The Journalist’s Toolbox has been part of the Society of Professional Journalists since 2008. It is edited and updated by University of Illinois-Chicago journalism lecturer Mike Reilley, who founded the site in 1996.
The site is typically updated twice a week, but has been updated several times a day since the start of the pandemic. The site contains thousands of free (and some fee-based) resources organized by beats on more than 150 searchable pages.
History: Reilley launched the Toolbox as a page on a course syllabus at Northwestern University in January 1996. The site expanded into a full dot-com by 1998 and was sold to the American Press Institute in 2003. API hosted the site for five years before selling it to SPJ in early 2008. The site’s 9/11 resources were added to the Library of Congress’s 9/11 Terrorism Research section in 2004.
Who we serve and what we do: As newsrooms and resources shrink, the Toolbox plays an important role in providing journalists, students, academics and others reliable resources for reporting, editing and verifying complex stories. The site was originally used by news librarians deep-researching in-depth stories. But as newsroom libraries closed, more reporters and editors began using the Toolbox.
Today, the Toolbox is a free resource for start-up newsrooms, legacy and local media, freelancers, entrepreneurs, educators and student media. Reporters new to a beat use the pages, organized much like a newsroom, to get up-to-speed on their coverage and sourcing. Toolbox content has a Creative Commons license, and educators are encouraged to share Toolbox resources, videos, newsletters, etc. in class and in course materials.
Over the years, the Toolbox has contributed to coverage of many important global stories, including:
- Iraq war and the war on terror
- Seven presidential elections and countless local elections
- Columbine, Sandy Hook and other school shootings
- Ferguson and George Floyd protests and violence
- Coronavirus outbreak
- Dozens of natural disasters, including hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, the California and Australia wildfires, Midwest floods and more
Background articles: Reilley wrote about some of his favorite tools over the years in this Quill magazine story about the Toolbox’s 25th anniversary [magazine version]. SPJ webmaster Billy O’Keefe authored a piece on the Toolbox redesign in June 2020. Reilley shared his philosophy behind the Toolbox in this 2012 Q&A with Harvard University and talked about the early days of working on the web during this podcast. Reilley also authors a monthly blog on how to use various tools for Quill Magazine online.
Posting policy: Like Twitter, the links shared on The Journalist’s Toolbox are not endorsements. We may recommend a web scraper or graphics tool helpful to a journalist to do a job, but we also share links to stories and content about very sensitive issues. Some of the content may be offensive to many, but are often necessary for journalists to cover a complex story.
The Toolbox does not accept money or trade for posts, nor does it feature paid ads for tools, though we did accept clearly marked banner and tile ads briefly in 2002-03 before API bought the site. Reilley retains the right to accept or reject links based solely on their value to journalists.
Flashback: The Journalist’s Toolbox Design Throughout the Years
||February 2003||August 2005|