Community Building for Columnists: Poynter-Gannett Online Group Seminar (Oct. 2016)

Course Overview

Community Building for Columnists: Poynter-Gannett Online Group Seminar (Oct. 2016)
Online Group Seminar
Time Estimate:
This online group seminar will take about six to seven hours to complete over a duration of four weeks. There will be some readings and assignments each week, as well as one live, online video class each week for an hour.

This course is only for Gannett employees. Please watch your emails for enrollment information.

This online group seminar is not currently accepting applications.

About Online Group Seminars

In an online group seminar, you will gather with other participants in a virtual space, logging in from anywhere, day or night, over the course of several weeks. A faculty member guides the group through new material, moderates discussions and provides individual feedback.

This archived Online Group Seminar was originally available on:
September 30 to October 30, 2016

Congratulations, you’re a columnist. The 21st Century Columnist (Or, convincing your neighbors you work for a living.)

You’ve reached the pinnacle of daily print journalism. You have a platform, you have a column sig, you have longer lunch hours than the publisher.

Now what are you going to do?

There was a time when a columnist’s job was journalism’s equivalent of the Supreme Court. You had the newspaper’s final word, and you had a job for life.

But times change, and so has the role of a columnist. Social media has turned everyone into pundits. You don’t need a journalism degree and 20 years of experience to offer your take on world or local or sporting affairs – all you need is Facebook and a sizable ego.

So if you want to distinguish yourself in a way that matters, today’s columnist needs to bring something to the table besides an opinion and the occasional family pet anecdote.

The trick is figuring out the best way to do that.

Three times a week.

In this course, we will tackle some of the essential ingredients that make a well-read columnist. Along the way, you might even learn to drink like Mike Royko.

Among the topics we’ll be covering:

  • The eternal search for ideas.
  • Choosing the right tone.
  • Ignoring the rules.
  • The price of credibility

This is going to be a collaborative venture. If it works well, it should have the feel of a bunch of reporters comparing notes and kicking around ideas at lunch. Lectures suck. Conversations rule.

So just because we’re not in the same city doesn’t mean I can’t see you. (Just kidding.) But I do want this to be as interactive as possible. So be prepared to have a dialogue during the live sessions, and email me ( before or after sessions if you have questions, or there are topics you want to discuss.

Live online class Dates (each session lasts about an hour unless specified otherwise)

  • Week 1: Tuesday, October 4, 4 to 5 p.m. Eastern

  • Week 2: Tuesday, October 11, 4 to 5 p.m. Eastern

  • Week 3: Tuesday, October 18, 4 to 5 p.m. Eastern

  • Week 4: Tuesday, October 25, 4 to 5 p.m. Eastern

What Will I Learn:
  • How t find ideas for columns in your communities
  • How to choose the best tone for the column
  • When and how to determine which rules to follow
  • How to build credibility and brand
Who should take this course:

This course is only for Gannett employees who write columns for their local papers.

Course Instructor:

John Romano

A journalist and native Floridian, John Romano accepts responsibility for only one of those shortcomings. Romano had a brief stint at the Palm Beach Post before beginning his career in the sports department at the St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times more than 30 years ago. He became a sports columnist in 2001 and was named metro columnist in 2011. He has never won a Pulitzer, but recently went to a Bruce Springsteen concert in Atlanta with three Pulitzer winners. Read Columns

Training Partner:


Gannett is a leading media and marketing company with unparalleled local-to-national reach, successfully connecting consumers, communities and businesses. With the iconic USA TODAY, 107 strong local media organizations in 34 states and Guam, and with more than 160 local news brands online in the U.K., we provide rich content through hundreds of outstanding affiliated digital, mobile and print products.

Technical Requirements:

The weekly lectures contain audio. Please adjust your headphones or speakers.
We strongly suggest viewing these sessions with a wired connection.

  • Flash Player - Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1 or higher
  • Browsers - Mozilla Firefox 2 or higher; Safari 2 or higher; Google Chrome (any version)
    Windows users can also use Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or higher
  • Bandwidth - 256Kbps (512Kbps recommended)

Some networks, especially those that use a proxy server, may encounter difficulty connecting to our Webinar software. If this is your first Poynter NewsU Webinar, please test your connection.

Questions? Read our Webinar FAQ or contact us at

You can watch our Live Webinars on your iPad with a free Adobe Connect app. To watch Webinar replays, your iPad must be able to view Flash media players.

The Live Webinar experience on your iPad is very similar to watching it from your computer. You can watch the video, follow the presentation, respond to polling questions, ask the presenter questions and participate in any discussion forums.

Download the free Adobe Connect app from iTunes here. To access the live event, click on the link from the Live Events page inside the course.

To watch the replay from your iPad, you'll have use a different app from the live event. Browse and download an app from iTunes that allows your device to view a Flash video player. There are multiple apps to choose from, some are free with ads and there are others for purchase.