Breakouts and Workshops

We’ve got something for everyone — from upping your freelance game, to building inclusive newsrooms and audience trust, to serving as a government watchdog, to increasing your writing chops. All that, plus how-to sessions on using Census data, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook and mobile tools.

See also:  Full Schedule Super Sessions

All times Eastern (U.S.)

September 12, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. EDT

Words Matter

It is important for journalists to be precise and accurate in the language we use in coverage, particularly on topics such as race, gender and identity. What steps can we take to be precise in language and style choices?

Moderator: Tracy Everbach, professor, University of North Texas and member, SPJ Diversity Committee

- Paula Froke, AP Stylebook editor
- Dorothy Tucker, NABJ president
- Kam Burns, Trans Journalist Association

September 12, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. EDT

How to Fight Back When People Discredit Your Political Coverage

In the partisan world we live in, you know you will likely receive criticisms and accusations about your political coverage. But are you ready to respond? The Trusting News team will explain why you shouldn't ignore claims of bias or 'fake news' and how you can strategically, efficiently and effectively defend your work.

- Joy Mayer, director,
- Lynn Walsh assistant director,

September 12, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. EDT

Setting Yourself Up for Success as an Independent Journalist

To succeed as a freelancer, you need to develop a name for yourself as a resource to potential clients, as well to colleagues who can refer you for assignments. Learn from successful independent journalists how to forge an identity for yourself as a freelancer. They'll help you figure out how to tell the world who you are, what you do, and how to connect with you; find community and colleagues to replace the newsroom; and build confidence to combat imposter syndrome.

You'll learn about:
- Networking for information, sources, and assignments: Learn from colleagues in SPJ and other journalism organizations, and find work from contacts in the community you report on.
- Hanging out your shingle: Let potential clients know what you can do for them, and make it easy for them to find you.
- Putting your best foot forward: Build a strong persona and spotlight your experience and training.

- Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, resources coordinator, SPJ Freelance Community and author of 'Get Paid to Write! Getting Started as a Freelance Writer'
- Katherine X. Reynolds Lewis, award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C.
- Damon Brown, business coach and former ASJA board member

September 12, 4:00 - 6:15 p.m. EDT

Upping Your Election Coverage with Google Tools

Join Deb Halpern Wenger, a 17-year broadcast news veteran and interim dean of the University of Mississippi journalism school, for a practical, surprising session focused on how you can use Google Trends, Advanced Search and Google's verification tools more to add depth to your stories.

Trainer: Deb Halpern Wenger, interim dean/professor, University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media

September 12, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. EDT

Don't Bury the Lede: Resume Clinic and Job Search Hacks

Landing in a full-time job is not a rite-of-passage in our highly competitive media environment. College students and recent graduates need to be equipped with extra insights and tools to stand out from the crowd of talented professionals in the job market. This session will combine resume critiques, interviewing hacks and job-search strategies to prepare attendees to succeed out of the gate. Seasoned journalists, newsroom leaders and super interns take participants through exercises that bulk them up for the job fair, elevator pitches and schmoozing at receptions that will win results.

Moderator: Heather Taylor, manager, Digital Media & Programs, Dow Jones News Fund

- Sarah Rabil, assistant managing editor of talent, The Wall Street Journal
- Aaron Kremer, editor and founder, BusinessDen and Richmond BizSense
- Phoebe Gavin, editorial director of growth, Quartz

September 12, 5:15 - 6:15 p.m. EDT

Staying Sane in 2020: Journalists' Mental Health

If only deadlines and uncooperative sources were the only causes of journalists' stress. The unprecedented events of 2020 have left many journalists feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, and fearful as the year continues to deliver the unexpected. All the while, they are being isolated from their loved ones and unable to engage in most stress-relieving activities.

During this session, journalists will learn the importance of tending to their mental health. The primary focus will be on identifying and mitigating the impact of stress, burnout, compassion fatigue and exposure to trauma.

Presenter: Dr. Tammy McCoy-Arballo, Psy.D.

September 12, 5:15 - 6:15 p.m. EDT

Weird Science: What Journalists Get Wrong About Scientific Studies... and How to Get it Right

In this one-of-a-kind program, Pyatt digs into the science behind the viral headlines. How can reporters draw more accurate conclusions from scientific studies? When should 'experts say' be viewed with skepticism? And what exactly are predatory journals? In the process, participants will learn about alcohol absorption through the feet, transplanting beavers by airplane and parachute, and whether or not kids are actually scared of hospital clowns. Oh, and climate change.

Presenter: Dr. Rob Pyatt, assistant professor and Research Coordinator, Kean University

September 12, 5:15 - 6:15 p.m. EDT

Talking to Strangers: How to Get the Eager, the Reluctant and Even the Haters to Give a Good Interview

Interviewing is the single most important way journalists get information. Yet sometimes the perfect interview feels more like luck than skill. But great interviews aren't the result of serendipity and intuition. They're the result of careful planning and good journalistic habits. This session will give you the tools you'll need to get people to talk to you, and to get worthwhile information from them. Tools for this session are drawn from the speaker's decades of experience as a journalist (freelancer for New York Times and Boston Globe, and magazine staff writer), as well as from his 25 years of hosting the annual Writer's Symposium By The Sea, where he has interviewed the nation's best writers.

Presenter: Dean Nelson, vice chair, Department of Literature, Journalism, Writing, & Languages, Point Loma Nazarene University

September 12, 5:15 - 6:15 p.m. EDT

Business Basics for Freelance Success

Working on your own as an entrepreneur, you are now responsible for finding a steady flow of assignments that pay the bills. Established freelance journalists will highlight essential elements of making your own business opportunities, negotiating terms that work for you, and managing your freelance business.

In this session, you'll learn about:
- Finding work: tell publishers and producers what you can do for them and why you're the right person for the job.
- Contracting your way to freelance success: negotiate terms that work for you, and have a clear understanding of each assignment.
- Setting and reaching goals: decide where you're going and then plan a route to get there.

- Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, resources coordinator, SPJ Freelance Community and author of 'Get Paid to Write! Getting Started as a Freelance Writer'
- Katherine X. Reynolds Lewis, award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C.
- Damon Brown, business coach and former ASJA board member

September 13, 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. EDT

Report the Vote: New Resources for Covering Election 2020

This session will explore Report the Vote: Election 2020, a new free, online, nonpartisan resource and news coverage guide for journalists, particularly at the collegiate level, to support reporting on the process of voter registration and election voting in this year's election cycle.

- Gene Policinski, First Amendment senior fellow, Freedom Forum
- Doug Chapin, director of election research, Fors Marsh Group

September 13, 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. EDT

Uncover and Enhance Your News Stories with Census Bureau Data

The 2020 Census is coming, and journalists need to be prepared! Come learn how to use Census Bureau data in your reporting with, the new site to access Census data. In this training, you will learn how to access, download, customize and map data from the Census Bureau's most popular surveys and programs. We will also share updates and resources for journalists from the American Community Survey, the premier source of detailed population and housing information for your news stories.

- Tyson Weister, program analyst, US Census Bureau
- Caleb Hopler, survey statistician, US Census Bureau

September 13, 11:15 a.m. - 1:15 p.m. EDT

Face-to-Face with Facebook

This session covers everything journalists need to know to engage their communities, get story ideas and share newsworthy information. The presentation will discuss best practices for Facebook Live, Facebook groups, Instagram and Facebook Stories, Photos, Video and more. It will also introduce new tools to journalists.

Trainer: Lynn Walsh, project coordinator, SPJ Training Program in partnership with the Facebook Journalism Project

September 13, 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. EDT

FOI for a Cure: How to Get Health Records and Data

This session will provide practical tips for acquiring health data and records about COVID and other important health matters. It will include examples of useful records to acquire, strategies for overcoming denials, and stories that can help your community.

Presenter: Dave Cuillier, associate professor, University of Arizona School of Journalism and president, National Freedom of Information Coalition

September 13, 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. EDT

You Make the Call: Ethics in Your Newsroom

It happens nearly every day. Your newsroom has a decision to make. Do you use the name, do you use the tip, do you cover with a caveat. Join the discussion as we present ethical questions from newsrooms across the country. You'll go back to your newsroom with a better understanding to help you make the right call.

Presenter: Joe Radske, news director, KVRR

September 13, 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. EDT

Watchdogging Congress

Two experts -- one a former Congressional staffer and transparency advocate, and the other an investigative journalist -- will demonstrate how to use online resources to track Congress.

- Celia Wexler, journalist, nonfiction author and board member, SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter
- Daniel Schuman, policy director, Demand Progress
- Derek Willis, news applications developer, ProPublica

September 13, 11:15 a.m. - 1:15 p.m. EDT

Mobile and Digital Tools for Your Newsroom and Classroom

Learn about the latest and greatest digital and mobile apps to make your reporting better. Participants get hands-on training, demos, examples and digital handouts to they can take back to their newsrooms and classrooms.

- Mike Reilley, data and digital journalism professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
- Victor Hernandez, executive editor, Crosscut

September 13, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. EDT

Freelance: Committing Journalism in the Gig Economy

Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft, which rely on independent contractors, have brought attention to the issue of employee misclassification. Several states have responded, signing into law bills related to worker classification. While these so-called gig economy laws are designed to protect workers, they could actually hurt freelance journalists. This program will address legislation in California, New York, Minnesota, and elsewhere and brainstorm ways that freelance journalists can respond. The session also will be relevant to editors and news directors who want to continue to use freelancers to add diversity and specialization to their organization's news coverage.

- Stephenie Overman, independent journalist and vice chair, SPJ Freelance Community
- Errol Salamon, senior lecturer in digital media and communication, University of Huddersfield
- Laura Laing, freelance writer and president, American Society of Journalists and Authors
- Susan Valot, freelance radio reporter/producer

September 13, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. EDT

Creating and Maintaining an Inclusive Newsroom

Learn how to analyze common newsroom comments to avoid harassment, discrimination and incivility. You'll identify bias and assumptions, and challenge your thinking. This hands-on workshop will give you the tools to navigate common interactions that occur in your newsroom - and beyond. Materials provided by the Power Shift Project.

- Suzanne McBride, chair, communications department, Columbia College Chicago
- Curtis Lawrence, associate professor, Columbia College Chicago

September 13, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. EDT

How Local and National Journalists Can Work Together to Tell the Best Story

Local media outlets around the country face declining revenues, layoffs, and shrinking page counts. Collaborations with national media outlets may help alleviate these problems, but working together doesn't always come easy. Are there ways local and national news outlets can collaborate, instead of compete?

- Jordan Gass-Poore, podcast producer and investigative journalist
- Sarah Baird, Shoeleather
- Mollie Bryant, Big If True
- Katherine Rowlands, Bay City News

September 13, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. EDT

Getting the Story: Foreign Correspondence During the 'New Normal'

With so much focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, other vital stories might get pushed to the side. Seasoned journalists who covered Iran, Iraq, Syria and countless other places prior to the pandemic will discuss why it is important to pay attention to what is going on in the rest of the world, and detail some of the vital issues that should not be ignored. The panelists will discuss how the restrictions on their coverage -- from state-mandated handlers, travel restrictions and now COVID-19 -- has hindered their work, and how they have gotten around those limitations. We will dig deeper with these journalists, learn more about their work, and uncover their forecast for foreign correspondence work going forward.

- Mary Louise Kelly, host, NPR's All Things Considered
- Mike Giglio, national security and intelligence journalist/author of 'Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate'

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