National Press Club Journalism Institute: Training for the whole journalist


When journalists are looking to improve their work, understand how to dig deeper into important topics, or discover new trends in journalism, there are many training options across the country. Training is available from several associations of different stripes for journalists of different levels of experience on all kinds of beats.

The National Press Club Journalism Institute provides many of the same types of professional training you’d see at other places. However, unlike many other institutions, the Journalism Institute dives into the person who does the work, not just the work itself.

The Institute has made it a point to help journalists in the human journey — with programs to help journalists manage burnout and stress, deal with online harassment, and learn how to separate their careers from their identities.

The organization also publishes one of the hottest daily newsletters in the industry.

Journalism Institute executive director Beth Francesco explained that the organization has taken cues from its members and participants. Journalists are not immune from the pressures of the world and the industry. From pending layoffs to freelancers' struggles to find work to the pandemic and inflation, journalists have a lot to deal with beyond reporting, digging into documents, and telling challenging stories.

The Institute pivoted in 2020 from a more Washington, D.C.-based enterprise to one that could provide more services to a broader group as journalists across the country began working from home. The pandemic spurred the change.

The Institute launched a “Covering Coronavirus” newsletter, which quickly grew.

Beth Francesco, executive director, National Press Club Journalism Institute

“But we found a need,” Francesco said. “People would tell us what they needed. And they needed resources. They needed a sense of community. All of these journalists had suddenly started working from home, and they came to the Institute looking for various things — but mostly information on how I do my job now because I don't know what this virus is. It's touching every beat. I don't know how to work from home. We've never done this before. We were hearing from people at every level in newsrooms, and especially from freelance — how do I do my job?"

The Institute has a four-person team, so the organization developed programming with limited resources to build a sense of community.

“We launched a series of 30-minute conversations among professionals who were also going through the same thing,” Francesco said. “And I think, because we were very nimble, people came to recognize the Institute as a place where they could share ideas. They could see the ideas come to life in a thoughtful way that met their needs. Fast forward through the last few years, we did dozens of programs in several programming areas. As the pandemic took its course, the needs of journalists changed, especially as they were returning to the workplace. That is when we shifted with the journalists’ needs. We moved back to the workplace.”

The Institute added sessions about mental health, physical safety, personal finance and planning your financial future as a journalist. “We put all that together into a whole journalist space to consistently drive our work to the whole journalist.”

Ultimately, in the last couple of years, the Institute has provided resources and training in the four buckets:

  • The craft of journalism.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Press freedom/transparency.
  • The whole journalist.

The Institute might be best known for its daily newsletter, which has grown from one focusing on the pandemic to journalism-related content for programs and publishing.

Gil Klein, the organization’s president, is enthusiastic about where the Institute is going under Francesco’s leadership. Klein is set to finish his term as the president. He’s spent a lifetime working in or around journalism. He was a national correspondent for several years, has worked in academic settings and has written a couple of books. He’s been a member of the National Press Club for many years, serving as its past president and as its historian before being asked to become the president of the journalism institute. He certainly knows the ins and outs of journalism. He is proud of the journalism programs the Institute has launched, as well as the newsletter.

“There has been an evolution the last few years to become part of the outreach team in terms of training journalists,” he said. “The transformation has been that we have created these programs virtually, reaching thousands nationwide.”

The National Press Club Journalism Institute’s daily newsletter, “The Latest,” is sent every afternoon and reaches 4,800 people.

The newsletter, “The Latest,” is sent every afternoon and reaches 4,800 people. According to the Institute’s annual report, the average daily open rate was 52%. Klein said that far exceeds norms, which to him means they’re delivering the type of content journalists need. A separate monthly newsletter has 5,300 subscribers with a 47% open rate.

“What people have said that they love about the [newsletter] is that they get their industry news routes rounded up, you know, at the end of the day, each day, we spend some time pulling and culling those headlines from trusted sources,” Francesca said. “And then the practical advice and resources that we share. … We select that based on those pillars that I just mentioned. Otherwise, we are sharing the resources our colleagues and other journals and advocacy and support organizations produce. We love it when we can share best practices.”

In 2023, the Institute offered 17 virtual and in-person programs. In March, the Institute held an event to advise journalists on what to do if they are harassed online. Later in the month, it held a seminar to give journalists tips and advice on what to do if their Freedom of Information Act request is denied.

The Institute serves about 9,300 journalists in various roles in journalism and publishing. Journalists do not need to be club members to benefit from the Institute’s programming.

The Institute, at one point the home of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation, operates from memberships, program fees and grants. The Institute is a nonprofit affiliate of the National Press Club. In addition to the programming, the Institute administered $30,000 in scholarships and has advocated for unjustly detained journalists. In 2023, the organization filed 13 amicus briefs and letters to support press freedom cases and issued 74 statements condemning attacks on journalists and barriers to a free press. In February, Press Club leaders called for the Russian government to immediately release two journalists —  Alsu Kurmasheva and Evan Gershkovich.

According to its annual report, 65.3% of its funding comes from stock donations, with another 12% from special events. The number of first-time donors is growing.

The Institute's growth strategy includes diversifying revenue streams, offering fully funded programs to journalists, and looking for new ways to collaborate and partner with other organizations.

“We are always seeking support from individuals to help keep our programs going,” Francesca said. “We want to demonstrate our impact to funders, and the public is really supporting our work.”

Bob Miller has spent more than 25 years in local newsrooms, including 12 years as an executive editor with Rust Communications. Bob also produces an independent true crime investigative podcast called The Lawless Files.


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