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Power Reporting Resources For Journalists

Power Reporting
newsroom training in
computer-assisted reporting,
writing and editing


Taught in the newsrooms of The Times-Picayune; The Oregonian; The San Diego Union-Tribune; The Virginian-Pilot; The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; The Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Oklahoman; The Richmond Times-Dispatch; The Tulsa World; The Birmingham News; The (Arlington Heights, Ill.) Daily Herald; The Pittsburgh Tribune Review; The Sarasota Herald-Tribune; The Daytona Beach News-Journal; The Lancaster New Era, The Intelligencer Journal and Sunday News; The Savannah Morning News; The (Stockton) Record; The Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun; Copley Chicago Newspapers; The Lewiston (Maine) Sun-Journal; The York Dispatch; Harris Enterprises newspapers; The Rock Island (Ill.) Argus; The Frankfort (Ky.) State Journal; The Palm Beach Daily News; and The Star in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Also at conferences of the Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Virginia newspaper associations, the Education Writers Association, the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, Inland Press Association, Journalism Education Association, Mid-America Press Association; and the National Scholastic Press Association.

And in broadcast newsrooms: NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio, CNBC, MSNBC, ABC News "20/20," ABC Radio, and Telemundo.



Who? Anyone who needs to find facts fast: reporters, editors, copy editors, photographers, artists.

What? Hands-on workshops in reporting, writing and editing using the Internet, spreadsheets and databases.

Where? In your newsroom or nearby college lab.

When? Two to four days or more.

Why? Stronger daily and deadline news coverage.

How much? A lot less than the computers you already paid for.

About Power Reporting: Led by Bill Dedman, Pulitzer Prize recipient and teacher.

Contact: E-mail Bill@PowerReporting.com.

What others say: Read their comments.

Planning training in your newsroom.



Who?

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Reporters, assigning editors, copy editors, artists, and photographers. Power Reporting workshops are for solid journalists, regardless of computer skill, from City Hall to Sports to the Copy Desk. No one is left behind.


What?

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Power Reporting workshops are hands-on, practical training for journalists, focusing on daily and deadline reporting, not long-term projects. Each session helps reporters and editors cover the news, and react to breaking news.

The skills are checking facts on deadline; backgrounding people, companies and ideas; developing story ideas; preparing for interviews; adding depth to beat coverage; choosing appropriate research tools; using information responsibly; and writing the complex story.

The tools are the World Wide Web, commercial databases, CD-ROMs, E-mail, mailing lists, alert services, home-grown spreadsheets, and public records.

The schedule is flexible, depending on your needs. It usually starts with:

  • A show-and-tell session (usually 90 minutes) for every journalist on staff, from photographers to graphic artists to clerks. This session, for a group of any size, can be done more than once to reach the night shift. The goal is to have an impact on the entire newsroom, not just a couple of specialists. We see examples of the skills, and set a reasonable plan for helping each good journalist gain those skills. We deal with backgrounding, fact-checking, story ideas, beat coverage, verification, and using information responsibly.

  • Hands-on classes in smaller groups of up to 25, limited to one or two people per available computer. The groups are usually divided by skill to be learned (web research, spreadsheets on a beat, etc.) These topics are listed below. These repeat as needed to reach everyone.

  • A discussion with newsroom supervisors of the possibilities and pitfalls of managing computer-assisted reporting. A discussion with supervisors from all news departments on ways to integrate computer-assisted reporting with daily news coverage. Explores issues of information quality, training, story ideas, hardware, software, and working with scarce resources.

  • Informal discussions with reporters and editors on story ideas, and with the person who will carry on training.

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Then choose from a menu of classes for your newsroom:

  • Web research for journalists: A hands-on tour of alert services, archives, calculators, online phone directories, e-mail directories, expert finders, company profiles, nonprofit info, maps, libraries, government info, and sites for specific beats.

  • Beyond Google (or Bing): A hands-on class in finding what you're looking for on the Web. Finding 487,000 Web pages is easy, but how do I find the one I need on deadline? Learn search strategies and techniques for narrowing your search when you want less, broadening it when you want more.

  • Evaluating the Web: Check the limits of the best sites for backgrounding people, companies and nonprofits. Documents vs. the Web.

  • Writing clearly by reporting clearly: How communication with editors, sources and readers decrease errors and add clarity; elements of story structure; adding context; writing concisely; fighting the enemies of bad writing (jargon, bureaucratese, formula).

  • Spreadsheets on the beat 1: For reporters and editors. A hands-on introduction to the spreadsheet for journalists. Compare your schools. Profile cases of domestic abuse. Rank coaches by salary. Track increases in bus fares. Learn to create a spreadsheet, import information from the Web, and sort information. Usually uses Microsoft Excel, either PC or Mac.

  • Spreadsheets on the beat 2: For reporters and editors. See patterns in data with the pivot table, which helps the reporter answer those "how many are there of each kind" questions. Use functions to clean data and answer more reporting questions. Save spreadsheets as pages for the Web. Usually uses Microsoft Excel, either PC or Mac.

  • Databases on the beat: For a small group of spreadsheet-comfortable staff ready to graduate to database software: building tables, simple queries, SQL syntax, cleaning data, intermediate queries, linking tables, making maps from data. Usually uses Microsoft Access on a PC, or Microsoft FoxPro on a PC or Mac.

  • Writing the complex story: How does the story change -- for reporter and editor -- when the source is "our research?" Explore approaches for writing with public records, data and original research. This session focuses on critical thinking, caution, telling what we don't know, and the pitfalls of "writing around it."

  • CAR skills for new media: You found what you want on the Web, but it's in the wrong order. Bring it into a spreadsheet, sort it, and send it back out to your newsroom Web site as a chart.



Where?

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In your newsroom. Training works best in your building on your equipment, not somewhere far from home. We need computers (PCs or Macs) with Internet access and Microsoft Excel. A college classroom nearby will work in a pinch.



When?

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In two to four days, the entire newsroom can see the overview and take at least two hands-on classes. A longer boot camp allows in-depth work. Call or E-mail to set a date.



Why?

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While everyone has seen the high-flying examples of "CAR projects," newsrooms need more practical models.

And they exist. Reporters and editors are using these tools to break news every day.

Do you want one investigative series a year -- or thousands of computer-assisted paragraphs and better beat reporting?





How Much?

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The daily training fee is $1,000 plus travel costs.

You could send one staffer to an out-of-town conference, but in-house training will help the entire newsroom.

Besides, you've already paid for the computers. Shouldn't you be getting more journalism out of them?


About Power Reporting

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Bill Dedman has led Power Reporting seminars on reporting and editing in dozens of newsrooms, and his Power Reporting Web site is used by many journalists for research.

In 1989, Bill received the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for The Color of Money, a series of articles in Bill Kovach's Atlanta Journal-Constitution on racial discrimination by mortgage lenders.

Bill is an investigative reporter for msnbc.com, the news Web site. He is a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., where he started in journalism at age 16 as a copy boy. He was a newspaper reporter in Warrensburg, Mo., Chattanooga, Knoxville, and at The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. He also has written for The New York Times, and was managing editor of The Telegraph, the daily newspaper in Nashua, N.H. He has taught advanced reporting as an adjunct lecturer at Boston University, Northwestern University and the University of Maryland. He was the first director of computer-assisted reporting for The Associated Press, and served for six years on the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Contact

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You can reach Bill Dedman by E-mail at Bill@PowerReporting.com.


What Others Say

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References are available from each of the past training sessions.

"Two thumbs up. Four and a half stars. In two days, 100 journalists trained and excited. Bravo." -- Hunter George, executive editor, The Birmingham News.

"This was clearly the best return on our training money that I've seen in my 13 years here. People were really impressed with the curriculum and the delivery. It was tailor-made for us." -- Carol Coultas, managing editor, Sun Journal, Lewison, Maine

"This was the best seminar we've ever had here. The whole group got really fired up and is raring to go. Thanks again." -- Dick Estrin, assistant managing editor, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

"The skills I learned in your workshop improved my reporting tenfold. I use the ideas and tips nearly every day." -- Bill Heisel Jr., reporter, Yakima Herald-Republic.

"The program was terrific. We're all planning to incorporate these techniques in our classes next year. Clear presentations and lots of practical applications." -- Michael Norman, chair, Journalism Department, University of Wisconsin at River Falls.


Planning training

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You'll find what fits you best. It's most common to do the show-and-tell once or twice to reach everyone. Then most of the staff attend hands-on Internet classes, and reporters and editors also attend hands-on spreadsheet classes. It's also valuable to find room for the writing session, the discussion among supervisors, and story sessions with reporters and editors.

Three sample schedules are listed here, from recent training sessions, just to give you an idea. You should start with the number of people you want to have trained. Then figure out how many people can be in each session, depending on the number of computers available. That determines the number of times each class needs to be held, and therefore how deep we can go.

Example A. Two days

Day one

  • 8:00 - 9:30 "Overview: Improving your news research" (A show-and-tell session for every journalist on staff. Covers advanced skills in Web searching; integrating spreadsheet work with daily reporting and editing; evaluating the quality of information. Also, assessing and improving your skills. In other words: How much of this do you need to know, and how do you get there? Assumes you've used the Web, but you may have gotten into journalism to avoid taking math classes.) Designed as a prerequisite to "Beyond Google" and "Spreadsheet" classes. Session repeats at 2:15 p.m.

  • 9:45 - 11:15 "Spreadsheets on the Beat" (A hands-on class for reporters and editors. Learn how to: 1. Integrate public records with beat reporting. 2. Develop sources of information for the beat. 3. Import information from the Web to a spreadsheet. 5. Do basic computations. 6. Find patterns.) Open to 20 people. Designed for those who have taken "Overview: Improving your news research."

  • 11:30 - 12:45 "Spreadsheets on the Beat" (A hands-on class for reporters and editors. Learn how to: 1. Integrate public records with beat reporting. 2. Develop sources of information for the beat. 3. Import information from the Web to a spreadsheet. 5. Do basic computations. 6. Find patterns.) Open to 20 people. Designed for those who have taken "Overview: Improving your news research."

  • 1:00 - 2:00 Lunch (Q&A brown bagger with editors: integrating CAR with daily reporting; steps to continue training)

  • 2:15 - 3:30 "Overview: Improving your news research" (A show-and-tell session for every journalist on staff. Covers advanced skills in Web searching; integrating spreadsheet work with daily reporting and editing; evaluating the quality of information. Also, assessing and improving your skills. In other words: How much of this do you need to know, and how do you get there? Assumes you've used the Web, but you may have gotten into journalism to avoid taking math classes.) Designed as a prerequisite to "Beyond Google" and "Spreadsheet" classes.

  • 3:45 - 5:00 "Spreadsheets on the Beat" (A hands-on class for reporters and editors. Learn how to: 1. Integrate public records with beat reporting. 2. Develop sources of information for the beat. 3. Import information from the Web to a spreadsheet. 5. Do basic computations. 6. Find patterns.) Open to 20 people. Designed for those who have taken "Overview: Improving your news research."

  • 5:15 - 6:30 "Intermediate Spreadsheets" A hands-on class for reporters or editors from any team. Session covers: 1. Spreadsheet formulae for figuring averages, medians. 2. Cleaning data - gently - to make it more useful. 2. More techniques for finding patterns in data. 3. Approaches to acquiring data. 4. Examples of useful public records.) Open to 20 people. Designed for those who have attended a spreadsheets session or who have some spreadsheet experience.

Day two

  • 8:00 - 9:30 "Beyond Google" (A hands-on class for any newsroom professional seeking to improve Web researching skills, especially on deadline. Learn search strategies and techniques for narrowing your search when you want less, broadening it when you want more.) Open to 20 people. Designed for those who have taken "Overview: Improving your news research."

  • 9:45 - 11:15 "Beyond Google" (A hands-on class for any newsroom professional seeking to improve Web researching skills, especially on deadline. Learn search strategies and techniques for narrowing your search when you want less, broadening it when you want more.) Open to 20 people. Designed for those who have taken "Overview: Improving your news research."

  • 11:30 - 12:45 "Intermediate Spreadsheets" A hands-on class for reporters or editors from any team. Session covers: 1. Spreadsheet formulae for figuring averages, medians. 2. Cleaning data - gently - to make it more useful. 2. More techniques for finding patterns in data. 3. Approaches to acquiring data. 4. Examples of useful public records.) Open to 20 people. Designed for those who have attended a spreadsheets session or who have some spreadsheet experience.

  • 1:00 - 2:00 Lunch (Q&A brown bagger with reporters on stories)

  • 2:15 - 3:30 "Intermediate Spreadsheets" A hands-on class for reporters or editors from any team. Session covers: 1. Spreadsheet formulae for figuring averages, medians. 2. Cleaning data - gently - to make it more useful. 2. More techniques for finding patterns in data. 3. Approaches to acquiring data. 4. Examples of useful public records.) Open to 20 people. Designed for those who have attended a spreadsheets session or who have some spreadsheet experience.

  • 3:45 - 5:00 "Beyond Google" (A hands-on class for any newsroom professional seeking to improve Web researching skills, especially on deadline. Learn search strategies and techniques for narrowing your search when you want less, broadening it when you want more.) Open to 20 people. Designed for those who have taken "Overview: Improving your news research."

  • 5:15 - 6:30 "Writing clearly by reporting clearly" (For reporters and editors.)


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Example B. Three days

Day one

  • 8:30 - 10:00 Overview of news research, groups 1 and 2

  • 10:15 - 11:45 Overview of news research, groups 3 and 4

  • 11:45 - 12:45 Lunch with senior editors: managing CAR

  • 1:00 - 2:30 Internet 1: Web sites for journalists, group 1

  • 2:45 - 4:15 Internet 1: Web sites for journalists, group 2

  • 4:30 - 6:00 Internet 1: Web sites for journalists, group 3

Day two

  • 8:00 - 9:30 Internet 1: Web sites for journalists, group 4

  • 10:00 - 11:15 Internet 2: Beyond Google, Web searching, group 1

  • 11:30 - 12:45 Internet 2, Beyond Google, Web searching, group 2

  • 12:45 - 1:45 Lunch with supervisors: integrating CAR

  • 2:00 - 3:15 Internet 2, Beyond Google, Web searching, group 3

  • 3:30 - 4:45 Internet 2, Beyond Google, Web searching, group 4

  • 5:00 - 6:30 Spreadsheets on the beat 1, groups 1 and 2

Day three

  • 8:30 - 10:00 Spreadsheets on the beat 1, groups 3 & 4

  • 10:15 - 11:45 Spreadsheets on the beat 2, groups 1 & 2

  • 12:15 - 1:15 Lunch with staff: Q&A, story ideas

  • 1:30 - 3:00 Spreadsheets on the beat 2, groups 3 & 4

  • 3:15 - 4:30 Writing clearly by reporting clearly

  • 4:45 - 6:30 Writing and editing the complex story


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Example C. Four days

Day one

  • 8:30 - 10:00 Overview of news research, groups 1 & 2

  • 10:15 - 11:45 Overview of news research, groups 3 & 4

  • 12:00 - 1:00 Lunch with senior editors: managing CAR

  • 1:30 - 3:00 Internet 1: Web sites for journalists, group 1

  • 3:15 - 4:45 Internet 1: Web sites for journalists, group 2

  • 5:00 - 6:30 Internet 1: Web sites for journalists, group 3

Day two

  • 8:30 - 10:00 Internet 1: Web sites for journalists, group 4

  • 10:15 - 11:45 Internet 2: Web sites for journalists, group 4

  • 12:00 - 1:00 Lunch with reporters: story ideas

  • 1:30 - 3:00 Internet 2: Web sites for journalists, group 1

  • 3:15 - 4:45 Internet 2: Web sites for journalists, group 2

  • 5:00 - 6:30 Internet 2: Web sites for journalists, group 3

Day three

  • 8:30 - 10:00 Spreadsheets on the beat 1, group 1

  • 10:15 - 11:45 Spreadsheets on the beat 1, group 2

  • 12:00 - 1:00 Lunch with all supervisors: integrating CAR

  • 1:30 - 3:00 Spreadsheets on the beat 1, group 3

  • 3:15 - 4:45 Spreadsheets on the beat 1, group 4

  • 5:00 - 6:30 Coaching with reporters on their story ideas

Day four

  • 8:30 - 10:00 Databases on the beat 1, group 1

  • 10:15 - 11:45 Databases on the beat 1, group 2

  • 12:00 - 1:00 Lunch with staff: story ideas

  • 1:30 - 3:00 Writing clearly by reporting clearly

  • 3:15 - 4:45 Writing the complex story

  • 5:00 - 6:30 Coaching with reporters on their story ideas


Logistics

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Room Setup:

The show-and-tell can be in a training room or lecture hall or computer lab, whatever will hold the crowd.

For the show-and-tell, we need to use the Web and Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access, projecting onto a screen so everyone can see. We can accomplish this in one of two ways:

  • Your PC or Mac, already connected to the Web, running Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access (if you are using a PC) and a Web browser, either Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

  • My laptop PC, connecting to the Web by telephone line, making a local call to my Internet provider. If we use the laptop, we'll need a plain old analog telephone line, a small table and a chair, with electric power nearby.

In either case, we need:

  • An LCD projector and screen. The LCD projectors are much preferred to the old-time LCD panels, which rest on a traditional overhead projector. The LCD projectors are much brighter. The better the projector, the better the session.

  • Ability to dim the lights.

  • A white board or blackboard to write on.

For the hands-on class, in the computer lab, we need no projection, only this:

  • A white board or blackboard to write on.

  • PCs or Macs for the students, each with Internet access, a Web browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape) and Microsoft Excel.

  • Any instructions for logging on to the network.

  • The ability to copy files to the hard drive.

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Information:

Before I arrive, I'll need to know what sort of computer equipment the staff has to work on, any changes afoot, special issues or controversies, etc.

Handouts:

The packet of handouts is approximately 70 double-sided pages.


You can reach Bill Dedman by e-mail at Bill@PowerReporting.com.



COPYRIGHT 1997-2007 Bill Dedman