New direction for journalism school Poynter Institute
Like many other Florida businesses and organizations, the St. Petersburg-based Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a school for journalists, is making international customers part of its business plan.
For 40 years, the private, nonprofit school has provided continuing education and training for both working journalists and those aspiring to a career in the field. Typically, a group of journalists from different news operations would come to the institute to attend a seminar organized around an issue or topic — with some seminars lasting as long as a week. Poynter’s customers have been, predominantly, American.
In recent years, however, the institute began feeling the impact of major trends clobbering the bottom line throughout the U.S. news industry. Poynter saw its revenue drop 44% from $8.4 million in 2004 to $4.7 million in 2014.
As newsrooms cut jobs and training budgets, seminar enrollment at the institute declined. More significant, the institute could no longer count on income from a major revenue source — under a structure unique in the journalism world, the school owns a for-profit newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times (parent company of Florida Trend). Under the ownership structure, a portion of the Times’ profits went to the institute. And as the Times’ fortunes declined, the institute felt the revenue pinch.
In 2014, Tim Franklin, formerly editor of the Orlando Sentinel and Washington managing editor at Bloomberg News, became the school’s fifth president, with a mandate to develop new revenue streams.
Part of that mission, Franklin says, involves developing programs for journalists from emerging democracies.
Poynter faculty now teach seminars for foreign journalists at the institute and abroad, as well as online. The school recently launched a web channel on Poynter.org dedicated to global fact-checkers — journalists who fact-check claims by politicians and public officials to hold them accountable. Poynter’s News University, an e-learning platform, offers courses in seven languages and has 325,000 registered users worldwide.
Last fall, it partnered with the U. S. State Department to bring more than 100 participants in an international fellowship program to St. Petersburg for a series of journalism workshops.
In 2015, Poynter delivered in-person training to journalists from more than 120 countries, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey. One session with Syrian journalists was especially moving, Franklin says. “They’re courageously and bravely trying to get the news out in that war-torn country,” he says. “They were here specifically talking about ways to do that.’’
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