The buzz in the Tampa Bay area this time of year comes from spring training.
It signals the start of the quest for the Major League Baseball championship, and it means a golden opportunity for rookies looking for a first chance and vets looking for a second lease on their baseball life to show their stuff while honing skills.
The great thing about spring training for managers is that they already know what training the players asked to camp need.
And the players know it, too.
I guarantee you that second baseman Alfonso Soriano, traded in February by the Yankees to the Texas Rangers, will be seeing a lot of curve balls and splitters this spring following his training video on how to strikeout during the playoffs.
The mangers also know that the training offers value to the team, not just the individual.
Now shift to the past meeting of the Council of National Journalism Organizations in St. Petersburg, Fla., a few weeks back, where fittingly, much of the meaty conversation among CNJO members focused on training.
In the January/February issue of Quill, editor Jeff Mohl wrote about Quill and SPJ as an increasing source of training opportunities for journalists, including SPJ’s partnership with the Knight Foundation to set up the journalismtraining.org Web site.
In that same issue, Terry Harper, executive director, mentioned ongoing and developing partnerships that SPJ plans to use to broaden training opportunities for members.
At the CNJO meeting in St. Petersburg, council members heard about these and a host of other training initiatives in the works or on the drawing board, including – but not limited to – the Associated Press Managing Editor’s “NewsTrain” program and News University, the e-learning project being led by Howard Finberg at the Poynter Institute and also supported by the Knight Foundation.
All this is good for journalism, journalists and SPJ.
But for me, the most interesting and beneficial part of the CNJO discussion from the SPJ vantage point came with a presentation by Karen Dunlap, president of the Poynter Institute.
I first met Karen when selected for a Poynter Institute Fellowship while teaching at Troy State University back in the early 1990s.
Throughout the years, I have benefited greatly from her presentations on a variety of journalism issues, but I think her presentation to CNJO members on Jan. 31 ranks among her best.
Poynter has embarked on a very extensive and expensive survey on journalism training in the new millennium. The number crunching from the survey remains in the very early stages, Karen said.
But she did share some intriguing preliminary data and posed some very challenging but extremely appropriate questions, while offering some ideas about what she calls the “training continuum.”
“What training do your members want?” she said.
Terry and I looked at each other and agreed – about SPJ members – that we do not have a clue. Sure, we can assume that they want a range of training opportunities in many areas. But we really do not know specifically what kind of training would most benefit most of the SPJ members.
And Karen said: “The best way to learn is to teach.”
Poynter’s specific data will be available to everyone not too far down the road, so I do not want to write about preliminary findings now.
What I will share, with Karen’s permission, is a list of 10 important points about the training continuum, which she defines as “The Individual Approach.”
• The individual’s quest for training should start with a brutally honest self-assessment followed by a plan for training based on the findings of the self-assessment.
• The individual should begin examining on a regular basis “outstanding acts of journalism” – all mediums, all markets. But Karen emphasized the best place to start is “in house,” the place where the individual works.
• Use all available sources for starting the training. On the front end, you do not necessarily need to attend a conference, convention or seminar to get training. Online opportunities abound, and journalism organization house organs, journalism reviews (Quill) and industry trade magazines all offer points of entry for training.
• Begin participating in formal training sessions – workshops, seminars, conferences and conventions. Seek them out and make a good case for how you and your organization will benefit from them.
• Find a mentor or a “study buddy” and grow as a journalist through that one-on-one relationship.
• Become active in your newsroom training activities and in activities offered by the organizations of which you are a member. Organize “brown bag” sessions in your newsroom or offer to lead a session in your newsroom on an area in which you have received training.
• Enlist the help of your newsroom leadership in your training development. Find ways to get managers to buy in. And managers, find ways to get the worker bees and the publishers to want to be better and produce better journalism through training.
As a newsroom manager, I fought for training money in my budget. And I made sure that each reporter and manager – during an annual review – had as part of the annual review, a training component.
• Start applying for training programs you qualify for and that will benefit you and your organization (see the self-assessment).
• Consider what you can teach.
Yes, it’s true folks. If you want to learn, teach.
So volunteer to be a teacher or trainer in your community or for your journalism organization. In the weeks ahead, SPJ will be looking for trainers in order to meet the needs of existing and proposed training partnerships. Think about doing it and let me know you are interested.
• Keep pressing for more training – for you and your colleagues.
As for SPJ, it plans to find out from its members what kind of training is needed, and then SPJ will find a way to get it to you.
Individual growth and learning should never stop.
Gordon “Mac” McKerral, SPJ president, lives in Tampa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.