As fall approaches, students head back to school. And while busy freelance journalists may not have the time or money to enroll in a college course, there are a number of free online training alternatives right at their fingertips, offering lessons on everything from understanding financial statements to covering healthcare reform.
Here’s a look at six of the top options to consider.
1. SABEW teletraining
Almost every month, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) host free training calls on a range of topics. Teletraining, or when you phone into a conference call line, lets busy reporters brush up their skills without spending time in the classroom or tuning into a webinar. You could be sitting at your computer or calling from the road.
“In the last couple of years, topics that help journalists adapt to the changing landscape in our industry have been popular,” explained Kim Quillen, co-chair of SABEW’s training committee and assistant business editor at The Arizona Republic. “These have included how to shoot video using your iPhone and how to write news for a digital format.”
SABEW’s teletraining on October 27 will explore “Rising Health Care Costs: How to Uncover Stories.” You can listen to past lessons in their archives.
2. The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism
The Reynolds Center at Arizona State University offers free webinars on business journalism issues such as data visualization, how to cover the Affordable Care Act, and ways to investigate the spending of political nonprofits. The archives for past webinars and self-guided trainings are available online.
Business journalists may also be interested in applying for a fellowship to attend the Strictly Financials seminar in January. The application deadline is November 1.
3. BBC Academy
Our colleagues across the pond at the BBC recently opened up BBC’s internal training website to the public. BBC Academy contains detailed information meant to help develop skills in areas like investigative journalism and interviewing, and there are guides to specific beats such as business and the economy and U.K. politics as well. Some of the information is most applicable to international journalists, but those focusing on domestic issues in the U.S. may also find the skills section useful.
4. National Press Foundation
The National Press Foundation (NPF) holds periodic training programs covering tips for writing timely stories on the debt limit, Bitcoin, and cyber-security. You can view archived webinars and trainings here.
On September 30, NPF will host a free live webinar entitled “Financial Literacy: What Do Young People Know?“
5. The Knight Center’s Digital Library
The Knight Center for Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin provides training and outreach to journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean. Some of its resources are also accessible to journalists in the U.S.
The Knight Center makes digital editions of books about reporting available as free downloads. Titles include Digital Tools for Journalists, 10 Best Practices for Social Media, and Media Coverage of Migration in the Americas.
6. Poynter’s NewsU
Poynter’s NewsU offers free lessons in a variety of online formats through a sponsorship from the Knight Foundation. Some are online group seminars; others are self-directed classes or webinars.
Vicki Krueger, Poynter’s director of interactive learning, said NewsU’s “initial audience was early- to mid-career professional journalists who had some gaps in skills, but a secondary audience for us has become educators and students. It’s way more interesting and interactive than a chapter in a textbook because of the nature of our curriculum.”
Some courses might help those who never went to journalism school get up to speed. For instance, freelance medical writer Elizabeth Hanes took Poynter’s self-directed course on reporting to fill in a gap in her skillset. “I did find it useful because I am not a classically trained journalist,” she said.
Other resources, like “Advice for the Newly Named News Director” or “Beyond the Inverted Pyramid: Creating Alternative Story Forms,” should appeal more to newsroom vets.
Are there any resources we missed? Let us know @thefreelancer on Twitter.