jump to navigation

Web Journalists Should Learn Code October 29, 2012

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Convergence, Education, Journalism, Multimedia, News, Trends.
trackback

by Joanne KY Teoh
It’s more than digging up the dirt – journalists today need to get their hands dirty with a little code. How well are J-schools preparing their grads for the real world as digital journalism products move online?

From crafting a good lead for the front page, to building a story for a Web page, knowing how to code is an essential skill if prospective journalists want to become better and employable multimedia storytellers in the digital media age.

Traditional storytellers at heart, many journalist balk at the idea of coding. Textbooks of arcane code remind them why they chose to study the 5Ws and H of journalism instead of computer science or engineering.

But learning basic HTML, CSS, Javascript, or other front-end design codes helps journalists create their own online content and understand the parameters of technical journalism. Here’s what they do:

JavaScript: A scripting language to manipulate data between the server and the Web page. It can also alter the page based on user or server communication.

HTML: A markup language to outline the structure and content of the page.

CSS: A style language to tell the website how the layout, fonts and colors should look.

Learning how to build online interactive packages gives journalists a better understanding of how Web journalism is created and how they can enhance print or broadcast stories.

As with all multimedia skills, journalists are more likely to be invested in the technical process if they have an idea of what is possible.

Many journalism jobs now require someone who has both coding skills and writing experience, the latter of which many traditional computer programmers lack, giving the coding journalist an advantage.

Journalists with computer programming skills are in demand at media and technology companies. They analyze data for journalistic research, visualize data for news websites, implement content management systems, develop Web applications and oversee the creation of digital media products.

Several journalism fellowships and trainee programs are looking for journalists with programming knowledge. You can have the skills to apply for an opportunity to receive funding for your own cutting edge journalism projects.

The time is now for future journalists to learn about code. We need to innovate our curricula, really looking at what we are teaching our students. Learning, or mastering, specific software is not properly preparing our future journalists for successful, life-long careers. No one can learn digital storytelling in a semester.

Mastering Dreamweaver and Flash isn’t very future-friendly, and having a single mid-level “Online Journalism” course offered as an elective does more harm than good. We should be teaching code in all of our journalism courses — each semester, each year, until graduation.

Miranda Mulligan
Executive Director, Knight News Innovation Lab, Northwestern University

Newsrooms today need help to make cool news apps to complement and help build on their digital stories. PBS MediaShift Idea Lab talked to developers working in the news business to get their take on why they wanted to code in the newsroom.

Employers expect students coming out of J-schools to know the basics of video, audio and Web coding at a minimum, and be well-versed in mobile journalism and social media. J-schools need to integrate coding 101 as a core course so students grasp how Web pages and computers deal with their stories.

Journalists of the Youtube generation are already proficient in these skills. It’s the traditionalists and Luddites who are code-challenged. There has never been an easier time to learn coding. Check out these free or near free online coursework from Codecademy, the MIT/Harvard EdX program or Coursera and Google Code University

Related reads
Essential Tools of the Trade – CJR
In Defense of Journalism: 3 Essentials It Teaches – Poynter
Back to School:The Evolution of Journalism Education – Nieman

Infographic courtesy of OnlineCollege.orgProgramming Infographic

About these ads

Comments»

1. Tom Winger - November 7, 2012

Hey I think Codeacademy is very much hyped and sitting in front of their interface is boredom at its peak. Initially when there was a scarcity of such sites it was the best but now younger sites have much better user experience. I quit classes on Codeacademy and have joined a site called Learntreet.com. It is much better and helpful.

2. jonita dsoza - November 8, 2012

Hey i agree that learnstreet is as good but better i dont know. Its a new site that would still be in its leaning phase which also means that is definetely gonna become better. So learnstreet is a equally good site.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: