I was a coaching editor for most of my career as an editor. My first formal gig as a trainer was in 1985, when I visited the St. Joseph News-Press and Gazette in Missouri, referred to them by my managing editor at the time, Arnold Garson. A job change and other developments kept me from pursuing training more seriously.
In 1997, I was returning from a National Writers’ Workshop in the Twin Cities, the third straight year I had attended NWW. I was pumped up about the learning and inspiration of the weekend, as I always was after such a program. But I also started to think that I had as much to offer my colleagues as some of the speakers I had heard. Over the next few weeks, I began thinking about what I could teach fellow journalists. I made an outline of workshops I could lead for reporters and editors. I developed a flier that in retrospect was pretty amateurish and sent it to several small and mid-size newspapers within driving distance of Omaha, where I was working at the time. I got my first gig with the York News-Times (not to be confused with the New York Times) in York, Neb. I developed my first handouts for those workshops and started my practice of developing a handout both as a training aid and to help organize my thoughts as I was planning workshops. I did subsequent workshops for the North Dakota Newspaper Association and my former colleagues at the Minot Daily News.
One of the most important things I did to advance my training career while I was at the Omaha World-Herald was take a web design class at Creighton University and launch my first web site, promoting my training services. I put all my handouts online. While I didn’t get any training business from it, it was the start of my online training and of my recognition of the value of the web for training resources. My later online efforts would yield better results.
In 1998, the Des Moines Register recruited me to cover religion. I asked to be named writing coach, too, and the Register agreed. The Register also agreed to post my workshop handouts online. I led several workshops for the Register, as well as providing individual coaching for some writers and leading periodic brownbag sessions where staff members would read stories in progress and receive feedback from colleagues. I also joined the Newscoach list-serv, an email discussion group of newsroom trainers around the world. My first training gig with a metro newspaper, the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., came as a result of my participation in discussions on Newscoach and my increased visibility by posting training materials online.
When I began negotiating a return to Omaha in 2000, the World-Herald also agreed to let me do double duty as a reporter and writing coach (in ’98 the World-Herald was not willing to let me be writing coach). I had been hoping to attend an annual trainers conference hosted by the Freedom Forum in May 2000, but I was wrapping up my last assignment for the Register, so I had to pass. Still, through Newscoach, I was connected with the people attending the conference and I agreed to work on No Train, No Gain, the web site launched at that conference. NTNG fueled my training career as much as anything I did as a trainer. I posted all my workshop handouts there and later started my first blog (actually, it was more of a column, but it was a place I wrote regularly online) there, Training Tracks. Other trainers sometimes asked me how I could afford to give away my training materials online. My response was that I couldn’t afford not to. Again and again, as my training business grew, I was able to trace gigs to the exposure I got through NTNG. Nothing played a bigger role in raising my profile as a trainer nationally and internationally.
I developed many new workshops for my World-Herald colleagues during my second hitch at the World-Herald, from 2000 to 2005. In addition, my training work grew tremendously from a variety of factors, in addition to the NTNG exposure:
- My editors at the World-Herald were most accommodating about my outside training, allowing me to take non-paying workshops on company time and allowing great flexibility in using vacation for paying training gigs.
- I attended the annual conferences of newsroom trainers, first at the Freedom Forum and then at the Poynter Institute. I developed many valuable connections as well as friendships and became a leader of the group.
- Bryan Cantley of the Canadian Newspaper Association (and the Canadian Association of Newspaper Editors and organizer of Wordstock at Ryerson University) and the Black Press newspaper groups in British Columbia invited me repeatedly to Canada for a variety of conferences and seminars. I made multiple training trips to Canada every year from 2002 to 2008.
- I began speaking every year at a National Writers’ Workshop, commitments that took me eventually (including my API years) to St. Louis, Wilmington, Del., Fort Lauderdale (twice), Fla., Wichita, Kan., and Fullerton, Calif.
- Vickey Williams of CNHI asked me to lead a series of four regional seminars for editors of CNHI newspapers.
- The International Center for Journalists translated my training materials to Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and French. Other international journalists translated other materials into Russian, Indonesian and Bosnian. I hosted visits to Omaha by journalists from Uganda, South Africa and Croatia.
- I developed an interactive, self-directed online course, Beat Basics and Beyond, for Poynter’s News University.
- I led a couple sessions for the pilot program of APME’s NewsTrain, presented in Omaha.
- I was a discussion leader for four American Press Institute seminars and participated in API’s Train the Trainer seminar in 2004.
By 2005, I had a strong enough reputation in training and a close enough connection with API that I got a job there as Director of Tailored Programs. Highlights of three years at API as a full-time trainer and consultant:
- Worked with the Newspaper Next innovation project, delivering overviews for press associations, full-day regional workshops and tailored workshops for newspaper companies in 33 states, four Canadian provinces and the District of Columbia.
- Trips to Mexico and Ecuador to deliver Newspaper Next programs for Latin American newspapers.
- Researched and wrote Be the Answer, a Newspaper Next report on interactive databases. Presented a regional workshop on databases and led a session on databases for the Knight Digital Media Center at the University of California-Berkeley.
- Continued writing my Training Tracks blog for the API web site, writing regularly about various issues in journalism training. Also wrote the Leadership Tips and Writing Tips blogs.
- Worked closely with Freedom Newspapers, writing quarterly “eTuner” critique of print and web work, speaking at annual conferences of editors in Dallas, Tempe, Ariz., and San Antonio and presenting regional seminars in Destin, Fla., McAllen, Texas, and New Bern, N.C.
- Moderated seven seminars in Reston on storytelling, survival skills for new editors and issues for news editors and copy desk chiefs.
- Developed and presented leadership seminars for Ottaway Newspapers.
- Developed and presented copy-editing seminars for Lee Enterprises and Frederick News-Post.
- Trips to Germany and Japan to deliver newsroom training for the bureaus of Stars and Stripes.
- Arranged faculty exchange with Poynter and taught at two Poynter seminars on covering race and immigration.
- Attended Learning Newsroom symposia, trained in three Learning Newsrooms and led sessions on newsroom reorganization at Learning Newsroom regional workshops.
- Developed Our Readers Are Watching ethics seminars, got a grant to fund the seminars from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and presented the seminars in a dozen newsrooms.
- Developed Updating and Upholding Ethical Standards ethics seminars and got a grant to fund the seminars from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Seminars started in March 2008 and I continue to present them. I have presented the seminars for one newsroom, 10 associations and two universities, with four more scheduled.
After I moved to Gazette Communications in June 2008, I continued my commitment to training. I led several workshops for my staff, often presenting two sessions, one for our Cedar Rapids newsroom and one for the Iowa City newsroom. I continued leading the Upholding and Updating Ethical Standards seminars for API, doing about one a month. In addition, I led discussions twice for API’s New Newsroom seminars. I adapted my multimedia storytelling workshop to focus on GazetteOnline coverage of the 2008 floods in Eastern Iowa and presented that at several conferences. I started doing webinars. In April 2009 I led webinars on Twitter and liveblogging for the American Society of Newspaper Editors and presented my API ethics seminar as a webinar for the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation. I led a workshop on innovation challenges for small-town news organizations for the Iowa Newspaper Foundation.
I made presentations on my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection for Swift Communications, the Poynter McCormick Big Ideas Conference, Texas Christian University, the Press Development Institute-Siberia, Carleton University, Ottawa Citizen and some Polish media executives visiting Cedar Rapids. I led workshops on Twitter for Carleton, the Citizen, Canwest News Service and the Mid-America Press Institute. I was a panelist for the Accreditation Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and moderated panel discussions for the Midwest Newspaper Summit and the ASNE Ethics and Values Forum at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. I worked with faculty at RJI to plan the all-digital coverage by University of Missouri students of the Associated Press Managing Editors conference in St. Louis. I was interviewed about C3 for a video segment of the National Summit on Arts Journalism. For my last staff workshop before leaving the Gazette, I covered finding and developing story ideas.
After my move in 2010 to TBD, I continue training, with workshops for the Parenting Publications of America, Maynard Academy, American Society of News Editors, Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, Alliance of Area Business Publications, National Newspaper Association, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, APME NewsTrain and National Association of Science Writers. I presented webinars for the Online Media Campus and ASNE. I made an “Ignite” presentation at News Foo Camp. I continued to speak to college journalism classes, including a recent visit to George Mason University.
Training remains an important part of my work for Digital First Media, I have visited 18 Journal Register Co. newsrooms and two MediaNews newsrooms, leading workshops in topics such as crowdsourcing, curation, Twitter, using social media on the beat, liveblogging, blogging and community engagement.
I continue to lead workshops for other organizations, too, including the Committee of Concerned Journalists, Pioneer Newspapers, National Newspaper Association and CBC.ca’s news and music departments.