Digging through notebooks or scanning old articles isn’t the best way to find archival information. Structure your beat using the key subject matter as your foundation to track people, places, organizations, incidents, schools and more.
“Why develop in the newsroom?” asks Dan Sinker. In short, I’d say because you have near limitless opportunities to solve interesting problems. For example:
How can we find better ways to tell stories?
How do we uncover new information and find meaning in it?
How do we properly inform people about their communities?
How do we foster and contribute to important conversations?
How do we hold public officials and powerful figures to account?
How do we increase understanding of complex issues?
In The Washington Post‘s newsroom, where I work, developers are a highly valued bunch. There are far more ideas and a far greater desire to collaborate with developers than we have time or resources for — and we probably have more coders than many newsrooms.
Developing in a newsroom is not about “IT” or support — it’s about building things. Things that our audience and others across the newsroom use. We have folks who do a mix of the following:
develop news applications
create platforms and services
These individuals work in different areas — from graphics to digital design to the embedded developer team. Personally, I coordinate data and technology projects for a specific desk — local — and occasionally use code. I previously did a six-month stint on the embed team after starting at the Post as a producer.
“Six-month stint?” What does that mean? It means my newsroom gave me half a year to improve my self-taught code skills and build projects alongside full-time developers. How awesome is that? I’m forever grateful for this opportunity to level-up my coding abilities, build strong relationship on that team and better manage projects because of those two things.
Another example of the value our organization places on fostering and recruiting developers is evident in this excerpt from Miranda Mulligan’s response to the “Why develop in the newsroom?” question:
Earlier this year, the Washington Post and Medill School announced a partnership to offer programmers scholarships to study journalism at the school. The hope is that those programmers will eventually bring their technical skills to news organizations around the country. The Washington Post will assist the Knight Foundation — which helped originally fund the program — in paying for the education of three scholars over a three-year period. After graduating, the scholars will work a paid internship with the Post’s tech team. If you have questions about the scholarship program, please contact Rich Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opportunities abound. Whether they’re hard journalistic problems or even hard computer science problems, you’ll have the opportunity to tackle a wide range of projects. Bring other domain knowledge or expertise — science, business, sports, politics, whatever. I’m ridiculously excited just thinking of all the possibilities.
I’m very excited to be teaching a new course at Georgetown University this summer called Web Development for Media, which begins tonight in Clarendon. The class includes 10 journalism and five public relations graduate students in the School of Continuing Studies.
The course assumes no prior knowledge of code or web development and will be akin to a practical survey class — intended to guide students through understanding and using some key tools. With fundamental understanding and hands-on practice, they’ll be able to dive deeper and teach themselves more after the 12 weeks. Here’s the official description:
Merely using the web and digital tools is no longer enough for today’s media professionals. Journalists and communicators alike need to have a strong foundational and practical understanding of how websites and applications are built and how to troubleshoot when problems arise. This class does not aim to make you hard-core coders or require any web development experience, but we do want you to come away with some coding skills. You’ll also be able to more effectively collaborate with web developers and continue learning on your own.
Follow along on the course site, check out the syllabus and let me know in the comments below what you think.