“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 email@example.com.
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 announce that I’m now working with the local team on medium- and long-term journalism and technology projects. I’ll also be diving into big breaking stories when those arise.
This new role blends project management and hands-on work (e.g. continuing to put those improved code skills to use!). I’ll be collaborating with editors, reporters and others across the newsroom, including the developer team. Karaoke is not an official responsibility, but we’ll see how that plays out.
Here’s the announcement:
We’re pleased to announce that Greg Linch is Local’s new innovations editor. He joins the staff after working for six months with newsroom developers building web tools for reporters, editors and producers. Greg was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper at the University of Miami with a focus on traditional writing and reporting until he began dabbling with coding during his junior year. By the time he graduated, he’d become an entrepreneur, co-founding a college media start-up, and gravitated to another start-up in Loudoun County called Publish2. He joined the Post in 2010 as a producer for Health & Science before moving on to Politics, briefly, and then the Foreign Desk.
We’re confident that Greg’s training in journalism and his burgeoning technical skills will enable him to help reporters and editors find new and expansive ways to tell stories, present data, hold public agencies accountable and find new audiences on the web and on mobile devices. He can speak multiple newsroom languages, he understands what’s possible across digital media, and he’s passionate about working closely with reporters and editors. He previously worked on the Zero Day series with Bob O’Harrow, who says Greg is “totally smart, really collegial and makes stuff happen.” In his copious spare time, Greg has also served as an adjunct instructor for Northwestern’s Medill National Security Journalism Initiative for the past two fall quarters. This year, he begins a two-year term on the Online News Association’s board of directors. Please join us in congratulating him on his important new assignment.
Measuring your audience is one thing. Measuring your impact as a journalist is definitely another. Modern technology enables better quantitative and analytical tools, conceivably offering better ways to evaluate the results of journalism. But it’s possible to devise a way to more concretely — albeit still imperfectly — define what impact means. We could borrow from, use, adapt or learn from science, baseball, non-profits, social entrepreneurship, even car manufacturer websites and pharmaceutical drug trials.
I have a few more interesting examples, so be sure to join us for this conversation!
Finally — and perhaps the most important part of all this! — is that karaoke is returning this year! RSVP here.
P.S. What must I do/see in San Francisco after the conference? I’ll be around on Sunday and Monday before going to Seattle for a couple days and then Portland. Recommendations for those cities are also welcome!
I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be starting a new role here at The Washington Post, news about which was just sent to the newsroom:
“We are excited to announce that Greg Linch will be moving into a new hybrid technology / newsroom role starting June 1. Since coming to the Post in December 2010, he has desk-pedaled his way across a few sections.
Greg began by producing for the health, science and environment team. Those months rekindled a childhood interest by feeding and growing his natural curiosity about the world. He then put both halves of his journalism-political science double major to use during a short stint with the politics team before starting an exciting year working with the foreign and national security desks.
All the while he’s been improving his technical knowledge with the ultimate goal of doing better journalism, such as creating a few handy tools and helping to make some production tasks more efficient. That’s no surprise, of course, considering the two start-ups he previously worked on — one for college media when he was at the University of Miami and one that made tools for newsrooms before he joined the Post.
At the Post we have section producers who primarily work in a CMS and engineers who build news applications, but nothing in between. Greg will pioneer an experimental role to straddle web production and web development — a special projects and applications producer position that will focus on more technical and medium to long-term projects and solutions.
We see Greg as a person who can look beyond standard journalism forms to help develop technology that pushes the boundaries of storytelling alongside the newsroom. He will partner with editors and technologists to
conceive and create tools that engage users with our journalism; current examples of apps in development include a polling interface and our new live blogging platform. He will work with the entire newsroom, from
producers to reporters to designers to find places where development can come together to create new technology that serves our users and our journalism.
Greg will spend the first 3 – 6 months of this new role training exclusively with engineers: honing his development skills. After he completes this initial embedding in web development, he’ll be working in
the newsroom through Cory Haik and be deployed on projects within news and alongside the embedded engineering group run by Washington Post Chief Architect Greg Franczyk.”