‘Make the time’ to sharpen newsroom skills 

Every news operation is (or should be) going at top speed, 24/7 (maybe a bit slower during the overnight shift, but you get the idea). We are busy, busy, busy producing information for ever increasing channels. This is such a given that it’s often served up as an excuse for the failure to provide skills development programs: “We have no time.”

Worldwide, I have created custom training programs for dozens of newsrooms who “found the time” to invest in staff development. Many were redesign clients, such as The Dallas Morning News, Advertising Age, the Reader, and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, wanting to make the most of new brand identities or storytelling formats. Others simply invited me in to focus, beyond format, on skills improvement, leadership development and organizational change. These clients include the NCAA’s Champion Magazine, Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo, Gulf News of Dubai, Jyllands-Posten in Denmark, and Delhi’s Hindustan Times. Earlier this year (July 2017) I spent several weeks in India, conducting workshops on storytelling in Mumbai for WAN-IFRA and in Kerala for Mathrubhumi Magazine and Newspaper Publishing Group.

One thing all these publishers know: From the day an employee is hired or a boss is promoted, skills and inspiration need to be kept fresh in order for each person or team to grow and do their best work, and for the company to compete and thrive.

Newsroom workshops are customized for each client, and are based on years of teaching insight and expertise honed from work in newsrooms, but also my time on faculty at Poynter, as a visiting professor at various universities, or speaking for groups including the Society for News Design. Popular topics break down into craft versus culture, and include:

Journalism or Related Craft Skills 

  • Basic and advanced news design: Type, color, grid, navigation
  • Powerful headlines that wow, inform, and build traffic
  • Social media strategies: Writing short and smart
  • Social media strategies: Using photo and video to attract busy eyeballs
  • Designing disruption: Who’s building audience and revenue?
  • Photojournalism: Pursuing and editing images that connect
  • Magazine redesign: Go beyond the logo, cover image and promo lines
  • Art direction and visual problem solving
  • Infographics and visual thinking for “word people”
  • News judgment and basic reporting for “art people”
  • Coaching writers and editors, for news and features
  • Responsive web, tablet and mobile design and UX (user experience)
  • For advertising departments: Design and writing for powerful display advertising
  • For the newsroom and advertising departments: Innovation in integrated advertising
  • For marketing and circulation: Review of marketing and audience development efforts
  • For college students: How to create and maintain a powerful online portfolio and brand

Newsroom Culture, Management and Leadership

  • Managing and team-building for the redesign and rethinking process
  • Strategic planning / executive retreats for newsrooms of the future
  • Teamwork: Respect and reward across departmental lines
  • Multimedia newsroom workflow analysis and improvement
  • Leadership development: Building a better boss
  • Effective newsroom recruiting, hiring, review and promotion
  • Building photographer/writer/designer relationships
  • Advertising + marketing/circulation + editorial: A marriage with three parts
  • Communicate to lead: The art of the critique, before and after publication
  • Overcoming turf wars: When “ownership” of a section or department becomes territorial

Sessions can range from 45 minute informal lunch breaks, to more formal classroom segments of 90 minutes, to full staff or leadership workshops or retreats of 1-3 days. Hands-on exercises are often involved. I balance formal training sessions with roaming the newsroom to observe, coach and mentor in all departments. I attend planning meetings, observe and advise on leadership styles, help conduct pre-mortem and post-mortem critiques, mentor individual newsroom staff or managers, etc. Read more about what a training program involves, and how you can prepare.

Interested in innovation or change management? Newsrooms or colleges may wish to adapt topics I presented in my master class, “Critical Thinking About Design and Disruption,” during my recent semester as Distinguished Professor at the University of Montana School of Journalism. Review the full course syllabus, annotated to include readings and final projects, here.

Said one previous client, following a year-long engagement of periodic visits to provide newsroom training from story planning to social media strategy: “Ron has a great perspective on how words and images should work together to create an enhanced presentation of news pieces, beginning with a highly visual approach to story planning. Ron is also a great trainer, fully capable of orchestrating engaging seminars, fully sensitive to working in different cultural environments.” For additional references, link here.

Interested in short workshops, custom webinars, or perhaps a longer “Newsroom University”-type training and coaching residency of one month or more? Email me at and let’s start talking. For a partial list of previous training and teaching clients from around the world, link here.

Wondering if training might be right for your newsroom, or what to do to prepare? See my related post on how to make the most of our collaboration.  More interested in a short-term design manager or creative director? Learn how that might work. Thanks for visiting!