Explain this! How explanatory journalism informs and engages audiences - Journalism Courses by Knight Center

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Explain this! How explanatory journalism informs and engages audiences

This self-directed course features content from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas‘ massive open online course (MOOC) titled “Explain this! How explanatory journalism informs and engages audiences.” This four-week course was taught by John O’Neil and took place from January 16 – February 12, 2023.

The course materials are broken into four modules, along with an introductory module:

We encourage you to watch the videos and review the readings. The course materials build off each other, but the videos and readings also act as standalone resources that you can return to over time.

We hope you enjoy the materials. If you have any questions, please contact us at journalismcourses@austin.utexas.edu.


John O’Neil is an editor with Bloomberg News in New York City. He joined Bloomberg in 2013 to help develop new formats for explanatory news there and has been a member of the QuickTake team ever since. QuickTakes draws on the expertise of Bloomberg’s 2,700 member newsroom to produce readable, authoritative pages offering background and context on topics ranging from volatility in global bond markets to Xi Jinping’s rise to power and debates over the regulation of cryptocurrencies. In addition to appearing on the Bloomberg Terminal and Bloomberg.com, QuickTakes are syndicated worldwide, are collected into print editions twice a year and are the basis for many Bloomberg News videos.

Before joining Bloomberg, John spent 24 years at The New York Times, where he was an editor on the metro, Washington, special sections and news desks before leading the development of Times Topics pages into an online current events encyclopedia. In addition to editing, he wrote over 800 bylined articles for the Times, primarily on health, science and education.

In 2004, his first-person essay about his son’s autism was the capstone of a series the paper nominated for a Pulitzer prize in explanatory journalism. In 2009, an album of original songs about autism for which he wrote the lyrics was released featuring performances by Jackson Browne, Dar Williams and Teddy Geiger, among others.

John graduated from Yale University with a degree in history in 1979; his first reporting was done for the Associated Press in Nigeria and Ghana. He lives in Brooklyn with his dog, Pablo, and has three sons, who live in Jersey City, Western Massachusetts and Washington, DC. He is currently working on a graphic novel about Niccolo Machiavelli.