Core Requirements

Each of the Digital Ninja School’s five categories includes “core requirements” that must be mastered in order to earn a belt. In addition, staff are expected to master a certain number of “electives” of their choosing that are related to each category.

While we list and provide links to training materials for as many elective areas as possible, technology and best practices in these fields are expanding and evolving. We encourage staff to pursue new elective areas in each category as well, as a kind of “independent study,” if you will. Working with your supervisor, we’d love to document these new areas and in the process, expand the breadth of training topics and resources on this site.

Digital Publishing

CORE REQUIREMENTS: You must master the following core areas to earn a belt in this category:

Digital First Workflow. How does a “digital first” approach change the process of reporting, photography, editing, and even the production of the print edition? From breaking news protocol to seeing regular assignments as a transparent, ongoing process instead of a one-way draft and finished product, we’ll explore how “digital first” changes the nature of every job in the newsroom. Training links.

Linking. Failing to link to other sources of information and failing to attribute and link to other media when referencing in a story are two areas in which most newspapers manage to be “on the web” without being “of the web.” The web is a literal “web” of connections between people and information sources, and we should use it that way. Training links.

Metrics. How do you measure the impact of the story you’ve written or edited? How can you tell if a headline is effective? Whether placement on the home page, or timing of when a story is promoted affects the size and engagement of the audience? Learn how to use Omniture and other tools to understand the reach of your work and how to extend it. Training links.

Search Engine Optimization. Fewer and fewer people are accessing our content via the home page. If readers can’t find your content through search engine or social media, they might not find it at all. Learn best practices of search engine optimization in headlines, story text, key words and linking, and become aware of harmful practices that could negatively affect our SEO ranking. Training links.

Reader Engagement. The why and how of involving the audience at every step of the process of local journalism, including bringing transparency to story assignments, reporting, editing and follow-up, engaging via online story comments and following best practices with corrections. Training links.

ELECTIVES: You must master at least five (of your choosing) of the following areas, in addition to core requirements, to earn a belt in this category:

Embedding Tools, Video, etc. Enrich story pages on the web by embedding source documents, social media feeds or curation, photo galleries, video, interactive graphics and more. Learn the basics and standards of embed codes, and about the importance of placement. Training links.

User-Generated Content. From community emergencies such as a hurricane or blizzard, to niche or hyperlocal interests that we’ve never had the resources to cover, there are many opportunities to engage our audience to fill gaps or enrich our coverage. Training links.

Website Management (Mastery of NewSys). Learn everything you need to know about working with the Town News platform that powers our websites in Connecticut, including posting and updating stories, uploading photos, embedding video and documents, positioning stories on the home page and in topical sections, and working with archives. Training links.

Basic HTML. Learn the basics of the language of the web, something that you’ll be able to use across any website backend or blogging platform. Basic knowledge of HTML will also give you a great advantage over others in mastering certain areas of the other belts in Ninja School. Training links.

Story Comment Moderation. We’ve all seen how online story comments can become a toxic cesspool off hate, snark and irrelevance. But with strong moderation policies and true engagement by reporters and editors, they also hold the promise of filling a big void in community dialogue, in advancing our stories and in helping us catch errors, inaccuracies and missed context. Training links.

Live Chats. Learn best practices for administering and participating in live chats with newsmakers and/or readers to supplement or highlight coverage of a particular topic or event. Training links.

Breaking News Workflow. When breaking news happens, what should a reporter, photographer or editor do first in a digital first process? How do we balance speed of breaking news against concerns about accuracy? How can we enlist the public’s help in verifying details of breaking news reports? Training links.

Mobile Reporting. Gather information, communicate with editors and readers, take photos, shoot and edit video, Tweet and post to Facebook, record an interview, file a story, live blog a breaking news event, all from your phone? Training links.

Publishing Photos. Same as with the textual reporting of a story, what you publish in print often does not work or read the same online. Pictures on the web need to be sized differently, and often cropped and touched a little differently. Learn the photo workflow of your newsroom, how to resize & crop photos and how to publish to your website, blogs and social media accounts. Training links.

Independent Study. Work with your supervisor to identify a different area of training related to this category you want to pursue. Training links.

Social Media

CORE REQUIREMENTS: You must master the following core areas to earn a belt in this category:

Metrics. How do you measure success in using social media in journalism? You’ll learn about how to measure the impact social media is having on growing our audience and traffic, and also how to measure impact as you learn to be more engaging with social media vs. just broadcasting links to stories. Training links.

Twitter. The importance of establishing your own individual Twitter account, how to use it to engage instead of just sending out links to your stories; the importance of following the right people to get more connected to your beat; how to attract the right followers; and how to use Twitter to find story ideas and sources.  Training links.

Facebook. Your sources and audience are breaking news on Facebook all the time. Are you connected with what is happening there around your beat? You’ll also learn options and best practices for establishing professional vs. personal presences on Facebook, and how to establish a “journalist’s page” or “subscriber” option for those who want to follow your work-related posts.  Training links.

Crowdsourcing. Use social media to take advantage of tens of thousands of possible sources on a story instead of only the half dozen you were going to call for a particular topic. Training links.

Reader Engagement. Social media is about connecting people to each other. Partnering with your audience at every step in the process of local journalism is the goal. And social media is a great tool, but it’s crucial to understand the reasons we’re doing it in the first place and to understand the value of in-person engagement, too. Hint: It’s about listening, not just getting readers to send you photos of snowstorms. Training links.

ELECTIVES: You must master at least five (of your choosing) of the following areas, in addition to core requirements, to earn a belt in this category:

Social Media Search. The audience is already reporting details of the most important stories before you go on Twitter or Facebook to ask for people who know about it to call you. Learn how to find them with “Advanced Twitter Search” and other real-time social media search functions. Training links.

SeeClickFix. This tool allows citizens to report neighborhood problems such as potholes, speeders and graffiti to a map-based social media platform that is embedded on newspaper sites such as NHRegister.Com. It’s a great source of story ideas, and a tool for crowdsourcing and presenting a picture of problems that might span a community, from reports of open-air drug dealing to frost heaves. Training links.

Storify. Learn how to tell a story the audience is reporting or reacting to through the curation of Tweets, YouTube videos and your own context through this powerful tool.  Training links.

Google Plus. It has hundreds of millions of users. It allows you to group “circles” of sources, readers and friends in ways that can’t easily be done using other social media platforms. Its “Google Hangout” video chat has been used by newsrooms to discuss everything from election issues to a breaking news event. And perhaps most importantly, a news outlet’s level of participation in Google Plus could start having a big impact on how readers find your content through Google searches. Training links.

LinkedIn. Need to connect with a source at the company that’s under investigation or is rumored to be building a big new corporate office on your beat? You have a better chance finding sources from the executive or employee ranks on LinkedIn than almost any other social media platform. And you’ll be at a huge advantage if you’re connected with them on LinkedIn before you suddenly have to write that story. Training links.

YouTube. There are thousands of video cameras poised, right now, to capture news on your beat. Will you know how to find those videos when they are taken by someone’s smart phone? You’ll also learn about the value a video embed can add to stories ranging from the Memorial Day parade to the death of Whitney Houston. Training links.

FourSquare. Looking for a good source on that restaurant that shut down abruptly? Who better than its “mayor?” Also learn about how Foursquare has been used to find sources in important breaking news situations, and the potential its “lists” function has for telling stories about your community. Training links.

Klout. If the pure number of followers you have on a social media platform such as Twitter and Facebook isn’t the most important thing, how do you measure what is? How do you measure your “engagement” and “influence.” Klout attempts to, and you’ll learn why, and how to use it to track your own social media progress. Training links.

Flickr, InstaGram and Photo Sharing Tools: Photography is one of the biggest hobbies in the world, and thousands of people on your beat are now carrying around high-resolution cameras attached to their phones. Learn about Flickr and other photo sharing sites, how they can be a source of story ideas as well as potential source of illustration on breaking news stories in particular. Learn important information about copyright, fair use and creative commons images. Training links.

Social Media for Breaking News Coverage: How do you use the search functionality of social media to find information quickly about a breaking news situation? How can you use social media to find sources on an unfolding story? Do we have permission to use photos that are Tweeted or posted to a Facebook wall, or quote from status updates? Master the tips and best practices and you’ll be a social media dynamo. Training links.

Facebook for the Brand: How can we turn our newspaper brand or topical Facebook streams into something more than just a broadcasting of links to our stories? Can it be a source of news tips, a platform for community conversation, a more comprehensive information resource for our audience? Training links.

Twitter for the Brand: How can we turn our newspaper brand or topical Twitter streams into something more than just a broadcasting of links to our stories? Can it be a source of news tips, a platform for community conversation, a more comprehensive information resource for our audience? Training links.

Pinterest: Pinterest is an online pinboard network among the hottest new social networks to emerge. And it’s demographic reportedly skews heavily toward women 24-54. How can newsrooms and journalists use it to engage with Pinterest users? Experiment with it and help us find out. Training links.

Independent Study. Work with your supervisor to identify a different area of training related to Social Media you want to pursue. Training links.

Video

CORE REQUIREMENTS: You must master the following core areas to earn a belt in this category:

Shooting Video. As with writing and photography, shooting video is a storytelling craft all its own that involves much more than simply pointing a lens, and pushing a ‘record’ button. Learn how to master the art of filming a compelling story in ways that writing and pictures can only scratch the surface on. Training Links.

Editing Video in Syndicaster. Syndicaster is the web-based platform we use to edit and publish videos to our websites. Knowing the fundamentals of how to upload and edit your own videos as well as curate videos from other JRC newsrooms in Syndicaster is an important skill to master for all staff. Training links.

Choosing Video Subjects. We live in an age of journalism where there are multiple ways to report and tell any story. It’s important to know when and how to tell your story, or a part of it, with audio and visual. Some subjects simply aren’t captured best on camera, just like some things are captured best on camera.  Training links.

Photos, Galleries and Slideshows. The internet is a visual medium, and no matter how many YouTube videos populate it, photos are the core of it. Knowing how to upload pictures to the many different platforms you use as a journalist and how to build engaging slideshows and photo galleries is an invaluable skill to arm yourself with in the digital age. Training links.

Metrics. Like every belt in the Digital Ninja School, you need to know how to measure your work in these skill sets. How many users watch your work. How many page views do your slideshows generate? Training links.

ELECTIVES: You must master at least five (of your choosing) of the following areas, in addition to core requirements, to earn a belt in this category:

Live Streaming Video. TV newscasters aren’t the only ones who can reach a live audience any more. Thanks to web-platforms like uStream and LiveStream, we can now broadcast news, interviews, forums and just about anything else to our readers, as it happens.  The possibilities for how our newsrooms can leverage these tools is endless. Training links.

YouTube. We edit and publish our staff videos with Syndicaster, but that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t use YouTube, especially for curating news and features outside of our coverage zone.  Training links.

Video Curation. With Syndicaster, we have access to videos from across all of Journal Register Company. And other video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo enable us to curate and embed videos from all around the world to help illustrate our coverage. It’s important to know how to browse through these immense libraries of video content for adding a richer presentation to our online content. Training links.

SEO and Promotion. Videos are like any other piece of content on the web. The more it’s title and description is optimized for search engines, and the more you know about how to promote it, the more views it will get – and the more likely it will be to go ‘viral.’ Training links.

Video with Smart Phones. The cameras on smart phones has come a long way in just a few short years. If you have a smart phone at your disposal, you can speed your pictures to the web without having to even fire up a computer. Master the digital first workflow and this “backpack journalism” skill, and you’ll be among the fastest journalists in the field. Training links.

Breaking News Video. Video is a crucial component for breaking news events. Know how to film the action as it happens, and how to get it online as fast as possible. If you have a smart phone at your disposal, you can speed your videos to the web even faster. Master the digital first workflow and this “backpack journalism” skill, and you’ll be among the fastest journalists in the field. Training links.

Voiceovers and Stand-Ups. You’ve seen this skill used by TV reporters for decades. You can do it just as easily with a voice recorder and audio/video editing software. Or even just a camera. Master the ability to weave narrative voice into your work, and you’ll take your video reports to the next level.  Training links.

Final Cut Pro. Syndicaster is a great platform for breaking news and mobile journalism because it’s web-based and easy to use. But some reports require a richer editing program like Apple’s Final Cut Pro to take your work to the next level. You can edit audio and video clips into a single project with transitions, text and other features.  Training links.

iMovie. Syndicaster is a great platform for breaking news and mobile journalism because it’s web-based and easy to use. But some reports require a richer editing program like Apple’s iMovie to take your work to the next level. You can edit audio and video clips into a single project with transitions, text and other features. Training links.

– Audio Editing & Podcasts: Audio is a crucial component of multimedia. It can make or break a video, and there is an increasing amount of people who download and stream podcasts to portable devices for listening in their car, at work and at the gym. Learn how to edit audio and how to publish successful podcasts. Training links.

Independent Study. Work with your supervisor to identify a different area of training related to this category you want to pursue. Training links.

Blogging

CORE REQUIREMENTS: You must master the following core areas to earn a belt in this category:

Metrics. How do you measure the impact of blog posts you’ve written or edited? How can you tell if a headline is effective? Whether timing of a post affects the size and engagement of the audience? Learn how to measure readership of your blog to understand the reach of your work and how to extend it. Training links.

Choosing Blogging Subjects. What’s your blog about? What makes it unique? Who would be interested in reading it? And once you have your topic nailed, how do you keep writing interesting content with regularity? Learn how to find your ‘blogging voice’ and use it to post a regular feed of original content. Training links.

Template and Dashboard Basics. There is much more to managing your blog than simply knowing how to write and publish a new blog post. Learn the basics of your blog’s management dashboard, and how to customize your blog’s look, template and widgets to make a more attractive and immersive experience for your readers. Training links.

Beat Blogging. How can you blog about your position in the newsroom? Take readers deeper into your notebook, or pull back the curtain a bit on what you do. Beat blogging is a big part of ‘open journalism’ and an open newsroom. Learn how to  Training links.

Being ‘of the Blogosphere.’ How do you gain readership for your blog? Just like with social media, ‘if you build it, they will come’ is not a good principle to follow. Writing in a vacuum is not blogging. That’s diary-writing. Find relevant blogger networks, blogs and websites to associate your blog with.  Link to like-minded blogs, comment on other blogs, respond to comments on your own blog, etc. Learn how to be an engaging member of the blogosphere, and you’ll have an audience. Training links.

ELECTIVES: You must master at least five (of your choosing) of the following areas, in addition to core requirements, to earn a belt in this category:

Live Blogging. Live blogging is a great way to report live to, and often engage with, your readers from an event happening right now. Learn how to master CoverItLive and other tools to do what you have always done — written journalism — but in a live setting. Training links.

WordPress. WordPress is a beautiful platform for website content management. If you need to build a website or blog with a dynamic content stream, WordPress is the platform to use. Learn how to master the ins and outs of it, from setup to publishing and content management.  Training links.

Blogger. Blogger is Google’s blogging platform – and what we use for all staff blogs. It’s an easy interface. If you have a staff blog, or want to set one up, learn how to master the basics of Blogger, from setup to management. Training links.

Tumblr. With fully customizable templates, bookmarklets, photos, mobile apps, and a social network, Tumblr is the Twitter of the blogging platforms. Master it, and reach a whole new segment of the blogosphere. Training links.

SEO and Tagging. Same as with publishing content anywhere else on the Web. If readers can’t find your content through search engine or social media, they might not find it at all. Learn best practices of search engine optimization in headlines, story text, key words and linking, and become aware of harmful practices that could negatively affect your blog’s SEO ranking. Training links.

Engaging with Blog Comments. Reader engagement in the comments is just as important on your blog as it is on your newsroom’s website. If not more. Master the best practices for encouraging comments and discussion on your blog posts, and how to respond. Training links.

Community Media Lab Recruitment. In the words of Jeff Jarvis, “Do what you do best and link to the rest.” The internet has given everyone with an internet connection, time and some passion the ability to be a publisher. Not everyone uses that privilege to write or say something constructive or relevant, but there are many that do. Countless  bloggers from all over and start up websites passionately cover niche topics and communities that we don’t have the resources or experience to. Learn about the benefits of partnering with such sites and writers so we can provide a more dynamic community experience for our readers.  Training links.

Hobby Blogging. Passionate about a particular topic not really related to your newsroom role? Passionate enough to start up your own blog on your own time? Hobby blogging is a huge part of the blogosphere. Learn how to start your own, and potentially pocket a little money while doing it. Training links.

Independent Study. Work with your supervisor to identify a different area of training related to this category you want to pursue. Training links.

Data Journalism

CORE REQUIREMENTS: You must master the following core areas to earn a belt in this category:

Metrics. Like every belt in the Digital Ninja School, you need to know how to measure your work in these skill sets. How many page views and interactions are  your data projects and graphics generating? How can you measure and increase viewership? Training links.

Excel and Database Management. Journalists are more versed with words than they are with numbers. But as news and data gatherers, we need to know how to read and manage all types of data. If you can master Microsoft Excel, Google Spreadsheets and other database tools you have a crucial skill in the digital journalism field.  Training links.

Google Docs. Every newsroom should master Google Docs. It’s based in ‘the cloud,’ and allows you to collaborate on data, stories, planning and projects with your newsroom co-workers, and with readers. Mastering Google Docs will help you in reaching your goals for any Ninja School belt. But it’s necessary for data journos. Training links.

Map Data and Google Maps. Google’s map platform allows us to easily illustrate one of the Five Ws in reporting – the ‘where.’ And it’s extremely versatile and customizable. Whether you want to show where a crime happened in a town’s geography, crowdsource a series of locations from readers, or reveal a mass of location data you’ve uncovered in an investigative story on a single map – you can do it all quite easily with Google Maps.  Training links.

Choosing Data Journalism Topics. Applying Google Maps to your reporting and learning the basics of Excel and spreadsheets are just the beginning. Those are the gateway tools to effective data journalism and computer-assisted reporting. Once you see the potential and master these tools, how do you know which stories to pursue? Which stories can you report now that you couldn’t before? Training links.

ELECTIVES: You must master at least five (of your choosing) of the following areas, in addition to core requirements, to earn a belt in this category:

Charts and Graphs. What’s the use in analyzing data and pulling interesting facts out of databases if you can’t present it in an attractive and easy-to-understand graphic or chart for readers? Learn how to make charts and graphs with digital tools. Training links.

ScribD and Document Sharing Tools. ScribD allows us to post, embed and share documents referenced in our reporting. Anything from press releases to public official emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Training links.

Infographics. As writers, we learn that it’s more effective to ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’. On a visual medium like the internet, infographics are great for turning an entire data-based story or fact into a simple picture. The most effective ones go viral on social media networks like Pinterest and Facebook. Training links.

Freedom of Information Act. You might be surprised what information you can find out about your sources – and yourself – if you know where to look. Learn about what info you have the right to request from story subjects, and where to mine different kinds of information that’s already available on the internet.  Training links.

Using Census Data. Perhaps the ultimate database of information available to journalists is U.S. Census data. Learn how to mine it for data journo reporting and story ideas. Training links.

Crowdsourcing Data Projects. While we often use data already available to us from government and other sources, there is always more data that can be collected on anyone, any place and any topic. Just ask your readers. An effectively executed crowdsourced data project can turn a story ‘on’ something into a story ‘of’ something, with facts and data from your own readers to illustrate it. Training links.

Producing Interactive Data Projects. The presentation of a reporter’s data reporting can make or break its effectiveness. Depending on the depth of the project, you may need to apply multiple tools and learn some coding to present the project in a desirable way.  Training links.

Independent Study. Work with your supervisor to identify a different area of training related to this category you want to pursue. Training links.

3 Responses to Core Requirements

  1. Pingback: Digital Ninja School, an ‘digital first’ experiment in newsroom training, launches today | Digital Ninja School

  2. Pingback: Newsroom staff gets ‘Introduction to Metrics:’ Listen to the replay | Digital Ninja School

  3. Pingback: Steve Buttry workshop focuses on reader engagement | Digital Ninja School

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