Your Guide to Digital Training Programs for Mid-Career Journalists

    by Craig Silverman
    June 23, 2010
    Poynter's News University is one of many options available to journalists looking to build their digital skills

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    "News University is and has been what I refer to as 'just in time training.'" - Howard Finberg

    Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.


    The pace of change in journalism over the last few years has left many experienced journalists feeling as though the profession is passing them by. So how can a mid-career journalist build their digital and multimedia skills? Get training, and fast.

    Luckily there is a wealth of free or reasonably priced workshops, tutorials and other forms of training available online and in person. Here’s an overview of some of the best digital/multimedia training options for journalists.

    Poynter’s NewsU

    One of the longest-standing online training resources is Poynter’s News University. It started in 2005 as a place where journalists could receive web-based training in writing, reporting, editing, headline writing and other areas. In recent years it has expanded its offerings to include a range of multimedia tutorials and webinars.


    As of today, it’s home to more than 225 different training modules. There are a large number of free online self-directed courses, meaning that after creating a free NewsU account you can go through a course at your own pace. It also offers a variety of live webinars that typically cost between $25 and $30. These webinars are then archived on the site and made available as broadcasts.

    “News University is and has been what I refer to as ‘just in time training’,” said Howard Finberg, the director of interactive learning at the Poynter Institute and the director of News University. “It helps address the specific training needs [journalists] might have at any moment during their career or job.”

    He said the site is “designed with the professional in mind” and that a wide range of self-directed tutorials and courses means that “it’s flexible in that you can do it anytime and any place.”

    NewsU also works to try and provide a wide range of educational resources; it’s not just about teaching multimedia skills.

    “Obviously we’re trying to serve a variety of different needs and multimedia is part of it,” he said. “But there also traditional skills-based training like writing, editing and reporting.”

    Finberg said the most popular course on NewsU is Cleaning Your Copy, which focuses on grammar, style and other similar elements of writing and editing. Other favorites include Five Steps to Multimedia Storytelling and Online Media Law. Finberg said to keep an eye out for more webinars and modules about entrepreneurship, SEO, mobile, and data visualization, among other hot topics. Finberg also noted that the site may soon start charging a small “latte fee” (meaning around $5) for new training modules. This is partly because it may soon be receiving less money from funding partners.

    “We didn’t want to put pricing as a barrier to training,” he said. “On the other hand, we believe people need to understand that good training costs money.”

    Knight Digital Media Center

    The Knight Digital Media Center (KDMC) is a partnership between USC Annenberg and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The program at UC Berkeley is focused on delivering “hands-on, newsroom-focused computer training for mid-career journalists.” The number of workshops offered at Berkeley per year varies, and it let it be known earlier this year that 2010 will see it deliver “four multimedia, two Web 2.0 training workshops and one Independent Journalists Workshop.” As of this writing, it’s not accepting new applications, but those interested should check its website for news later in the summer.


    The KDMC is known for offering intensive five- or six-day workshops focused on multimedia storytelling, though it has expanded its offerings to include a News Entrepreneur Boot Camp at USC, among other subjects.

    KDMC@USC training is offered to digitally savvy journalists and includes digital newsroom leadership conferences as well as a News Entrepreneur Boot Camp for people wanting to start their own news and info site,” said Vikki Porter, director of the KDMC, noting that the offerings at USC and UC Berkeley are listed on the KDMC homepage.

    Paul Grabowicz, the associate dean and director of the new media program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, said workshop participants at UC Berkeley put in 12- or 13-hour days that mix instruction, lectures and hands-on work. They typically accept 20 people for each workshop.

    “We get something like between five and eight times as many applications as we have openings on any given workshop,” he said. “We’re pretty closely scrutinizing the people who are applying. That’s good but also bad in that frankly there are a lot of people we’d like to take into workshops who we can’t.”

    The workshops are offered for free and the Knight Center pays for the participants’ hotel and food. Travel and other expenses are not covered by KDMC and are usually picked up by the participants’ employers. The good news for those not accepted into the workshops is that the Center’s website offers a large collection of videos, tutorials and other content that can be used to build skills on your own time. It doesn’t put all of its workshops’ lectures and content online, but the list of available presentations is fairly extensive. Whether you’re interested in Search Engine Optimization, data visualization, Flash, mashups, mapping or mobile, the Knight Centre has a lot of options.

    (Mark Glaser live-blogged a KDMC bootcamp two years ago on MediaShift.)


    In late 2008, former journalist Amy Webb watched as experienced journalists were losing their jobs. Many were struggling to get their minds around the new world of digital media. Webb decided to offer a series of free webinars aimed at helping recently laid off or fired journalists find their way online and in the new world of work. (Her company, Webbmedia Group, offers training to corporate clients and newsrooms.)

    The webinars proved so popular — the third one attracted 600 participants — that in April of last year she launched Knowledgewebb, a site that offers roughly 300 self-directed classes, tutorials, webinars and other information and training. An annual membership costs $129 per year and also provides access to discussion forums where members can exchange information and have questions answered by Knowledgewebb’s resident experts. The site recently unveiled a redesign.


    Live webinars and live chats with experts are offered a few times a month, and the service also enables members to generate a report detailing the courses and other training materials that they have successfully completed. (Webb said these reports are often sent to managers in order to demonstrate that a given employee is getting value out of their membership.)

    “We have hands-on self-directed classes like how to use Flash, but a lot of those classes are about saying, ‘Here’s what it is and why it’s hot’ or ‘Here is the whole debate about HTML5 versus Flash,’ and as go on you do learn the basics,” she said.

    Aside from the tutorials and backgrounders about new skills and technologies, Knowledgewebb has information about how to set up a business at home, and about selecting the right computer and other equipment. The idea is to help people become successful freelancers or develop necessary business skills.

    Webb said the service has “several thousand” paying members, and that it’s best suited to those at the beginner and intermediate level of knowledge.

    “It really is intended for people who are total beginners through intermediate,” she said. “Somebody who is really new to this and doesn’t know what blogging is, there is stuff for them. Somebody who got channeled into a new position that requires a lot of social media knowledge [will find] it is great for them, too.”

    Those interested in signing up might be able to receive a discount if they’re a member of one of Knowledgewebb’s partners, which include the Online News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of News Editors, among others.

    Visual Editors


    Visual Editors, a non-profit organization founded six years ago, aims to “provide an engaging and interactive education for journalism scholars.” Noted instructor Robb Montgomery gives workshops all over the world that teach a range of digital skills, and the organization maintains a Ning network that includes discussion forums, a job board and other resources.

    Other Options

    The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism recently announced CUNY J-Camp, a new multimedia training program. Its first workshop was held on June 24 and was entitled “How to Launch You.com.” Keep track of future workshops and register at its website.

    The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University also offers Mid-career Master’s degrees that can be specialized to meet specific goals, and the Medill School at Northwestern University also has a Master’s Program for Experienced Professionals that offers some focus on digital skills. For a more complete listing of general mid-career prrograms see this list, or this overview of programs for business journalists.

    There are also many other options available for professional journalists looking to educate themselves on their own time. Most of the best free online training and educational resources deal with programming, creating interactive maps and data visualizations, and learning to use software such as Photoshop. (For free self-directed learning focused on still-essential skills such as reporting, writing and interviewing, it’s best to look at NewsU.)

    W3Schools is one of the best known websites offering free tutorials in HTML, XHTML, CSS , PHP and much more. It also offers paid evaluations that can provide you with a certification to put on a resume. Another option is the Developer Tutorials website.


    Those interested in learning Photoshop a can take advantage of the informative and often hilarious You Suck at Photoshop tutorials on YouTube, or consult this Mashable article to discover “10 Fantastic Photoshop Tutorials on YouTube.” Tutorials and resources for other types of software are easily found online.

    Here are a few great free tutorials created by journalists for journalists:

    iTunes U is also home to a wide range of free education materials, as is MIT’s OpenCourseWare. For example, both offerings include the MIT class, Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, which provides an overview of the fundamentals of programming and uses Python as the class language.

    Finally, a great resource for anyone looking for an introduction to multimedia and technical tools for journalists is The Digital Journalist’s Handbook by Mark Luckie, who writes the popular 10,000 Words blog and works as a multimedia producer at the Center for Investigative Reporting. His book is accompanied by some online tutorials that help expand the material.

    At this point it should be clear that the abundance of free or reasonably priced training and education options means that it’s relatively easy and affordable for journalists to build out their skills for the digital age. All it takes is a bit of time and discipline.

    Editor’s Note: KDMC and Medill are sponsors of PBS MediaShift, and the site has a grant from the Knight Foundation, which funds many mid-career training programs.

    UPDATE June 24, 2010: Commenter Deb Wenger pointed out that the Society of Professional Journalists offers a Newsroom Training Program “with modules on web video, social media, writing for the web, etc.” Wenger also noted that the SPJ plans to launch a series of online training modules.

    Also, additional text and a link to the main Knight Digital Media Center site were added to the KDMC section of this article in order to highlight that the Center exists at both USC and UC Berkeley, and to specify the focus of the program at Berkeley. The quote from Vikki Porter, director of the KDMC, was also added.


    Have you used any of these options? Are there any good training programs or resources that I missed? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments and we’ll update this post.

    Craig Silverman is an award-winning journalist and author, and the managing editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is founder and editor of Regret the Error, the author of Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech, and a weekly columnist for Columbia Journalism Review. He also serves as digital journalism director of OpenFile, a new collaborative news site for Canada. Follow him on Twitter at @CraigSilverman.

    i-59e41f7d887bee107a310677b0f93a1e-news21 small.jpg

    Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

    Tagged: cuny journalism education journalism training knight foundation knowledgewebb mapping multimedia news university photoshop poynter programmer-journalist training

    7 responses to “Your Guide to Digital Training Programs for Mid-Career Journalists”

    1. Nice piece, Craig. Need to clarify your info on Knight Digital Media Center, though. As you note, UC Berkeley does our multimedia skills training. Your readers should know that the News Entrepreneur Boot Camp is done at USC Annenberg in LA along with other programs for folks who are already digitally savvy and need to know more about the strategies of digital journalism and newsroom leadership once they have the skills. More info at http://www.KnightDigitalMediaCenter.org on upcoming workshops at both USC and UCB.

    2. Very comprehensive list, Craig. I’ll be sure to put this link out in my social channels.

    3. Deb Wenger says:

      You missed the Society of Professional Journalists’ Newsroom Training Program with modules on Web video, social media, writing for the Web, etc. You can check out the program here: http://www.spj.org/newsroomtraining.asp –SPJ wil also be launching a series of online training modules soon.

    4. @Vikki Thanks for the information. I added in some information and noted it at the bottom of the piece

      @Deb I appreciate the link. I’ll add that info in now as well.

    5. Thanks for the great list of resources, Craig. We’ll be happy to alert our followers @newsuniversity on Twitter.

      One clarification: While much of Poynter’s NewsU was develop with the professional in mind, our training is also being used by journalism educators, students and the public that wants to improve their skills in journalism-based activities.

    6. Ed Smith says:

      Thanks Craig, I marvel at how your list is so up to date. Good work. Ed Smith http://conductknockoutbroadcastinterviews.com/

    7. Great post! Additionally, a lot of information is available in the form of articles, blogs, and tutorials on the net for free. If one has any specific query, it can be searched using any of the search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

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