SPRINGFIELD – Today’s publishers have a tough time hiring experienced journalists for their newsrooms — particularly those in smaller markets. The result: Rookie employees with no formal training or professional experience struggling to learn on the job with minimal guidance. Now there’s free help available to ease that learning curve.
The Illinois Press Foundation has contracted with Kansas Publishing Ventures (KPV) to provide Illinois newspapers with access to a free, self-paced online training course entitled “Earn Your Press Pass.” The course is designed is to help prospective and rookie reporters who have solid reading and writing skills by teaching them solid journalistic skills.
“The labor shortage is real, and finding former journalists or recent journalism school graduates to move to smaller communities is nearly impossible,” KPV majority owner Joey Young said. “The purpose of the course is to give the basics to a solid candidate who just needs a little bit of training to make a good reporter.”
Illinois Press Foundation Executive Director Jeff Rogers said the program is a good fit for today’s newspaper environment.
“Our members are finding it tougher than ever to hire experienced journalists,” Rogers said. “Publishers and editors are looking for efficient online training aimed at teaching the basics to newcomers and honing the skills of those already on staff. The ‘Earn Your Press Pass’ program offers high-quality online content presented in user-friendly, self-paced segments.
“I think there also are opportunities for a local newspaper to share the course with readers and with scholastic journalists in their area to enhance news literacy.”
Lindsey Young, co-owner of KPV and a practicing journalist, teaches the course. A former high school journalism and public speaking teacher, she has been immersed in community newspapering since Joey and Lindsey purchased their first community newspaper, The Clarion, in 2014.
“I wanted to create something that feels more like a conversation with a well-informed friend than a traditional class,” Lindsey said. “There aren’t any homework assignments or quizzes. Instead, the ‘test’ for Earn Your Press Pass users will be becoming a part of their community newspaper and writing about local issues.”
As someone who has both a teaching background and practical real-world newspaper experience, Lindsey is able to teach the basics to a new or potential hire so an overworked editor can focus on other tasks.
“We needed an on-demand solution,” Joey said. “So we came up with what we would want a new hire to know, and Lindsey started working on the curriculum.”
Lindsey teaches simple interviewing steps to make new reporters more successful. Additionally, the course outlines basics like newspaper jargon, editing and basic photography.
“My hope is that people who go through the course will come out the other side with all the fundamentals and a list of questions for their editor or publisher so they can have meaningful, well-informed discussions about expectations and the nuances of their own community,” Lindsey said.
Joey said newspapers are increasingly relying on new hires who "are naturally curious and have decent writing ability,” but have no training or journalism experience. The solution, he said, is to “train them up."
"We need bodies who can go to these things, cover it, and feel competent. That’s what Lindsey set out to do, …to help people feel a little more confident.”
“We just want people to use it,” Joey said. "I really believe this is something to bridge the gap for papers that struggle to recruit."
The training syllabus is now available to all members of the Illinois Press Association. To sign your newspaper up to participate in Earn Your Press Pass, contact Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Youngs will be giving a presentation at 10 a.m. June 8 during convention about the online course and how newspapers can incorporate it into their recruiting processes.