Jeff Sonderman

Developing the future of journalism through technology, training, research and experimentation.

Introduction

I've been a journalist my entire professional life -- though how I live out that calling has evolved over the years.

I started out in newspapers. As a young reporter I uncovered and investigated the abuse and neglect of mental health patients in a local hospital. As a business editor I directed insightful coverage of hard times in a local economy. As a metro editor I led a staff of about 30 reporters and editors uncovering deep-rooted political corruption. And as a web editor I led the print-to-web transformation of a community newspaper.

Later I took a leap to a digital-only news startup, leading efforts to engage readers and community bloggers to cover a major metro area in new ways.

In recent years I've focused on serving other journalists and advancing the entire news industry, as a trainer, teacher, researcher, writer, consultant and technologist.

Meeting thousands of journalists, executives, designers and developers across the country, and helping them embrace and excel in areas such as mobile, social media, cross-platform publishing, audience targeting and emerging business models, is truly rewarding work. It's also a mission with much left to accomplish and plenty of need for good people and ideas to join the fight -- so if you share these concerns I hope we'll work together however we can. More about how to do that below.

-- Jeff

Journalism

In early 2013, I became the deputy director of the American Press Institute, a nonprofit that we have recreated to do research, create tools, and convene thought leaders in support of more innovative and sustainable journalism. What sets API apart from many other organizations is our hands-on involvement in creating real, specific transformation in news organizations. We then share the lessons and insights from our work more broadly with the entire industry.

API is based in Arlington, Va., but you'll often find us working with news organizations in communities across the country, from New York to California, Seattle to Miami, and in-between. Read more about our activities here. We often share the practical, strategic insights from our work through in-depth strategy guides or white papers. Here are some of the major reports I have written recently and encourage you to check out:

In addition to my work at API, I teach digital journalism in the master's program at Georgetown University, and was previously the digital media fellow of The Poynter Institute (more on those in the teaching section below).

My earlier journalism background includes digital news — helping to launch TBD.com, a local digital news startup in Washington, D.C. — and newspapers, at various times as a reporter, business editor, metro editor and internet content director of The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa. I graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2004 with a concentration in news-editorial.

Teaching

I work with current and future journalists in many forms of teaching, consulting and other training.

At Georgetown University, I have taught a digital journalism course for several years and starting in fall 2014 I am developing a new lab-style course in which a small group of students research and develop a news product in cooperation with a real news organization. In 2013 I received the journalism program's Outstanding Faculty Award.

At the American Press Institute I conduct and organize a variety of hands-on learning experiences for journalists and news organizations, including conference sessions, day-long summits, workshops, and consulting.

For the Poynter Institute, a leader in transformational journalism training, I taught seminars, workshops and webinars about cutting-edge issues in digital news.

And I frequently do conference presentations and media interviews about trends and best practices in digital journalism. For a couple samples, see:

Technology

I believe technology has at least as much potential to improve journalism as it does to disrupt it. Journalists must be willing to learn how to create and use new tools. They must be excited by the chance to work in new ways, preserving the values of the past but improving the practices.

Most of what my technology skills are self-taught or learned on the job -- not in school. I learned HTML and CSS by hand-coding my own personal website over a decade ago. I learned Javascript through online courses and building web apps and hybrid mobile apps that solved problems in my life. I learned PHP and SQL by working with WordPress and building web apps that required them. I learned principles of user-experience design and product management by doing it and by talking to many of the best experts.

That's really not to brag, but to show that journalists can and should be fearless learners of technology. Not for its own sake -- but to solve important problems and understand how the digital world works.

My biggest current project is the Metrics For News software that I develop for API. It allows publishers to analyze the journalistic qualities of their content and measure how the audience reads and shares it, in ways never before possible with other analytics systems.

I'm committed to helping journalism use technology like this to support innovation in both the business and the editorial sides of news organizations.

Contact me

Let's talk about how we can work together.