learning will occur both through instruction as well as through intensive coaching in small writing groups. The seminar will focus on fact-based opinion writing — and using social media to spark a conversation — across digital and other platforms.

You’ll learn the skills to:

  • Develop and hone your arguments, presenting these arguments effectively and persuasively
  • Support your arguments using solid research and reporting
  • Strengthen your reporting skills with an emphasis on fairness and accuracy
  • Maximize your journalistic success on digital and social media platforms — using social media to build your brand, present your ideas and spark a conversation
  • Generate strong ideas for your opinion pieces, broadening your access to diverse points of view
  • Focus your ideas, developing a compelling pitch to editors




  • Profile picture for user Tom Huang

    Tom Huang

    Assistant Managing Editor for Features and Community Engagement, The Dallas Morning News

    Editing Fellow, The Poynter Institute

  • Profile picture for user mayerjoy

    Joy Mayer

    Audience Engagement Strategist

    Adjunct Faculty, Poynter and the University of Florida

  • Profile picture for user Aisha Sultan

    Aisha Sultan

    Home and Family editor and columnist

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  • Profile picture for user kwoods

    Keith Woods

    Vice President of Newsroom Training and Diversity, NPR

Here is our proposed schedule:

Thursday, November 1

6:00 - 7:00 p.m. Reception and dinner

7:00 - 7:30 p.m. Welcome and “The Real Me” introductions

7:30 - 8:30 p.m. Opinion writing in the digital age

  • This session seeks to inspire and emphasize the relevance of bringing diverse voices to opinion writing across all platforms.
  • The session will also socialize the idea that opinion writing has expanded to blogs, social media, more personal platforms -- and is often occurring outside of traditional media organizations.
  • How do we have a call to arms to take this craft seriously, to do the important research and reporting that ground the pieces in fact?

Friday, November 2

8:30 - 10:00 a.m. The keys to effective opinion writing

  • This session focuses on the nuts and bolts of opinion writing. What ingredients do you need for an effective piece?
  • How has opinion writing expanded to include analysis, perspective, personal essay, arts and cultural criticism?
  • Discuss the difference between voice and opinion
  • What is the role of reporting in effective opinion writing?
  • What is the role of persuasion? There’s a difference between getting your opinion out there, and actually having people listen to you.

10:00 - 10:15 a.m. Break

10:15 - 11:45 a.m. The power of social media

  • Use social media to build your brand, present your ideas and be part of a conversation. If you want to get people talking, how do you set the stage? How do you join conversations, and how do you start conversations?

11:45 - 12:00 p.m. Group photo

12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Lunch

1:00 - 2:30 p.m. Generating great ideas

  • This session will help the participants spark and develop an idea to write about.
  • How do you get diverse ideas and broaden your access to different people?
  • How do you develop ideas that break new ground? Finding angles that are fresh, that readers haven’t thought of.

2:30 - 2:45 p.m. Break

2:45 - 4:00 p.m. Time for writing

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Small group critiques

  • In their small groups, each participant will read from their draft and get feedback from the coach and the group.

Saturday, November 3

8:30 - 10:00 a.m. Writing the personal essay

  • This session introduces the concept of writing from your own experience; it can include column writing or longer writing.

10:00 - 10:15 a.m. Break

10:15 - 11:45 a.m. Writing for audio

  • Basic and useful tips and techniques for presenting your opinion pieces and commentary on an audio platform.

11:45 - 12:30 p.m. Lunch

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. What is my opinion piece really about?

  • Find the heart of your story through five focusing questions; use the focus to develop a strong pitch for your piece.

1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Time for Writing

3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Small group critiques

  • In their small groups, each participant will read from their draft and get feedback from the coach and the group. Each participant can continue to work on their previous draft or start a new one.

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Final readings

  • Each participant reads an excerpt from his or her piece.

Sunday, November 4

8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Final readings

  • Each participant reads an excerpt from his or her piece.



This seminar is being offered at no charge to selected participants based in the United States. Slots are limited. The program sponsors will cover tuition and hotel costs. A small travel stipend will be available. More details will follow after the selection process.


The application deadline for this program is Friday, Aug. 17.

The Power of Diverse Voices workshop grew out of the Minority Writers Seminar, a collaboration between the Association of Opinion Journalists and The Poynter Institute. The original seminar ran for nearly two decades at the John Seigenthaler Center on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

Who Will Benefit:

Enrollment is open to new and mid-career journalists of color based in the United States looking to add effective opinion writing to their tool kit, as well as those building a career path toward opinion journalism. Minority journalism students, journalism educators, freelancers and opinion journalists who work online or in social media are also encouraged to apply.


Email us seminars@poynter.org


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