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Category Archives: Conferences & workshops

Active shooter training prepares journalists

(The Kiplinger Program, along with the Ohio Association of Broadcasters, sponsored three active shooter training workshops in June. The programs were held in Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio and were presented by FBI profilers and SWAT team members. In three days more than 60 journalists from about 30 media outlets were trained in identifying, preventing and surviving an active shooter situation.) 


Sit through three hours of active shooter training and it’s very likely your perspective on safety and personal survival will change … for the worst. 

Watch videos of past active shooters as they explain their reasons for mass killings, pay attention to the signs that could have led the way to the prevention and hear the horrifying story of survivors.  

Do all that and you’ll almost certainly be convinced this could happen to you at your media office on any given day.  

 Congratulations, you get the message, because that’s exactly how the FBI views active shooting scenarios.  

 If you think this can’t happen to you and at your workplace, you’re lying to yourself. There is still this mindset that this won’t happen, that I won’t be a victim,, it happens other places to other people, but it won’t be me,” FBI SWAT team leader David Britton told the room of journalists in Cincinnati. “Do you think those people who found themselves in similar situations didn’t think the same thing? 

 If there is a singular takeaway from these three days of active shooter training, it’s this – it can happen to you. With an active shooter on a killing rampage in this country every 18 days, the odds are dramatically increasing. Pair this with the elevated hatred for the media-fueled by political rhetoric and it’s no surprise that violent incidents against journalists are on the rise. It stands to reason shootings will as well. 

 Fortunately, you can prevent it or survive it. If you take is seriously and prepare. 


Shootings by the Numbers 

 The FBI has compiled some interesting statistics over the last 20 years that can provide a modest roadmap to managing the crises. Ignoring the signs left in the open by a potential shooter is the common mistake made. 

 “In so many cases we talk to survivors and people who knew the shooter and we see where they left ‘bread crumbs’ that could have been traced and alerted people to their intentions. People either don’t pay attention, don’t want to get involved or pass it off and it’s simply the best way of prevention,” FBI profiler Kristin Cadieux said. 

 Know this: 

  • 87 percent of mass killers have no prior police records. There is no indication that someone who’s had brushes with the law is more likely to kill in mass.  
  • 67 percent of killers were known to their victims (or some of them). Workplace shootings are the most common by someone who’s worked there or has relationships with people who do. 
  • 28 percent act within 24 hours of their decision to kill, 26 percent wait a week, 22 percent wait 8-30 days. Active shooters don’t snap. They go through a very elaborate process to reach this point, not the least of which is planning and preparation for the day.  
  • Between 2000-09 there were 8.6 active shootings per year; 2010-17 it’s 20.6.  
  • There is an active shooter incident in the U.S. every 18 days. 
  • 46 percent of shootings take place in commercial buildings, 24 percent in schools and 10 in government buildings.  
  • Just under 1,700 people have lost their lives in U.S. mass shootings, the majority of them coming in the last 10 years.  
  • Most mass shooters obtain their guns legally, 175 legally compared to 59 illegally. However, an additional 79 are uncertain to law enforcement.  
  • Four key contributors to mass killings in recent years, according to the FBI, has been: financial stress, social media, access to firearms and mental health issues. 
  • But, only 25 percent have been diagnosed with a previous mental illness. 

 Profiling a potential shooter is easier than predicting when and where they will strike, Cadieux said. 

 Most mass killers have specific motives or carrying out their reign of terror. The root of many is a real or perceived injustice or a slight that has happened to them by a friend, employer and they can’t let it go. They dwell on the slight and many of their failures personally or professionally are the fault of others who have slighted them. Sometimes these “slights” are years old.  


Common motives include: 

 The need to be omnipotent, all-powerful and in control 

The need for infamy or notoriety. Many active shooters idolize previous shooters. 

The need to resolve an ego issue 

Revenge or punishment, often for the slight. 

The desire to promote an ideology such as race or cultural supremacy, religious beliefs. 

The need to kill someone and then commit suicide, usually involving a love interest. 

The perverse desire to experience the thrill of killing people. 


 Be Aware and Be Ready 

 As good as law enforcement can be at preventing many incidents (and they stop hundreda year we don’t know about) they can’t accurately predict when someone will strike or what may be the trigger point that sent a person on a rampage. 

 The best professional advice is to be prepared by planning and practice. 

 “Every business needs to have a plan when someone breaches and starts shooting. Training and practice are what keeps you alive. It’s the difference in surviving or panicking,” Britton said.  

 The most common practice is known as the Run, Hide, Fight Method. Known my different names, it encourages people trapped in a building or in open space with an active shooter to flee first, hide second, and if need me, fight as if your life depended on it. 

 In the Run scenario, it means knowing the exits in all situations – movie theaters, restaurants, churches, malls, office buildings. Know where they are and how to get to them quickly. Encourage others to run with you, but don’t wait for them. Leave personal items behind. Don’t ever go back for anything. Seconds count. Gather at a safe spot, preferably one that has been predetermined in the case of work. 

 According to Gadieux, in many cases, when the shooting starts people just drop to the floor and stay low in hopes of avoiding becoming a target. Sadly, those who lay flat and try to hide in open sight are the ones who are most likely to be killed. Escaping is always the best advice. 

 If you have to hide, keeping out of sight is key. “Each case is different, but most of our research tells us that shooters don’t shoot at what they don’t see,” FBI SWAT team veteran John Wagner said.  

 Turn out lights, barricade doors, disappear under desks if necessary. Stay calm and quiet. Turn off cell phones. 

 Lastly, understand that if you make the personal decision to stand and fight, you should plan to attack with a vengeance and plan to kill. Your life depends on it. “You can’t go about this passively,” Britton said.  

 Use anything and everything as a weapon. People can be injured or killed with a pen, Britton said.  

 For more steps and more in-depth analysis of active shooters consider this link from the three days of workshops. 

 “In the end, prevention is the key. The old adage ‘if you see something, say something’ applies here,” Cadieux said. “Most shooters reveal their intentions either through social media, in conversations to friends, family, colleagues. In a lot of cases, once they decide to kill, they can’t keep it to themselves, they want to brag and look for the attention.” 


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Data journalism unearths stories in Zambia

As part of Kiplinger’s ongoing mission to train professional journalists worldwide, I spent the first week of May in Zambia, where, at the request of the U.S. Department of State and the embassy in Lusaka, I taught 22 journalists the fundamentals of data journalism.

It was a challenge given their understanding of data use in reporting and their abilities to get information from the government. In the end, we overcame both and the hopeful results will be more informative, fact-based journalism to the public.

Challenge one will be getting information from a government that controls a large share of the publications, TV and radio stations. Those employees, underpaid and overworked, aren’t likely to flex their press muscles to demand access to data. Those who work for private media outlets and are often seen as government oppositions, are spoon-fed selected information and denied access to raw data. But, they are thirsty and driven. And, tired of being denied.

Zambian journalists spent four days at the U.S. Embassy learning data journalism.

The second challenge is technological. In a nation where internet services are spotty and WiFi is a hit-and-miss proposition, spending a lot of time sifting through data or even searching for it can be difficult. They can almost forget, at this point, building their own data sets. They’re not there yet.

So, the week focused on the ins and outs of starting data projects, no matter the size, the search for data and how to manage it. We covered finding, uploading, sorting and interpreting data. I used Xcel and Google Sheets, walking them through the simplest ways to control data. We even delved into data-visualization-made-easy apps.

Thank goodness for the data site that is the World Bank.

As we methodically data mined  World Bank collections we unearthed an amazing amount of information they’d never seen. In some cases, the data refuted the government party line on poverty, health care, environmental protection and literacy. Shock.

Kabwe, a town about 90 minutes by car from the capital, is renowned for being one of the most polluted spots in the world. For years, a lead mine provided the mineral for the world at the health and environmental expense of the people and their land. Today, scavengers still mine the remnants by hand. Health issues are aplenty. The environment has been laid to waste. Data from the government is almost impossible to get. The World Bank, which has poured millions (one single donation topped at $60 million USD) into remediation of the town, has a treasure trove of data and reports online.

As we peeled back the layers it was heartening to see that most of the journalists had never seen that organization’s data and reports. They rapidly took notes and openly expressed their frustrations about not knowing this important data sitting in cyberspace for years. This was a win for journalism.

You could see the lights coming on as each day we discovered more data and they learned more skills. Story ideas popped into their heads. The desire to refresh old stories was embraced. Kawbe is still a very active story 12 years after the mine closed. I think it will get renewed attention in the coming months. The same became true when we reviewed fertility, poverty, environmental, agricultural and literacy data sets. They have plenty of stories to take to the people.

And, that was really the mission – first to convince them they were leaving a lot of stories behind by not invoking data, and second, give them the abilities to go after the data and manage it for the betterment of their reporting.

The end game is to empower the press to work more diligently and productively to become a true Fourth Estate pillar that shores up democracy in that nation. Hats off to the Zambian journalists who will take on that responsibility.







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Kiplinger announces 2017 Fellows

Twenty-one veteran journalists from newsrooms around the globe will make up the 2017 class of Kiplinger Fellows at Ohio State University.

The 2017 class includes national, large-market television and radio anchors and producers, leadership at three wire services, reporters from major daily newspapers as well as general assignment reporters from thriving community publications.

Six fellows will visit from outside the United States, hailing from Canada, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Australia and Afghanistan.

Nearly 500 journalists applied for the fellowship program, which will take place April 23 – 28 at the Ohio State campus in Columbus and the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in Athens.

“This year’s pool of applicants continues to signal to the Kiplinger Program that we are a much sought-after fellowship,” deputy director Kevin Z. Smith said. “We continue to be amazed at the caliber of journalists, domestic and foreign, who apply. It’s always a difficult and lengthy process to select the few who come. Each year’s class is unique and well representative of today’s journalism profession.”

Smith said the goal is to return the Kiplinger Fellows to their newsrooms armed with a new set of digital skills and the motivation to train others and improve the level of journalism.

The international 2017 Kiplinger Fellows are:

  • Anuj Chopra, Agence France-Presse, Kabul, Afghanistan
  • Eduardo Fernandez Diaz, El Mundo TV, Madrid, Spain
  • Stephanie Gomez, El Vocero, Puerto Rico
  • Nelissa Hernandez, Publicitas Content, Singapore
  • Declan Hill, The Star, Toronto, Canada
  • Lauren Novak, News Corp, Adelaide, Australia


The U.S. 2017 Kiplinger Fellows are:

  • Michelle Theriault Boots, Alaska Dispatch News, Anchorage
  • Deblina Chakraborty, Scripps-KMGH, Denver
  • Joe Danborn, The Associated Press, Denver
  • Monica Davey, The New York Times, Chicago
  • Kate Giammarise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Dalia Hatuqa, freelancer, Chevy Chase, Maryland
  • Andy Hurst, KUOW Public Radio, Seattle
  • Kyle Iboshi, KGW, Portland, Oregon
  • Jess Mador, NPR-WYSO, Yellow Springs, Ohio
  • Samantha Melamed, Philadelphia Inquirer
  • JP Olsen, HBO, New York City
  • Lee Powell, Washington Post, DC
  • Claudio Remeseira, Dow Jones, New York City
  • Fernanda Santos, The New York Times, Phoenix
  • Larry Seward, KHOU, Houston


The Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism is in its 44th year at Ohio State. It has evolved since its founding, transitioning from a nine-month master’s program to a digital media fellowships in 2011. In addition to the weeklong fellowship, the program offers workshops and training across the globe. In 2016, the Kiplinger Program training reached nearly 1,800 journalists. Full information about the Kiplinger Program is available at

The Kiplinger Program was endowed at Ohio State in 1973 by Austin Kiplinger in honor of his father, W.M. Kiplinger, one of the university’s first journalism graduates in 1912. W.M. Kiplinger pioneered a new kind of journalism when he became publisher of The Kiplinger Letter and later Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. He has been described by his son as “a dedicated journalist, a muckraker and an inspiration to young journalists… a very original thinker.”








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Grief porn overwhelming Jamaican public

The photo on the front of the Jamaican Gleaner was a shocking precursor to the inside, double-page spread.  A mother, gripped in agony at her son’s funeral, greeted the reading public that morning.

The memorial service played out inside the daily tabloid with full-color, up-close-and-personal photos that included the minister, the casket procession and more tear-streaked faces of family and friends. It was not what someone of an American readership would expect.

This funeral seemed to be a galvanizing moment for a nation that sports the fifth highest homicide rate in the world. Fourteen-year-old Nicholas Francis was stabbed to death in Mid-October over his cell phone in a very public display of a senseless murder. The media made its presence felt at every chance, both in print and on the airwaves, culminating now with his funeral.

As much as the people of Jamaica have grown weary of the violence, they have also shown an evaporating tolerance for the media’s portrayal of the violence and its aftermath, like this funeral. They’ve dubbed this gawking “grief porn.”

Why must the victims and the family be showcased on the pages of the paper? Why must every death be complete with blood pools and explicit details of the deaths? Why does the public need to be guaranteed that body bags and wailing family members are important parts of most story?

smith talk

Kiplinger Deputy Director Kevin Z. Smith speaks to an audience in Jamaica about the ethics of covering tragedy.

I spent four days in Jamaica at the request of the U.S. Department of State and the Jamaican Embassy to talk about the ethics of reporting on grief and tragedy. Admittedly, I’d never heard the term grief porn, but I understood immediately what it meant.

What I didn’t understand was why it was so prevalent in the Jamaican press. In America, we’ve come (for the most part) to understand that graphic images and salacious details of murder and mayhem serve little public good. It’s usually viewed as sensationalism.

The attitudes on this island are divided.

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Turbocharge your social media skills with Kiplinger at Excellence in Journalism 2016


Journalists will learn how to reboot and expand their social media skills during a special Kiplinger Program hands-on workshop Sept. 17 in New Orleans.

The half-day session is one of several deep-dive workshops offered at the national Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans. Register online for the convention, which runs Sept. 17-20. The conference is a joint program of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA).

The Kiplinger workshop will feature hands-on training on three tools: If This Then That (IFTTT), Google Forms and Twitter analytics.

With IFTTT, you can track hashtags or key phrases on social channels and download results automatically, with no programming skills required. IFTTT also can help you monitor tweets from a specific place (e.g. the statehouse) and download them automatically to a spreadsheet.

Google Forms puts the power of crowdsourcing to work for free. No more copying and pasting from dozens or hundreds of emailed responses from readers and viewers. Design and build an easy form to gather information. Embed the form on your website or blog. All results feed into an underlying spreadsheet for easy use.

The third tool, Twitter analytics, lets you track the effectiveness of your tweets with real-time metrics. Learn how to activate analytics on your own Twitter account and make sense of the results. You also will explore several free third-party apps to assess your own Twitter account, look for experts and trends, and analyze anyone’s public Twitter feed.


Trainers for the workshop are Kiplinger Director Doug Haddix and deputy director Kevin Z. Smith.


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