The Missouri School of Journalism’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute will host its first-ever Independent Journalist Bootcamp from May 19-20. The virtual bootcamp, which will feature sessions covering a wide range of skills and issues in independent journalism, is open to anyone — college students, independent journalists and newsroom staff alike are encouraged to attend.
Registration is open now until May 13.
“The School of Journalism is dedicated to supporting and educating journalists who serve their communities with impactful coverage, whether they are independent or part of a newsroom team,” said Randy Picht, executive director of RJI. “Journalism is at its best when students and journalists have access to the resources they need, and RJI is once again helping to create a new way to access those resources.”
Co-directed by Kara Edgerson, digital director of the School of Journalism’s One Newsroom, and Will Lager, the senior editor and project manager for RJI’s Innovation Team, the sessions will be led by a diverse team of industry professionals.
The bootcamp comes at a time of rapid change and innovation in journalism, from shifting funding models to new technological resources that offer additional opportunities to those who don’t work in a traditional newsroom.
“A lot of the skill sets we have as journalists are easily transferrable in that you can use them on your own, but a lot of people don’t know how,” Edgerson said. “They don’t know how to network or how to pitch an idea to a newsroom. They don’t know how to market themselves well. So we came together and said, ‘let’s do a bootcamp for independent journalists.’”
But working independently also necessitates an additional set of skills that aren’t typically developed in a newsroom setting. Lager emphasized that part of the bootcamp’s appeal lies in educating people about managing the responsibilities and challenges that come with working for one’s self.
“Essentially, freelance journalists have their own small business,” Lager said. “All those things that are set up for them in a traditional newsroom — they have to do it on their own. How do you work with an editor who isn’t your boss? How do you hire your own freelance photographer?”
In 10 sessions over two days, the bootcamp will provide answers to these and other questions that Edgerson and Lager have seen rise to the surface in the midst of industry shifts. At the same time, it will provide a valuable opportunity for journalists to build a supportive network of fellow independent journalists who can relate to both the challenges and opportunities encountered in their work.
“Not only is this about getting people into sessions to learn, but it’s about connecting with other participants as a cohort,” Lager added. “If someone runs into an issue, it’s helpful if they can call up a colleague. That network of mutual support is really important.”
The organizers are also taking the open and welcoming approach of the bootcamp seriously, offering scholarships both for students and for working independent journalists to attend. There is no age limit or experience limit, as the sessions are designed to offer practical insights to anyone of any background who is interested in pursuing independent journalism or sharpening their current skills. The focus on accessibility is further reflected in the virtual nature of the program, as well as in its timing: late May will allow most college students to attend at a crucial time when many are looking to make the transition from higher education to the workforce.
“Whether you are coming out of college or a very experienced journalist who is making a change in your career, we’re offering something that is beneficial to everyone,” Edgerson said.
Registration information and a complete schedule of events can be found here, along with brief bios of the speakers who will lead the sessions. Registration is on a sliding scale from $25-$75 depending on the attendee’s level of experience and status as a student or professional. For more information about available scholarships to attend, contact Will Lager at email@example.com.