The following online resources can help you sharpen your skills and gain a competitive advantage as an online journalist.
The AP Stylebook or Reuters Handbook of Journalism
What they are
These style guides establish standards for grammar, word usage, spelling, and punctuation.
The AP Stylebook is seen as the golden standard for journalistic writing style. Available online, through apps, and in print, the Stylebook is updated annually and has been around for over 60 years.
In addition to writing guidelines (e.g. how to use punctuation, how to caption photos, etc.), the AP Stylebook provides information and vocabulary related to various industries (such as business and sports). The resource also offers information on legal and ethical issues journalists face, which makes it a convenient all-in-one reference point to keep at the ready.
The Reuters Handbook of Journalism is a relatively new online resource summarizing Reuters' guidelines with regard to professional behavior, ethical conduct, and writing style. Its resources are grouped into four categories: standards and values, operations with regard to text, photo, and video news, general writing guidelines, and sports-specific writing guidelines.
Why they're useful
Journalists are expected to present polished prose. These guides present the writing standards to which journalists are expected to adhere. If you do not adhere to these standards, you risk coming across as unprofessional or incompetent.
Adherence to important word-usage and grammatical standards aside, these guides can help you sharpen your skills. For example, the web version of the AP Stylebook includes additional helpful features such as quizzes and phonetic pronunciations of names in the news and the Reuters Handbook of Journalism presents a very convenient (and free) mooring point with regard to journalistic ethics, conduct, and basic writing.
Are they free?
No. The spiral-bound AP Stylebook ranges from around $16 to $20 in price (depending on who you are). The mobile device app is $24.95, and a subscription to the web version is $26 per year. The AP also offers a $59.99 plug in for Microsoft Word that will automatically check documents for adherence to AP Style.
Yes. The Reuters Handbook of Journalism is available for free online; anyone can access its standards and guidelines.
If you are short on cash, you should be able to learn the essentials from the Reuters Handbook of Journalism, however the AP Stylebook is well worth the money so long as you actually use it.
The AP Styleguide
- Comparison of the various AP Stylebook products
- An overview of the AP Stylebook print edition
- An overview of the AP Stylebook mobile app
- An overview of the AP Stylebook Online
- An overview of the AP Styleguard Plug In
Reuters' Handbook of Journalism
- The main page of the Reuters online Handbook of Journalism
- Reuters Standards and Values
- A Guide to Reuters Operations - Text, Photo, and Video News
- Reuters' index of writing guidelines from A to Z
- Reuters' Sports Style Guide
- A PDF of the Handbook of Journalism last modified in November, 2009
The Poynter Institute & the Poynter News University
What it is
Founded in 1975, the Poynter Institute is a nonprofit journalism school that provides courses through its physical campus in St. Petersburg, Florida, various classrooms, newsrooms, and conference centers around the world, and the online Poynter News University.
Why it's useful
Poynter offers a robust and impressive array of experienced and trustworthy teachers who have both professional and academic backgrounds. It is a serious school with rigorous standards, which puts its course materials at a level above that which one might typically expect from online learning classes and seminars.
While it may not be practical to take Poynter's in-person courses and seminars, its online training offered through the Poynter News University is well worth utilizing.
Poynter's online courses have a simple, straightforward layout and are easy to follow. Courses in which you enroll can be easily accessed from a "My Courses" page associated with your account. While many online courses are self directed, webinars with live interaction and audio are also frequently held.
Is it free?
Some of the courses are free; some are not. Prices for paid online courses and seminars range from under $10 to over $400. Should you not have money to spend on online courses, you can still gain a great deal of useful knowledge and know-how from the free courses available.
- The Poynter Institute website
- Poynter's News University
- Online News University courses under $25 (free courses included)
The Digital Media Law Project
What it is
Founded in 2007, the Digital Media Law Project (formerly the Citizen Media Law Project) exists to provide legal advice regarding media law, business law, and intellectual property.
The Digital Media Law project offers an online database of legal guides and threats to online speech, which can help you stay abreast of new legal issues while also avoiding common legal quagmires.
We recommend thoroughly reading through the project's Legal Guide to understand the major issues associated with starting a business online, contending with online legal risks, dealing with information gathering and privacy, accessing government information, dealing with intellectual property rights, and preparing for special risks associated with unique content types.
Beyond reference points and education, the Digital Media Law Project offers an Online Media Legal Network, which consists of more than 50 pro bono lawyers who may provide counsel to journalists in need of direct representation.
Is it free?
Yes. The resources provided by the Digital Media Law Project (on its website, at least) are 100% free.
YouTube's Reporters' Center
What it is
A YouTube channel that provides video tutorials designed to help video journalists (and journalists in general) improve their skills.
Why it's useful
Video tutorials are submitted by journalists around the world, so the channel offers a broad range of insights (both from well known reporters and general professionals). The playlists make it easy to consume information on specific subjects. Anyone is free to submit a video sharing tips that may be added to the channel's various playlists, which makes the channel useful as a growing reference point.
Is it free?
Yes. Though some are supported by ads, the videos available through YouTube's Reporters' center are free.
- The YouTube Reporters' Center
- Playlist: Production Tips
- Playlist: Developing a Story
- Playlist: Presenting Your Story
- Playlist: How to Get a Job
- Playlist: Writing Tips
- Playlist: Expert Videos
Free Online Writing Courses
You don't have to pay to improve your general writing skills. For a compilation of links to free writing courses that can help you with everything from narrative dialogue editing to intermediate research writing, see our guide to free online writing courses.
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