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How to foster a culture of lifelong learning in your newsroom

By Jasmine Ye Han

For NewsAppers, the struggle is real. As developers, we need to keep up with technology, but the news side of things requires us to deliver content under deadline. How can we keep honing our skills under the pressure of production? How can news application team leaders create a culture of lifelong learning?

Here are some tips from Gabriel Dance of The Marshall Project, Mariana Santos of Fusion, Adam Schweigert from the Institute for Nonprofit News, and Troy Thibodeaux of The Associated Press.

Allow for freedom, but also be able to deal with failure:

  • Prepare two plans: One ambitious, and one easier to deliver. Bring your editors into the conversation early and give them options.
  • Build different strengths and bring together people who are complementary, so total failure is less likely.
  • When recruiting, define the positions roughly and recruit people who are well-rounded and willing to explore.


Create a culture of sharing:

  • Hold workshops, brown bags and book clubs.
  • Encourage communication. Build a team where people respect each other as human beings.


Get inspired:

  • Look to people you admire in the field and watch what they’re doing.
  • Be aware of current and future trends. Try to know what people are into and why they’re into it.
  • Look outside of news. Draw inspiration from other fields (ex: advertising, arts, and technology). Go to conferences and meet-ups.
  • Develop personal interests and hobbies, and encourage team members to do the same.


Learn from every project:

  • Hold meetings to review the project.
  • Write blogs about how you did it.
  • Make documentations in code, on individual and organization levels.


Jasmine Ye Han is a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism and a graduate research assistant at NICAR. She is working toward her goal of being a "unicorn" in data journalism.

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