Special Series: Newsroom to Classroom

by Kathleen Bartzen Culver
January 5, 2015
Reporters and editors making the jump to teaching face a digitized yet energized set of students. (Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brett Jordan and used here under Creative Commons.)

During my last full-time stint in a newsroom, my night-side colleagues and I used to sit around the bar at a little dive called the Calderone Club in Milwaukee. We would drink beer, eat garlic bread and tell war stories.

There was the time features accidentally ran an advice column signature reading “Dead Abby.”

And the one when the state university sent a press release about the retirement of the head of its “Office of Pubic Information.”


And, of course, the time I almost threw up on then-U.S. Senate candidate Herb Kohl’s shoes.

But in my two decades of teaching since, I’ve learned an essential truth: War stories are great over a pitcher of Miller High Life. They’re death in the classroom.

If you’re a professional making the jump from reporting or editing to teaching or an educator mentoring adjuncts or professors of practice, consider it the First Commandment: Thou Shalt Nix Thine War Stories.


Here’s why: Newsrooms are a different animal from classrooms. With newsroom colleagues, you’re building a shared culture — often marked by humor, crisis and human failings. You’ll encounter those same elements in a classroom, but with students, you’re also building knowledge and skill. It’s a different environment that requires more delving and planning and less waxing about what you’ve seen in the alleged real world.

Feel free to season your sessions with a story or two. I’ve definitely trotted out that “Office of Pubic Information” when talking about accuracy and humility. But always recognize that teaching is a different enterprise than reporting, editing or producing. This EducationShift series explores how professionals are finding their way in teaching and how to tackle the challenge if you’re contemplating a similar move.

Read now:

Closing the Divide Between Journalism Professionals and Academics, by Katherine Krueger

How to Go Rogue Respectfully, by Robert Hernandez

When Teaching Data Journalism, Keep it Simple for Students, by Derek Willis

My Crazy Wonderful Experimental Journalism Class, by Sarah Slobin

Infographic: Tips for Stepping from the Newsroom to the Classroom, by Sara Quinn

How WVU’s ‘Innovators in Residence’ Succeeded Without Being in Residence, by Meagan Doll

6 Tips About Students for Professionals Entering a Classroom, by Kathleen Bartzen Culver

Advice for Making the Leap from Newsroom to Classroom, by ONA Educators

Upcoming Chat

Join us at 1 ET on Friday, Jan. 16, for our #EdShift Twitter chat covering the series.

Related stories:

A Touch of Anarchy: WVU’s Experiment in Education, by Sarah Slobin

9 Reasons for Optimism for the Future of Journalism Education, by Kathleen Bartzen Culver

Innovation SWAT Teams Must Be Integrated Quickly into Newsrooms, by Jim Flink

9 Things the Best Political Reporters Do, by Mike Wagner

Kathleen Bartzen Culver (@kbculver) is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, teaching and researching at the intersection of ethics and digital media practices. Culver also serves as associate director of the Center for Journalism Ethics and education curator for PBS MediaShift.

Tagged: newsroom Newsroom to Classroom series teaching tools war stories

One response to “Special Series: Newsroom to Classroom”

  1. Scott B. says:

    Interesting. While the classroom isn’t the same as bonding with coworkers over drinks, I’ve found that college students are hungry for examples of how skills and knowledge learned in the classroom translate to real world practice. It can be eye-opening for them. And as any professional has come to learn, today’s technology and business climate present unique challenges for meaningful journalistic practice. By sharing stories of that challenge, I’ve found students start thinking about solutions that are relevant to their generation.