The Poynter Institute is a non-profit teaching and research institution founded by Nelson Poynter, long time publisher of the St. Petersburg Times and the founder and chairman of Congressional Quarterly Almanac. Poynter's vision for the Institute was to advance the values of editorial independence and quality journalism by creating an organization offering the journalism profession educational programs unavailable elsewhere. The
Poynteronline Web site exists to support the mission of the Institute by giving the reader "everything you need to be a better journalist."
One of the outstanding features of the site is a subject specific search engine, NelsonSearch, that is "designed to tailor searches to those sites that are most likely to be useful to journalists." The engine crawls 221 newspaper and related sites, and searches can be customized to return results from specific beats, media types or geographic regions. Journalism and media organization pages are also searchable, as are journalism schools, international and national news sites or television news sites.
There are a number of other resources on the site that would be useful for both professional journalists and journalism students. "Columns" includes media industry news; issues and commentary; weblogs; question and answer columns; design techniques; writing tips; 'converged' journalism topics, and journalism ethics discussion. There is also a listing of eight major topic areas relevant to journalism that includes ethics, leadership, diversity, online news, television/radio, photojournalism, writing/editing, and design/graphics. One of the things the site accomplishes very effectively is making a connection between the various diverse resources available on a specific topic. For example, the diversity link includes a section of "Related Resources" that includes tip sheets, a diversity bibliography, seminar information, the Poynter Ethics Journal, and previous stories that have dealt with ethics issues.
One of the real jewels of the site is the "Resource Center" which includes extensive bibliographies on a number of journalism and media topics, a "Links to the News" column that compiles diverse resources on various subjects, and an extensive list of journalism Web links organized into a subject directory format. Unfortunately, the resource center link is not very visible on the homepage and could easily be overlooked. The site is well maintained and, due to the nature of the content, continuously updated. The columns, as well as much of the other information, are archived. A site map and site searching options are available. There are also opportunities for creating a personalized version of the page and for subscribing to e-mail newsletters.
The site, while generally fairly user friendly, tries to include too much information on the homepage, which results in a somewhat cluttered look. First time users of the site might have to spend some time getting oriented before being able to navigate effectively through the wealth of information available. Poynteronline is one of the more practical and useful sites on the Web for working journalists, student journalists, and journalism educators.
University of Florida