jack webster foundation

We gratefully acknowledge our sponosors of the 2020 Jack Webster Awards:

JWF Fellowships to the Poynter Institute for Print, Broadcast and Online News Journalists

Poynter Experience

Reports from:Caroline Arbour | Colleen Dane | Sandy Heimlich-Hall | Aaron McArthur | Sarah Petrescu | Maxine Ruvinsky | Cheryl Rossi

Caroline ArbourCaroline Arbour

The Poynter Institute is a special place. A fellow attendee called it an oasis, where journalists are given the opportunity to recharge their batteries and rediscover why they love their craft. It was that for me and more. The week I spent there, participating in the TV Power Reporting seminar, energized and inspired me. It was comforting to be surrounded by about twenty other journalists, all concerned about raising the quality of what is put on the air and all facing the same challenges, not the least of which is having to do so much more with far fewer resources than what was available in the past.

I didn't know what I could learn in a week, but I was pleasantly surprised. Among other things, Al Tompkins taught us how to better structure our stories, our writing, how to think critically and he shared tools that can save us time when multitasking. I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to improve my skills thanks to him, as well as CBS photographer Les Rose and reporter Leah Hope, of ABC Chicago. What a great experience.

Colleen DaneColleen Dane
reporter, Comox Valley Record

Colleen's column (new window) in The Record about what she learned at The Poynter Institute.

Sandy Heimlich-HallSandy Heimlich-Hall
assistant news director / assignment editor, CFJC TV

Poynter's Leadership Academy was eye opening for me. I can't say enough about the quality of the sessions, instructors, and the coaching I received there.It was intense, and a lot of work. Make no mistake -- this is no holiday. The instructors are amazing people, who have worked in the profession and are now sharing their wealth of knowledge with others. I have come back to Kamloops eager to put my newfound skills into play. I now know how to be a stronger, more organized, understanding, inspirational leader.

Poynter's Jill Geisler helped me understand my personality type (INFP!), why I am the way I am, how I react to situations, and why other personality types react to be in certain ways. I now have a better appreciation for personalities on the opposite end of the spectrum (and we have them in our newsroom!) and how to work with them in more effective ways. She was also great in the one-on-one opportunities we got to take advantage of, guiding me through how to have those tough conversation with staff -- and even with other bosses. And she should know. She is a teacher and consultant now -- but earned her stripes in newsrooms, and was a TV News Director herself. Jill speaks the language. She's been there and done that.

Jill, Butch Ward, Paul Pohlman, Al Tompkins and Kenny Irby offered a wealth of knowledge on leadership issues, stronger story telling, real ways to bring more diverse stories to our viewers, stronger story telling, being a better mentor to staff, how to coach instead of fix. I also was guided through how to handle those tough discussions with staff, and even the bosses higher up the food chain! They've even offered to be available for trial run conversations in future! How great is that?

I also learned how to manage my time better. Turns out I've taken on too many duties that really have nothing to do with my current job, and are getting in the way of the important things I do everyday. I also learned new tricks of the trade from Al Tompkins -- his session "Bringing out your inner geek" and "Cool tools" was incredibly useful information. And most of his tips were low cost or free!

It was also incredibly valuable to hear from the visiting faculty, like Will Pry (Editor "The Briefing - Dallas Morning News .. and yes -- that's his real name!), and Stacia Deshishku (CNN - Director of Coverage). I got to hear what principles Will is applying to his paper, and how he is helping his publication to appeal to younger readers and stay at home moms, developing a new audience. And Stacia, who oversees 50 Assignment Editors everyday, had some great takehome tips for me on arranging my day and getting the reporters involved in generating more story ideas they can carry through on.

I also found I learned a lot from other newsies from around the world who came to Poynter for the same reasons I did -- to become better at what we do. It was liberating to learn no matter what medium we work in, or what size market, we all had the exact same problems, issues, and challenges! In the first week I already sought out the advice of one of my new friends on the pitfalls of taking a newsroom digital -- since she's already done it 3 times! Poynter provided me with an incredible list of resources which I know I will continue to draw on in future.

I also want to say something about the Jack Webster Foundation. Thank you for offering this scholarship to journalists. Small stations like ours would never be able to afford to send their newsroom staff away for such valuable upgrades on their own. Especially in times like these. This was an amazing experience, and I could not have done it without you.

Aaron McArthurAaron McArthur
reporter, Global BC

At a time when many people believe journalism is suffering through a crisis, it is comforting to know there are those who still take the media's role seriously. Jack Webster and Nelson Poynter are two names that carry a lot of weight in the industry, and both would be proud to know their names are behind two fantastic organizations working hard to give journalists the tools they need to succeed.

A huge part of the Poynter experience is the journalists who choose to attend the seminars. Everyone goes to St. Petersburg keen to work, and ready to learn. As a group these people from wide ranging backgrounds and differing media platforms made remarkable progress in terms of technology and in storytelling. Everyone came away feeling refreshed and ready for new challenges. Pushing the students was a staff that is without question world class. Al Tompkins leads a team of professional educators who really care about the craft of Journalism. Not only did I come away recharged and ready to go back to work, I came away with a broad understanding what it takes to become a backpack journalist, and what it will take to succeed in a business which is changing so quickly.

Sarah PetrescuSarah Petrescu
reporter/columnist, Times Colonist

Backpack Journalist - Poynter Institute

As the first reporter at the Times Colonist to hold a multi-media focused position, the Backpack Journalist course at the Poynter Institute benefited me greatly. While the course focused heavily on video, it did so with an emphasis on web content and tools. The diverse make-up of the class - 40 or so journalists from around the world working in every medium - provided an environment for discussion about the current state of journalism and what we are doing to survive in it. The intense hands-on nature of the program was tiring - I highly recommend arriving a day ahead and leaving the day after the program ends. But it was rewarding. The most important element for me right now was the opportunity for professional development in an economic time when many news outlets are scaling back resources. This is especially difficult for journalists like me who need training to use new technologies. Thank you to the Jack Webster Foundation for providing opportunities like these.

Maxine RuvinskyMaxine Ruvinsky
assistant professor/chair, School of Journalism, Thompson Rivers University

Learning the technology was fun, but what I liked best about the overall approach of the seminar was its grounding in journalistic principle, its insistence that the journalism, not the technology, is the point. The important journalistic questions remain constant, despite the rate of technological change: What is the story? Is it true? How do I know?

I applied for this fellowship and attended this seminar in the hope that by doing so I could strengthen my ability to help my students "reinvent and redeem the practice of journalism" for the 21st century. The seminar exceeded my already high expectations; it cemented my resolve to pursue new directions in journalism with my students and gave me the start I need to take advantage of the new technologies in the service of a larger goal: to help recall journalism to its own founding values, those of a free press in a democratic society.

Click here to read the entire report.

Cheryl RossiCheryl Rossi
reporter, The Vancouver Courier

I felt extremely fortunate when I won a Jack Webster Foundation fellowship to take a Poynter Institute seminar called Essential Skills for the Digital Journalist. Our training budget at work has been scrapped and the practical, boot-camp like course is exactly what overloaded techno-timid print journalists like me need. I felt even more fortunate when I learned seven or eight of the 18 participants in the seminar were out of work and some of those who are employed had paid their own way.

The instructors and my colleagues in the seminar demystified the use of graphics and running your own blog or website. They balanced gushing about social networking and digital media with practical pointers on when it actually makes sense to start a blog and tell a story with graphics, audio, audio slide shows or video.

I returned to work better informed, with issues and ideas to share and explore. I have much information to revisit, knowledgeable, helpful instructors just keystrokes away, and new far-away colleagues to keep me on track by following my personal development plan.

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