Can you teach programmers to be journalists?

Summary:Megan Taylor over at PBS' MediaShift writes about the challenges of getting programmers and journalists to work together.MediaShift .

Megan Taylor over at PBS' MediaShift writes about the challenges of getting programmers and journalists to work together.

MediaShift . Can Programmers, Journalists Get Along in One Newsroom? | PBS

It's an interesting subject because newsrooms are increasingly digital and they need to add programming skills to help them publish. Also, there are all sorts of interesting media formats than newsrooms can experiment with, such as interactive maps, and data mining public databases to uncover interesting news angles. Ms Taylor quotes Rich Gordon, director of digital innovation at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, that programmers "just need an understanding of the mission and culture of journalism and journalists." Mr Gordon points out that the two professions share similar personalities:
"I think that people who wind up in programming are closer to introverted than extroverted, but this is true of many journos as well. Both groups, when hanging out with other people with whom they share interests, will lapse into jargon. It's worth pointing out that I've known some amazing journos who could bury their head in a major investigative project and do incredible research and reporting and be perceived as anti-social."
I don't think that it is going to be easy to teach journalism to programmers even if some share similar personalities. That's because programmers have already chosen their profession, if they wanted to be journalists they would be journalists. While they can pick up some journalistic skills, I don't believe that's enough. It would be better to teach software engineering skills to journalists and turn them into what I call "media engineers." Development tools are very sophisticated these days, it is far easier to create complex software applications than ever before. Understanding media and the demands of journalism combined with software engineering is a potent combination. If I were a journalism student today, I would be loading up on software engineering classes because I'd greatly increase my chances of being employed. Plus there would be employment opportunities beyond newsrooms because these days every company, to a greater or lesser degree, also needs to be a media company. Every company needs to have people that know how to use the publishing technologies of HTML, CSS, Javascript, RSS, etc. These are all "media" technologies and essential to every organization, imho.

Topics: Software Development, CXO, IT Employment, Software

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In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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