In the December 2003 issue of Quill, I wrote about the importance of journalists seeking out training opportunities in their own newsrooms. When budgets are tight and outside training opportunities are limited, sometimes it’s best to start looking inward for ideas and lessons for improvement.
In that same issue, we ran two first-person columns from Tom Hallman Jr. and Kathleen Gorman. Both are journalists at The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.; Hallman is a veteran reporter who specializes in narrative reporting, and Gorman is a mid-level editor in one of the paper’s suburban bureaus. The two wrote about an experiment in which Hallman helped Gorman to think like a narrative reporter, increasing her ability to coach other writers interested in employing narrative techniques in their coverage.
We’ve received a lot of positive comments about what Hallman and Gorman wrote, and they’ve agreed to co-write a regular column in every issue of Quill. As they explain on Page 39, the column will focus more on developing ideas for narrative stories and doing the reporting for those stories, and less on the nuts-and-bolts of narrative writing. The column also will address reporter-editor relationships and how those relationships can (and should) develop.
This issue also marks the debut of another regular Quill column. On Page 40, Dawn Reiss shares how she fell into the turbulent world of full-time freelancing. She offers lessons learned from her own experiences on making the transition into freelance writing. In the coming months, we will devote space in every issue to examining the issues freelance writers face.
These two regular features, in addition to writing coach Paula LaRocque’s regular column on writing and language, help to round out the “Mastering The Art” section of the magazine. The purpose of this section is to provide hands-on tips and training to help journalists do their jobs better, and these new additions are a good fit.
The “Mastering The Art” section focuses on topics that directly help journalists hone their craft, but stories throughout the magazine each month are planned to help journalists do their jobs better. This month, our cover story, which begins on Page 12, addresses the failure of most news organizations to adequately cover local prosecutors’ offices. It goes on to highlight the stories some reporters have found by turning their attention to prosecutors.
Another story, which begins on Page 8, looks at the challenges in covering the Democratic primaries when so many candidates are still in the running. There are lessons in both of these stories – as in many of the feature stories we run – that can be applied to the daily coverage in our own newsrooms.
The phrase “Improving and Protecting Journalism” has been adopted by SPJ over the past few years, and it describes the broad mission of the Society. Half of that description – the “improving” part – illustrates the emphasis that SPJ places on professional development and journalism training. Indeed, the vast majority of programs at our national convention and regional conferences focus on career development, and all active SPJ chapters are expected to provide a minimum amount of professional training to members and the local journalism community.
One of the Society’s latest projects, JournalismTraining.org, is an online database of training opportunities. Journalists visiting the Web site can search for training programs about particular topics, in specific locations, or in a certain timeframe.
So as you’re looking around your newsroom for an opportunity to improve your work, you should know that SPJ is doing the same thing. And the opportunities that we develop – be they articles in Quill, or local workshops, or resources such as JournalismTraining.org – are there to make your search a little easier.
Jeff Mohl is the editor of Quill.
In the November 2003 issue of Quill, we failed to credit the authors of the Media Leaders Forum case study on Page 9. The case was written by members of the Media Leaders Forum at the Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University: Associate Professor Judith Sylvester, Assistant Professors Renita Coleman and Craig Freeman, and graduate student Simon Sinaga.
Tagged under: Freelancing