Tompkins News

Al and Sidney Tompkins will offer 2 sessions from 8:00am -12:00pm on July 27, 2021:
Session 1:  Power Writing  (8:00am – 10:00am)
This two-hour session will amp up your writing and storytelling skills with practical tools that you will use on your next shift. The session is loaded with practical examples and the time will fly by.  We invite reporters, photojournalists, producers, newsroom leaders, MMJs and anybody who wants to immediately write stronger and more memorable stories regardless of media.   You will learn how to:
Find focus– to be effective, we have to understand what the story is about EXACTLY.   I will give you a simple three-word tool to help find focus, but no story will deliver the impact we desire without a sharp focus.
Establish conflict/friction quickly-every story has a central conflict. Identify it and set it in motion right off the bat. If you do not know the conflict, you are not ready to tell the story. Stories without a central friction are not stories at all, they are articles, just a bunch of facts strung together and as such will be totally forgettable. 
Establish the main character quickly-every story needs a face. Stories are ultimately about people confronting challenges.
Use the ladder- I teach a concept using The Ladder of Abstraction which is a tool to measure whether a journalist has found a compelling character and the context that makes the character important to the viewer. A story that is purely feelings but no substance is not fulfilling.  A story that is all substance and no feeling is forgettable and unrelatable.
The EIGHT motivators that make any story more interesting- From a city council meeting to a court hearing to a political speech these motivators help make dull events interesting.
We will also cover:
  • How to write to video while not telling me what I see. Words and pictures should not match. Words should explain what I don’t know about the pictures. There is a correlation for radio reporters as well!
  • How to use sound and silence, not as decoration but as essential parts of our storytelling for radio and tv.
  • Consider the importance of “setting.” Where you interview a person can make a critical difference in what they say.
  • How to get great soundbites that viewers remember. The key is to (almost) always use “subjective” sound while writing objective copy.
  • Think through what goes where in a story. Every story has a shape. But we have to use the right shape for the story. I will show you how breaking news’ shape is very different from a narrative story such as a feature or an investigation.

Session 2:  Managing Newsroom Stress and Trauma (10:30am – 12:00pm)

Every journalist in every newsroom has lived through an exceptionally stressful year.  You managed to do your job during a pandemic that hit South Dakota hard. You worked from home, many of you juggled school schedules for your children, others managed the stress of loving loved ones, caring for sick family members, you covered a contentious election cycle, a national reckoning around race and you worried about the effects of a huge economic interruption.

Now it is time for a reset.

This session will help you to recognize the stressors in your life and give you common sense and practical ways to manage them.

The session is led by Al Tompkins, a journalist with more than 40 years of experience and his wife, Sidney Tompkins who is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with more than four decades of clinical experience including working with Fortune 500 companies, federal law enforcement agencies, families and couples and with journalists from around the world.

All of their teaching is backed up by documented cited research.


Al and Sidney Tompkins have lead stress and trauma workshops for newsrooms big and tiny. They have appeared at major national and international journalism conferences including the Investigative Reporters and Editors, The Society of Professional Journalists, The Radio and Television Digital News Association, The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, The National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Asian American Journalists. Al and Sidney regularly work with journalists in conflict zones around the world.