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State of the Field

Beat reporting workshop panelists, from left, Bethany Bump, health reporter at the Times-Union in Albany; Chris Baker, local government reporter at Syracuse Media Group; and Robert Harding, politics reporter/online producer for The Citizen, talk about journalism in a discussion moderated by Tena Tyler, Times-Union reader engagement editor, standing at right, during the State of the Field conference Saturday at Syracuse University.

In last week's column, I wrote about the importance of seeking out traditional journalism to get informed about issues, rather than relying on pundits and social media commentary. Journalists' job is to gather all the facts through researching documents and conducting interviews, and then provide an impartial account of that information, included with relevant background and context.

This week, I'd like to share some behind-the-scenes perspective on how journalists get trained and continue their education to carry out this work.

The mission of journalism, to provide the public accurate and thoroughly reported information, has remained constant. But the tools used to do the work change with advances in technology. The ethical issues evolve. The logistical and financial challenges ebb and flow. Stress management and morale require regular attention.

All of these issues and more were discussion topics last Saturday at a conference of more than 100 journalists and journalism students at Syracuse University, and many of the staffers from The Citizen's newsroom were active participants in the program.

I've been fortunate to serve on the board of directors for the New York State Associated Press Association, an organization that promotes and supports journalism on behalf of the news organizations in the state that are part of the AP cooperative. In that role, I got an amazing front-row seat into the planning of the 2019 State of the Field conference at SU's Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Starting at 8:30 a.m. and continuing through 4:30 p.m., these students and professionals gathered to learn from an amazing group of practicing journalists who came to central New York from around the country. The guest speakers included Dan Shelley, Radio Television and Digital News Association, and Al Tompkins, senior faculty with the Poynter Institute, two organizations at the forefront of journalism advocacy and innovation. We also had sessions and panel discussions with award-winning journalists from Denver, Orlando, Washington and New York City. 

Two of The Citizen's award-winning journalists, photographer Kevin Rivoli and political reporter/online producer Robert Harding, were presenters in afternoon breakout sessions on photojournalism and beat reporting, respectively. Three of our news reporters — Megan Ehrhart, Ryan Franklin and Dan Orzechowski — spent the day learning as much as they could.

Of course, while this was all going on, other newsroom staffers were back in Cayuga County, reporting, writing, shooting photos and editing for our readers. Auburnpub.com was updated throughout the day Saturday and a robust Sunday print edition hit doorsteps and newsstands on Sunday.

Those of us who took part in State of the Field will be sharing our newly gained knowledge and insight with our colleagues, and we'll all have conversations about what we can do to get better at fulfilling our mission. And we will take part in similar training and exchanges again and again.

As someone who was there on Saturday, I came away incredibly proud to be a journalist, and to be practicing journalism with such a dedicated, talented and passionate group of colleagues here in Auburn.

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Executive editor Jeremy Boyer’s column appears Thursdays in The Citizen and he can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or jeremy.boyer@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer

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