The Journalism Professor’s One-Stop (Online) Shop

Al Tompkins
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Al Tompkins understands the pressures facing both high school- and university-level journalism professors. Increasing class sizes, diminishing budgets, and simply being too busy working as a full-time reporter and teacher are just some of the difficulties they face. So the senior faculty for broadcast and online at The Poynter Institute recently launched aimfortheheart.com, an online repository complete with (almost) every tool needed to teach the craft of journalism.

“It’s just hard for these folks to find the things they need to use in their classrooms,” Tompkins said. “I mine for stuff all the time. Part of my job is to figure out what works. What’s out there that will make the job of the journalist easier and more effective? I just know that journalists don’t have the time to go out and do that.”

The site includes handouts and tutorials professors can use in class; examples of outstanding journalism in a variety of different formats; story samples; a compilation of ethics guidelines; and “cool tools.” Although aimfortheheart.com is a companion piece to Tompkins’ new book of the same name, Tompkins said the site isn’t just for educators, but anyone interested in journalism.

“This is a peek into some of what I teach and what I’m impressed by,” he said. “What I think of as great writing or great storytelling.”

My favorite section of the site is “Ethics by Al,” where Tompkins lays out links to almost every type of journalism guideline you would ever need, from social media to airing 911 calls to ethical video and audio editing.

When you’re a reporter, especially one just starting out or still early in your career, you can stumble across situations where you don’t know what to do. At my first reporting job, when I was the beat reporter for a small town, I found out a recent girl’s death had been ruled a suicide. My editor was on vacation and I didn’t know if I should print this news or not. It would have been nice to have an online resource like “Ethics by Al.”

Tompkins accepts that the site may not be a daily stop for his audience but hopes readers will visit when they need some inspiration for class. All in all, the site is a great one-stop shop for journalism professors, whether you have been teaching for two decades or two days.

What are your go-to sites for journalism resources?