Skip to main content

Citizen Reporting Certificate

Citizen Reporting Academy

School of Continuing and Professional Studies

Reporting Academy Engages Citizens in Local Journalism

Do you care about your community and want to know what’s going on? Do you worry that the people around you don’t understand the decisions your township and school board make? Do you feel like journalists don’t know your community?

Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation introduces its Citizen Reporting Academy, a fully online certificate program to help individuals become citizen reporters and take control of their community’s local story. 

Courses last two weeks each and the program can be completed in six months. Industry-leading professionals will teach classes on how to conduct interviews, create stories and photographs, market your work – and make money!

Citizen Reporting Academy News


"The Citizen Reporting Academy was a great experience! I learned a lot about the type of journalist I want to be for my community. The classes were all very hands-on and the professors were all so knowledgeable and ready to help. The opportunity to meet and collaborate with other 'future journalists' during this process was truly invaluable. The Citizen Reporting Academy helped me build the knowledge, skills and confidence to pursue writing for my local newspaper." – Leanne Gilmore

"One of the biggest reasons I attended Citizen Reporting Academy is because I live in a news desert. The Daily News (McKeesport, PA) closed in 2015. Since earning my certificate, I’m occasionally contacted to cover events in McKeesport and surrounding towns, and to write articles for Tube City Almanac. I’m continuing to work on my skills and feel I am helping my neighbors have a voice to share what is important to them." – Vickie Babyak, winner of a Golden Quill from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania

This nine-course certificate program introduces amateur citizens to the basic tenets of journalism to better prepare them for identifying local news, creating content, and sharing it with the people around them, in a financially rewarding way. 

Each course runs asynchronously over a two-week period and requires a time investment of three-to-seven hours per week. During each course, a live instructor will assess the student’s progress and provide feedback on publishable content. Students who complete the program will receive a virtual badge and certificate of completion from our School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Successful graduates of this program will enhance, but not replace, local reporting in communities by expanding the reach of existing local newsrooms and filling gaps in places known as news deserts.

The Center for Media Innovation owns and delivers the program, which has been developed in partnership with Neighborhood News Network and Trib Total Media.

Start date: October 7, 2024

Fall 2024 Course Schedule
Introduction to Citizen Reporting (required) – Andy Conte Oct. 7-20
A1 Community Reporting – Katie Green Oct. 21-Nov. 3
A2 Media Literacy – Stacey Federoff Nov. 4-17
A3 Media Ethics & the Law – Joe Lawrence Nov. 18-Dec. 8
B1 Social Media – Heather Starr Fiedler Dec. 9-22
B2 Monetizing & Marketing – Lindsay Bock & Jessica Jones Jan. 6-19
C2 Freedom of Information – Gunita Singh Jan. 20-Feb.2
C1 Interviewing – Luis Fabregas & Ben Schmitt Feb. 3-16
D1 Multimedia Storytelling –Nate Smallwood Feb. 17-March 2


Every student is required to take the Introduction to Citizen Reporting course. Students will then create a pathway based on their interest. Students can take a single course in each category or they may complete all the courses in any given category.

Introduction to Citizen Reporting (required)

Students will learn the basics of local news publishing: what it is and why it matters. They will learn how to overcome their fear of journalism in order to become citizen reporters. Topics include:

  • Introduction to media literacy
  • The role of the media in American Democracy
  • Community engagement – getting to know your neighbors
  • What types of stories can you report on?
  • How does the lens of journalism allow you to see your community in a new way?
  • Incorporating visuals using smartphone technology

Category A: Fundamentals of Journalism

A1 Community Reporting

Students will learn how to cover a local meeting, discern the key takeaways and share that information with the public. Topics include:

  • Identify newsworthy points in a meeting agenda
  • Understand the basics of what you can share
  • Prioritize information to be shared
  • Interpret budgets

A2 Media Literacy

Students will learn to assess the veracity of speakers and how to evaluate written sources for accuracy. Topics include:

  • Explain who “the media” is
  • Demonstrate the difference between objectivity and subjectivity
  • Learn to verify information
  • Identify false information
  • Distinguish between mis- and dis-information

A3 Media Ethics & the Law

Students will learn how to use their skills to help others while ensuring they are not harming others with their reporting. Topics include:

  • Learn the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics
  • Recognize how to report truthfully while minimizing harm
  • Implement accountability and transparency when reporting
  • Understand the basics of libel laws

Category B: Money-Making & Marketing

B1 Social Media

Students will learn about the importance of engaging with various social media platforms to build an audience. Topics include:

  • Classify the pros and cons of social media, identifying recent inclusions
  • Understand the differences between various platforms
  • Clarify how the rules for social media differ from ‘traditional’ journalism
  • Determine which platforms are most useful for the projects you want and what it means to go (locally) viral

B2 Monetizing & Marketing

Students will learn about how to monetize their work and understand the role of revenue sources. Topics include:

  • Overview of different ways to monetize a news website (e.g., advertising, subscriptions, donations)
  • Pros and cons of each strategy
  • Direct vs. programmatic
  • Understanding how ad networks work
  • Different subscription models (e.g., free, paywall, freemium, membership)
  • Understanding the legal requirements for monetizing a news website (e.g., privacy policies, advertising disclosures, political policies)
  • Learn how to create a revenue share model/sell an ad on Neighborhood News Network platform

Category C: Information Gathering

C1 Interviewing

Students will learn how to interact with strangers in order to gain the necessary information to tell a story. Topics include:

  • Understand how to talk to strangers and ask open-ended questions
  • Uncover the motivation of interviewees and what they are willing to share
  • Discuss the importance of hostile interviews and uncovering hidden information

C2 Freedom of Information

Students will learn about the rules around access to information and how to efficiently and effectively obtain data. Topics include:

  • Learn what constitutes public information
  • Determine what types of information can be requested
  • Distinguish between federal and state information, including the specificities of your state
  • Process to file a FOIA request
  • Understand privacy and redaction rules and what recourse might exist

Category D: Storytelling

D1 Multimedia Storytelling

Students will learn about the importance of incorporating visuals and art using simple tools like a smartphone. It will cover the basics of photography, video, and podcasting. Topics include:

  • Create photographs that incorporate a focus on framing, lighting, and representation of people
  • Write strong captions
  • Understand the basics of editing photos, videos and audio clips including the tools for building a studio
  • Review available software
  • Apply storyboard techniques for various types of stories


$2,500 for the nine-course certificate.

Register Online

Register online at

For more information, contact