This website is an initiative of J-Lab





Learning Modules

These modules are designed to provide both professional and citizen journalists with step-by-step instruction on skills to help you launch or improve a web site based on user-generated content. The modules have been created by KCNN’s network of professionals.

Outside-the-Box Community Engagement

Engaging readers is why your online news community exists. You can't use the wisdom of the crowds if the crowd isn't talking. Without fast and substantive engagement, you might as well publish a newspaper. So when you build it and they don't come, what do you do, short of waiting?

Pulitzer Center’s Media on the Move

This learning module is filled with text and videos that will guide journalists from story idea, through the reporting and distribution process. This approach treats the issues covered as campaigns, not just stand-alone stories. That means wide collaborations, embracing new technologies and taking the journalism out to classrooms and universities to engage the next generation.

Making the Most of Metrics

Whether you're running a small hyperlocal community Web site or a large regional citizen media site, you can use free or inexpensive tools to measure how many people are visiting your site and where they like to go most. With the right analytics tools, you can also get very specific details in addition to total traffic numbers. This knowledge will then empower you to improve your site, increase traffic and give accurate information to potential advertisers and sponsors.

News Chops: Beefing up the Journalism in Local Public Broadcasting

Local public broadcasters are find new ways to engage in more local news - especially more investigative journalism – than ever before. In this report, J-Lab examined various efforts through nine case studies.

Networked Journalism: What Works

Three years ago, J-Lab funded nine pilot projects that invited eight newspapers and one public radio station to with at least five indie news start-ups in their communities. Now the results - and lessons learned - are in. The nine hub newsrooms grew their networks from 44 partners to 169. Final score: five wins, two hits, two losses. The project was funded by the Knight Foundation.

Engaging Audiences: Measuring Interactions, Engagement and Conversions

The rise of social media tools in recent years has empowered online news startups to increase content distribution, market their sites and track users. But most say they cannot lasso data to track whether they are turning users into supporters who will help their sites survive.

Philadelphia Enterprise Reporting Awards

Learn how collaborative journalism projects that received grants from J-Lab turned out over 300 stories, blogs, podcasts, videos, databases and maps. View the press release and the report on the first year.

New Media Makers Toolkit

This learning module is filled with original reporting that will help you learn about the innovative community news initiatives that are cropping up around the United States - and securing grants from foundations that have not traditionally supported journalism. In the case studies and accompanying videos, you'll meet citizen journalists and professional journalists who have launched news initiatives that either partner with or supplement their metro news outlets. A key part of this toolkit is a searchable database, where you can see the kinds of news ventures that foundations have supported since 2005.

Rules of the Road: Navigating the New Ethics of Local Journalism

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With journalism entrepreneurs launching local news startups at a rapid pace, the local news landscape is evolving - and so are the rules of the road guiding ethical decisions. Where a bright ethical line once separated a newsroom from its business operations, one person now often wears multiple hats, as editor, business manager and grants writer. Site publishers navigate new kinds of critical decisions daily. This guide examines a number of them. You can click to any topic in any order. Or, you can cruise through the Table of Contents. On every page you'll find a box that says, "Share your story." We invite you to weigh in with an ethical problem you faced - and your solution. Your participation will help inform a work in progress.

Likes & Tweets: Leveraging Social Media for News Sites

If you're like most journalists and media entrepreneurs, you use social media daily, but that doesn't mean you're doing all you could with it to engage with your community, listen and monitor the conversation, or use it to plan outreach campaigns around news events, real world meet-ups and breaking stories.

That's where this guide comes in. It's a roadmap for improving both your understanding of social media and your use of it. This learning module focuses on the principles of authenticity, transparency and crowd-sourced, real-time communication that make social media so strikingly different from traditional media. It will also give you hands-on tools, tips and tactics that can make your daily use of Facebook, Twitter and other resources much more effective.

Interviewing: A practical guide for citizen journalists

Interviews are integral to good journalism. They provide more than just additional voices; they provide facts, expertise, balance, depth and credibility. They also breathe life into information that might otherwise fall flat. Whether you already interview or are daunted by the prospect, learn what types of interviews you should go for and how they can improve your journalism. Figure out where to quote or paraphrase. Learn how to navigate the unique ethical pitfalls that confront citizen journalists. Module developed by Lynne Perri and Angie Chuang at American University's School of Communication.

Launching a Nonprofit News Site

The number of nonprofit news ventures is increasing rapidly and you may be thinking about becoming a part of it. This guide will walk you through the process - including the hurdles and the requirements - whether you are seeking to establish a federally recognized 501(c)3 organization or a project within a university or college.

Independent Metro News Sites Database

As daily metro newspapers continue to lose ground, a new model is emerging: Independent metro news sites with paid staff members. Primarily online only ventures, these sites continue to gain traction and attract attention for coverage of their communities. This living database tracks the business side of these news operations, offering a glimpse at their funding sources, budget, staffing levels, and visitor traffic.

The Freebies List for Frugal Journalists

In the era of new media, it's important for new skills to be learned to keep up with growing audience demand. Editing audio and video for the Web is commonplace now, as is using the Internet for research and sharing. While there are plenty of good software programs out there to buy, comparable ones can be found all over the Internet for free or next-to-free. We have compiled a growing list of our favorites for anyone to use. Comment on the ones you find useful and let us know if you find any more out there.

The Citizen Journalist’s Guide to Open Government

This extensive, multimedia e-learning module helps new media makers understand how to obtain public records and get into public meetings. The guide features a unique, interactive map that tells citizens how they can locate open-government information on each of the 50 state Web sites. Produced by Geanne Rosenberg, founding chair of Baruch College's new undergraduate Department of Journalism and the Writing Professions.

Twelve Tips for Optimizing Your Site for Search Engines

There's good news for even solo citizen journalists who want to improve how their sites are found through search engines like Google: Your own homegrown search engine optimization can get you many of the benefits of a professional retooling. Search engine optimization, or SEO, just means making your site as easy to find and highly ranked as possible by search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN and That way, people using those engines to look for relevant content can find what you have to offer. That's increasingly important as more and more visitors find their way to sites like yours not by typing in your Web address, but by plugging a few choice words into their favorite search engine. Learn some easy ways to boost your ranking and get more traffic.

Twitter Tips: Today’s Must-Have Tool for Citizen Journalists

Twitter has finally hit its stride as a leading tool for finding and sharing timely information from all sorts of places and sources. Its usefulness for breaking news is obvious. However, Twitter is equally useful for tracking ongoing stories and issues, getting fast answers or feedback, finding sources, building community, collaborating on coverage, and discovering emerging issues or trends. Learn how to sign up, log on and start posting "tweets" to enhance your hyperlocal coverage.

Top 10 Rules for Limiting Legal Risk

If you're running a citizen media site or contributing to one, these 10 rules will help you avoid potential legal piftalls. Get advice in videos from Harvard Berkman Center experts and Media Law Resource Center attorneys. Module produced by Geanne Rosenberg, associate professor at City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism and Baruch College.
Read the press release from CUNY.

Tools for Citizen Journalists

This six-chapter training module will help site operators and citizen journalists cope with the challenges of covering communities on small budgets with little or no staff. Get tips on where to sniff out great ideas and turn them into a compelling story, how to use data to punch up your coverage, how to manage a site when you don't have a staff to help out, who to consider for partnerships that might help move your site along, and how to tap into the knowledge and passion of your readers. Module developed by Wendell Cochran and Amy Eisman, American University School of Communication.

Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive

A guide to help professional and amateur news producers understand and implement digital tools to enhance their reporting. Written by Mark Briggs, assistant managing editor for interactive news at The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington.

Twelve Tips for Growing Positive Communities Online

Your site is up and all is running well until the conversation heats up and a flame war erupts. Here are a dozen ways to keep the discussion going while maintaining a civil environment and positive direction on your site.

Make Internet TV

Make Internet TV is an easy to read multimedia manual for publishing internet video. It has step-by-step instructions for everything from choosing a camera to publishing and promoting videos on the internet.

Principles of Citizen Journalism

Whether writing a blog or involved in a full-scale hyperlocal news site, you are going to face a higher degree of skepticism than traditional media. That means fairness, accuracy, transparency and independence are tantamount to success. See what citizen media veterans say about those topics and other foundations of citizen journalism.

Training Citizen Journalists

In these seven case studies from around the United States, get a birds-eye view of citizen journalism today.

Using E-mail to Jumpstart your Newsgathering

Even professional journalists, pressed by 24/7 deadlines, are finding a way to help jump-start their reporting on breaking news stories and find excellent examples to illustrate more ambitious enterprise stories.