Training makes for a better paper

November 05, 2007|By TIM SHEA

Even the best journalists could use some additional training once in a while.

Beginning this year, newsroom employees at The Herald-Mail are required to go through 12 hours of training as part of their jobs.

Luckily, we haven't had to search far and wide for seminars (although some people have). Many of our sessions have taken place here at The Herald-Mail, while some others have been held at a couple of other locations in and around Hagerstown, such as The Plaza Hotel.

Copy editor Tamela Baker has served as our training coordinator, and has given us a wide range of choices in order for us to meet the 12-hour requirement.


Some of the training sessions have been taught by newsroom employees. Associate Editor Linda Duffield taught a one-hour session on police and court reporting earlier this year. Two weeks ago, Executive Editor Terry Headlee and reporter Andrew Schotz presented a seminar on newsroom ethics.

We also have had people who aren't employed by The Herald-Mail come here and share their knowledge with us. Earlier this month, veteran Associated Press correspondent Tom Stuckey hosted a seminar on cultivating news sources and covering government news.

We also received a visit from former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrich and several other elected officials, who gave their views of how the media do their jobs.

You name the topic and we probably have had some kind of training opportunity related to it this year. Writing accurate stories? Check. Writing headlines? Check. The annual media law refresher? Coming this month. Check.

The training has become even more important as we continue branching out onto the Internet. We are updating our Web site ( with breaking news on a more frequent basis, plus we continue our efforts to add videos to many of our stories. Without training, we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing now.

There also are many opportunities to go on the road and get training as well. Newsroom employees have gone to Frederick and Washington, D.C., for seminars. Others have had to get on an airplane for training opportunities.

One destination is The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., which offers seminars throughout the year. Some of them last a couple of days, while others run for an entire week.

For journalists, landing a seminar at Poynter is like a prospective college student getting accepted to an Ivy League school.

We've had several people in the newsroom who have gone through training down there, and I'm going to be the next one added to the list when I attend a weeklong copy editing seminar in the first week of December. I'm definitely looking forward to the experience, and those who have been there before have nothing but good things to say.

It will be a valuable experience for me, with a chance to learn some things I didn't know before from the teachers and students who will be in the class. I'll definitely meet the 12-hour training requirement here. And a week in Florida in December isn't too bad either.

In the end, we hope our training program is helping us to meet the ultimate goal - a better newspaper for our readers.

Tim Shea is News Editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2329, or by e-mail at

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