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Washington Post partners with US university to offer journalism scholarship to programmers

February 1st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Training
Image by espensorvik on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Image by espensorvik on Flickr. Some rights reserved

The Washington Post and Northwestern University have teamed up to offer a scholarship opportunity to programmers at the university’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications.

The programme will allow programmers to earn a master’s degree in journalism before a paid internship at the newspaper.

Although the Knight Foundation has been supporting the programme since 2008, helping nine people to earn the degree and apply their knowledge in relevant jobs, the Washington Post is the first news industry partner to join the programme.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor for strategic projects at the Washington Post said in a release that programmers have the type of skill set and knowledge that can help to build “new tools and features that can benefit both readers and reporters”.

There is more information on the release.

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Hacks and Hackers look at health, education and leisure

July 27th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Events, Online Journalism

Online journalism expert Paul Bradshaw gives a detailed post on his experiences of a recent Hacks and Hackers day in Birmingham organised by Scraperwiki, experiences which he claims will “challenge the way you approach information as a journalist”.

Talking through the days events, Bradshaw observes how journalists had to adapt their traditional skills for finding stories.

Developers and journalists are continually asking each other for direction as the project develops: while the developers are shaping data into a format suitable for interpretation, the journalist might be gathering related data to layer on top of it or information that would illuminate or contextualise it.

This made for a lot of hard journalistic work – finding datasets, understanding them, and thinking of the stories within them, particularly with regard to how they connected with other sets of data and how they might be useful for users to interrogate themselves.

It struck me as a different skill to that normally practised by journalists – we were looking not for stories but for ‘nodes': links between information such as local authority or area codes, school identifiers, and so on. Finding a story in data is relatively easy when compared to a project like this, and it did remind me more of the investigative process than the way a traditional newsroom works.

His team’s work led to the creation of a map pinpointing all 8,000 GP surgeries around the UK, which they then layered with additional data enabling them to view issues on a geographical measure.

See his full post here…

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I’m a journalist – should I learn programming?

Many reporters are starting to move on from the world of HTML or CSS coding and getting to grips with more technical programming knowledge.

But web development isn’t for everyone, so how do you know if it will be right for you? Using some trusty know-how and specially selected questions, digital journalist Mark Luckie has tried to help reporters answer that very question.

His flowchart, shown below, is hosted on his 10,000 words blog.

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Cindy’s Take on Tech: ‘The Journalist as Programmer’

May 21st, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

Cindy Royal, an assistant professor at Texas State University in San Marcos teaching web design and multimedia journalism, has shared details of her paper ‘The Journalist as Programmer: A Case Study of The New York Times Interactive News Technology Department’ in this blog post – her slideshow below, courtesy of slideshare, is well worth a look for anyone interested in how programming, news applications and data can fit into a newsroom set-up:

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Developers and journalists forging common ground

Back in April 2009 I listened as a group of bloggers at the G20 protests in London sent in reports using the new Audioboo iPhone application. The rules of the game are clearly changing fast, I thought.

The application allows users to record and upload high-quality sound files in an instant. In the same way that a photo of a plane floating in the Hudson river circumvented traditional channels and made its way around the world online, journalists (including Guardian staff) and bloggers on the ground were able to instantly upload reports on the unfolding activity with the immediacy and colour of front-line reports. I happened to be home ill that day and listened to the action with fascination. Then a contact from ABC News in the States contacted me via Twitter asking me if I knew any of the reporting bloggers and to pass on the direct number of the ABC newsroom. It was quick, energised and direct, and I was immediately hooked.

On the surface, the domain of the journalist and the developer seem poles apart. Journalists trace and shape stories, uncover information, and on a good day bring hidden truths to light. Developers build tools, marshal data and on a good day make the impossible possible. But a convergence is taking place that will ultimately rewrite the rulebook for both camps. Journalists have long been sifting and filtering forbidding mountains of data, looking for a story in the noise. Now they are going further, familiarising themselves with the tools to cohere and present this data, adapting to remain relevant in the new digital space. Developers in turn are doing far more than pushing data around. With rich social media tools and networks available to all, they are starting to report, telling stories with code and changing the way people in the online world relate, work and communicate. It’s a vast social experiment taking place in the production environment of the real world.

Back in March of this year, a small group of developers and journalists met in a pub in Islington to explore this overlap between coding and journalism in an intensely pragmatic fashion – the former teaching the latter the rudiments of web programming over a few beers. Ruby In The Pub was born.

A few days before, I overheard an online conversation between Joanna Geary of the Times and self-proclaimed ‘relapsed blogger’ James Ball. They were discussing the possibility of starting a regular event to get developers and journalists together. They touted Ruby as a possible language and with a speed typical of events incubated in social media circles the venue was sourced and the date decided.

As a Ruby developer (with the penchant for the odd beer) I immediately decided to attend and offer whatever support I could. The first event was warm and freestyle in nature, and the second drew a significantly larger group to the Shooting Star in Spitalfields, including the lead developer of the New York Times. One whole side of the pub was taken over by laptops and energised conversation. Due to the spotty wifi, I hardly managed any teaching at all, but became engaged in a wider discussion around journalism, the digital arena, and the changing media landscape.

Like that difficult third album, the next meet-up will probably define the future of this freestyle session. Ideas will gain traction, people will gravitate to familiar faces or pick up on projects that have been discussed. Karen Barber of Audioboo will be in attendance and has already taken up my offer of help on a project she has been kicking around for a while. We’ll get a drink, sit down, and start building it, responding to feedback from newbies and experienced hackers as we do so. Along the way, the communication channels between both sides will be strengthened and clarified and, what with all the activity on Twitter around the event, feelers of energy will spread out and spark up satellite meetings.

In fact, this has already happened. Paul Bradshaw, a journalist who teaches the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham University, has already activated the wonderfully-named Ruby Tuesday up North and hopefully we’ll see a lot more. In a series of regular posts I will attempt to cover the process as it unfolds, as well as looking at the wider interface between word and code.

There’s no end to this journey, it’s a vibrant buzz of collaboration and exploration. Why not join us?

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Working with coders to maximise readership

Bringing coders and journalists together is one of the big issues in newsrooms today, causing many journalists to think about how much coding knowledge they should invest in.

The problem is that coding is an enormous subject that many of us simply don’t have time for. It requires thousands of hours of hard work and dedication. For this reason having coders work alongside journalists in the newsroom will always be the best solution: having experts next you in the office is the most effective way of learning on the go.

Last January I attended Journalism.co.uk’s news:rewired event where one discussion generated particular interest amongst attendees. Cynthia O’Murchu from the FT described how they used developers to create infographics on a piece entitled ‘Oil and Gas Executives: Are they worth it?’.

Taking complex data like this and turning it into easily understood visual information, otherwise known as data mashing, is the practice for which today’s journalist will most likely be required to delve into design and coding. So as well as the ability to write and communicate, journalists are going to have to acquire a certain flair for design and some practical technical understanding, even if we don’t turn into full blown coders ourselves. So where is a good place to start?

3i = Immersive, Interactive, Intuitive

These are three words we hear a lot working in technology journalism: immersive, interactive and intuitive. They represent areas in which journalists will do well to excel, especially given the imminent arrival of the iPad and other tablet computers. Touchscreen computing creates a childlike desire to delve into a webpage and explore information like never before, and it will be the publishers producing the right kind of content that will have the heavy traffic.

The general election has been great for this kind of rich content. For the first time we’ve all been able to interact with that famous swingometer on the BBC’s website, while live blogging appeared to be firing on all cylinders during the hung parliament negotiations.

Working with designers and coders to create these apps is great if you have the budget, but obviously we don’t all work for the Guardian or the BBC. So getting some basic understanding of how to go about doing these things is going to be a good career move for many journalists.

From a design perspective, Adobe Fireworks is a great image and graphics software programme. It is perfect for beginners looking to start creating their own basic infographics. Similar to Photoshop, but smaller and more instinctive, it is useful for creating web optimised visual data in both vector and bitmap formats.

Have a look at this infographic from the Guardian on MPs expenses for an idea of what you can aspire to.

Code breaking

Stepping up to the next level and actually developing your own web applications gives you a problem experienced by every newbie developer starting out today: which languages do you learn first?

The good news in that most web development languages today share similarities, so tackle one and you’re going to find the next one much easier. It’s a bit like learning European languages; the more you understand the easier it becomes to make relevant connections.

HTML and CSS are your basic starting points, giving you colours and structure. If you want things to start sliding across the screen and getting interactive then J-Query and PHP (the web’s top scripting language) are the next ones to move onto.

As for getting your content on mobile phones, that is a whole other ball game.

John Hillman is the editor of PC Site which reviews and compares laptops and software. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnjHillman. Read his first post for the Journalism.co.uk editors’ blog at this link.

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Poynter Online: How to get data from websites ‘without programming skills’

It’s not enough to copy those numbers into a story; what differentiates reporters from consumers is our ability to analyse data and spot trends. To make data easier to access, reorganise and sort, those figures must be pulled into a spreadsheet or database. The mechanism to do this is called web scraping, and it’s been a part of computer science and information systems work for years.

It often takes a lot of time and effort to produce programs that extract the information, so this is a specialty. But what if there was a tool that didn’t require programming?

Michelle Minkoff offers a simple guide for journalists who want to learn how to scrape data from websites, but don’t know how to start, using OutWit Hub – an extension for the Firefox browser.

Full post at this link…

Yesterday Journalism.co.uk attended a Digital Editors Network meeting to discuss data for journalism and journalists – more to follow on Journalism.co.uk

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Currybet.net: Journalists need to think like programmers

Following on from the recent ‘do journalists need to code’ debate on this blog and elsewhere, Martin Belam argues the answer is both yes and no.

[J]ournalists don’t all need to be able to write program, but the ability to think like a programmer is an invaluable skill.

For example, being able to spot the difference between a small technical change that has a big impact on story-telling, and what appears to be a small change but which has a hugely expensive technical impact, is an essential skill for someone setting the requirements for changes to a website or a CMS.

Full post at this link…

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Charles Arthur: New to journalism? Learn to code

January 19th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism, Training

“All sorts of fields of journalism – basically, any where you’re going to have to keep on top of a lot of data that will be updated, regularly or not – will benefit from being able to analyse and dig into that data, and present it in interesting ways,” says the Guardian’s technology editor.

Full story at this link…

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