Citizen Journalism Toolbox

ePluribus Media
has pulled together a collection of resources to help us improve our "news" writing skills. Why? Consider this:

“As anthropologists began comparing notes on the world's few remaining primitive cultures, they discovered something unexpected. From the most isolated tribal societies in Africa to the most distant islands in the Pacific, people shared essentially the same definition of what is news.

They shared the same kind of gossip. They even looked for the same qualities in the messengers they picked to gather and deliver their news. They wanted people who could run swiftly over the next hill, accurately gather information, and engagingly retell it. Historians have pieced together that the same basic news values have held constant through time.

"Humans have exchanged a similar mix of news… throughout history and across cultures," historian Mitchell Stephens has written.”

— from Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect, available from Powell's Books for $12.95.

(Out of print at

Citizen Journalist Online Learning Resources

ePluribus Media has reviewed and linked more than 100 online learning resources that can help you improve your skills as a citizen journalist.

We have rated each module 1, 2, or 3.

A “1” rating indicates that even if you're a beginner, you should fully understand and appreciate all the content. A “3” rating indicates that experienced citizen journalists are more likely to fully understand and appreciate all of the content to its fullest. A #147;2” means almost everyone will appreciate at least some of the content.

Start with the “1's.” Each module is relevant to citizen journalism, each one is interesting and you should enjoy yourself. Learning is half the fun.

[2] The Arizona Project. Birth of a community of investigative journalists, an inspiring story and an epochal moment in the history of journalism.

[2] NewsU© online courses for journalists. The Poynter
Institute for Media Studies
, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, produces News University (NewsU) with interactive courses for journalists at all levels in all types of media. Launched in April, 2005, courses are free online after brief registration. Because registration is required, we cannot post links.

Courses include:

  • Beat Basics and Beyond
  • Cleaning Your Copy
  • Color in News Design
  • Community Service Photojournalism: Lessons from a Contest
  • Covering Water Quality: What You Need to Know
  • Freedom of Information
  • Handling Horrible Images
  • Journalism and Trauma
  • Language of the Image
  • Lousy Listeners: How to Avoid Being One
  • Math for Journalists
  • NewsU: Crafting a Course and Developing E-learning
  • ONA Training Project : Module 2
  • ONA Training Project: Module 1
  • Same-Sex Marriage: A Conversation About Coverage
  • The "Be a Reporter" Game
  • The Interview
  • The Lead Lab
  • The Writer's Workbench: 50 Tools You Can Use

[3] Writing Tool #50: The Writing Process by Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, is a masterful guide to writers' tools that will #147;demystify your writing.” Available online, highly recommended.

[2] The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect, by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. (Read the Introduction online.)

[2] Citizen's Guide to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Every American citizen possesses the right to request specific information from federal agencies. Federal agencies are required by law to respond in a timely manner.

[2] How To Use the Federal FOI Act, Ninth edition is published online by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit organization providing free legal assistance to journalists since 1970. Edited by Rebecca Daugherty, director of the Reporters Committee's FOI Service Center, this #147;…general do-it-yourself" guide to using the federal Freedom of Information Act… describes how to use the Act as an effective investigative tool, and provides sample letters, forms and directories to assist you in dealing with the government promptly and effectively….” The publication is also available as a booklet for $5 from the Reporters Committee.

[3] How to Succeed as a Citizen Media Editor, published by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California .

[1] Online Ethics Tutorial. Take the course. It's straight, factual and candid.

[1] Online Reporting Tutorial. A by-the-book, just-the-facts look at the craft.

[1] Online Writing Tutorial. Best we have seen on the Internet. Even good writers will benefit from this review.

[2] How to pitch a story to National Public Radio. Straight dope from NPR, an excellent description of their editorial needs.

Citizen Journalist Tools [3] Online Images. offers non-profit web image space, bandwidth for citizen journalists.

[3] Reporter's Internet Resources. The Eric Friedheim Library and News Information Center at the National Press Club offers one of the most comprehensive resource banks available online, with multiple links to facts, figures and information.

[3] The FOIA letter
(Reporters Committee) is an online form that greatly simplifies FOIA requests.

[2] Public Records Access Online. From Poynter Online, one of the most prominent web outlet for professional journalists

[1] Statistics Every Journalist Should Know. Robert Niles' beginner's guide to understanding statistics.

[1] Tools for Citizen Journalists. The Knight Foundation underwrites the Committee of Concerned Journalists, “a consortium of journalists, publishers, owners and academics worried about the future of the profession. To secure journalism's future, the group believes that journalists from all media, geography, rank and generation must be clear about what sets our profession apart from other endeavors. To accomplish this, the group is creating a national conversation among journalists about principles.” Its Web site,, offers a variety of tools for journalists, educators, students, and citizens.

[1] Pew Charitable Trust underwrites the Project for Excellence in Journalism, “…an initiative by journalists to clarify and raise the standards of American journalism…” at the Columbia University School of Journalism.

[2] Journalism Tools. Topically organized tools for teachers, students, citizen and professional journalists.

[2] How to Talk to the News Media. Ways to "…be part of the public forum and in some cases to initiate it. “

[1] How to Write a Letter to the Editor. Not as easy as it looks — here's some help.

[2] Getting Stories on Local TV News. Act locally for maximum impact.

[1] Finding the Right Press Contact. It's not what you know, it's who knows it.

[1] How People Learn from the Press. Process, product and purpose.

[3] IRE Resource Center. Investigative Reporters & Editors, Inc., is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting. Formed in 1975 IRE is a forum for journalists throughout the world who help each other by sharing story ideas, newsgathering techniques and news sources.
The Resource Center offers a fee-based, free-to-members library of more than 19,000 searchable investigative stories, IRE Tip Sheets and guides to investigative reporting techniques.


Issues: Traditional Media,
eMedia and ePluribus Media [2]
Journalism and the Internet. “Fully 75 million Americans – 37% of the adult population and 61% of online Americans – used the internet to get political news and information, discuss candidates and debate issues in emails, or participate directly in the political process by volunteering or giving contributions to candidates.”

•  Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press

[1] Why the news industry is in peril and how participatory media can save it. From the Carnegie Institute via the American Press Institute.

[1] Demographics of Internet Users. Frequently updated, from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 2005

[2] Journalists Push for Government Openness. The Sunshine in Government Initiative, diary by lawnorder, March 13, 2005

[1] A Declaration for Public Journalism. Public Journalism Network's own charter declaration

[1] Fusion Power of Public and Participatory Journalism. Final report (.pdf) from the Conference, August 3, 2004 , Toronto


Ethics and Citizen Journalists

[1] A Statement of Concern. From the Committee of Concerned Journalists

[1] The Shared Statement of Purpose. From the Committee of Concerned Journalists

[1] Citizens Bill of Journalism Rights. From the Committee of Concerned Journalists

[1] Code of Ethics. Society of Professional Journalists

[1] Ethics Statement, National Press Club. NPC admitted people of color in 1955 and women in 1971. Longtime CBS News icon Eric Sevareid called it “ the sanctum sanctorum of American journalists," and "the wailing wall (for) everybody in this country having anything to do with the news business; the only hallowed place I know of that's absolutely bursting with irreverence."

[1] Journalism Ethics. Resource links from San Francisco State University 's Dept. of Journalism.

[2] A B------r's Code of Ethics. From the American Press Institute. Warning: refers to Citizen Journalists with the “B-word.”

[1] Fighting for Control of the Keyboard: Global efforts to control citizen journalism, by Curt Hopkins, president of the Committee to Protect B-----rs (Commentary, Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2005).

[3] Asian Codes of Ethics, Ethical Standards (In English)

[3] European Codes of Journalism Ethics (In English)


Journalism Links

American Journalism Review. online

[2] Columbia Journalism Review. online “ America 's Premier Media Monitor”

[1] Committee of Concerned Journalists Journalism tools, training, and commentary.

[2] Poynter Online/Romenesko. Professional journalists' web outlet

[1] Media Matters for America. David Brock's media watchdog, a web outlet