Top 3 places to learn journalism skills for free

Not all journalists go to J-school. Here are some of my personal favorite places on the Internet to learn journalism skills for free.

(This post contains both non-affiliate and affiliate links, meaning I may receive a fee for purchases made by clicking on certain links. View my disclosure policy here.)

Poynter’s News University

Poynter’s NewsU is my favorite place to find worthwhile journalism training. They offer paid classes and in-person training, but there are plenty of online, inexpensive and free options available, as well.

As I write this, NewsU is offering free training on covering drug addiction, creating trust, interviewing sources, how to better cover mass shootings, incorporating audio, and more.

I’ve purchased way too many, and am currently excited for the webinar, “How to cover the arts on any beat.”

Many of them are offered for free by Poynter. Several are free as a result from support from organizations such as The Knight Foundation, NewseumED and many others.

Poynter’s NewsU offers free and paid courses.


edX offers a handful of courses specific to journalism, but they have some good options. I’m interested in taking, “Global Muckraking: Investigative Journalism and Global Media.” It is currently archived, but was taught by an instructor with Columbia University.

There are also courses in writing that are also available and can help build a good foundation if you need to brush up on more basic skills.

There are also courses that, while unrelated to writing, are ones that could help journalists better learn their beat. You may like, “Terrorism and Counterterrorism,” “AP Spanish Language and Culture,” “Mao to Now: On Chinese Marxism” and many others.

If you currently write, or want to break into writing, about international news, terrorism, certain cultures, government or more, these can give you important information.


Coursera (referral link) offers a variety of courses ranging from language classes to computer science options. There are even opportunities to earn degrees and certificates for a cost. (With my referral link, you can get 50 percent off of a course or the first month of a specialization subscription.)

Coursera also offers specializations containing groups of related courses.

At the time this was written, a simple search for “journalism” yielded a list of 36 courses, six specializations and one certificate.

Some of the courses look more relevant than others, but it also depends on the skillset you already have and whether you are a beginner or veteran journalist.

Also consider that Coursera offers courses in many other areas that, while they aren’t specific to journalism, could still prove beneficial, such as Spanish courses.

Many options are free while others do require a fee. Even then, users can apply for financial assistance. You can also take some courses for free but pay for certification.

For example, I can take the International Humanitarian Law in Theory and Practice course for free, or pay $49 to earn a certificate, as well.

Coursera offers several courses specific to journalism as well as wide array of courses, specializations, certificates and degrees in other areas that journalists may find useful.

Final thoughts

There are some great places to learn journalism skills for free, but many of these places also have paid options that are worth considering if you have the budget for them. Sometimes you can pay for training through your state press association.

Be careful looking for journalism tips as some sites use the word ‘journalism’ but actually describe content marketing or blogging. These are different, and while there is a lot of crossover, some separate skills apply.

I did not include Mediabistro on this list since you’ll need an MB Unlimited membership for full access, so it isn’t free. But it is a paid option certainly worth considering. It has several courses specific to learning editorial and journalism skills. Depending on what you’re looking for, this could be valuable.

While classes are great, most of my skills were– and probably will be– learned on the job. Nothing replaces experience. It helps to know the best way to frame a story, remember top interviewing tips, know how to ask the right questions, etc. but time will help build your instinct for news.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in journalism? What areas do you want to grow in?