SensibleTalk.com features an interview with Rich Gordon of Northwestern’s Medill School talking about their new, Knight-funded program in which they plan to train programmer/journalists. The plan is to recruit programmers, and see what can be done by using data to tell stories. I completely agree with the content of what they are doing, and I think it is a fantastic program. But, Gordon seems to say that journalists are not interested or capable in the area of programming. I don’t think journalists as we have traditionally defined them would necessarily be interested, but I think the journalist of the future should definitely be focused on using technology skills in any way possible and advancing their understanding of the ways you can effectively use data. It is also a concern to me, because we have so many female students in journalism, while computer science has long been a male-dominated discipline. I want these young female journalists to play a key role in the future, not get relegated to the sidelines or made to feel that technology’s not their place. In order to get some technology experience to women, I have long thought that we should be increasing the level of technology taught in the communications curriculum. I wrote this on OJR several years ago.
The article mentions Aron Pilhofer of the NY Times, who I met at the UT Symposium in April and who recently contacted me with that fantastic job posting. I want communication students to fill those types of jobs. But first, we have to build confidence in their ability to use and grow with technology. I always say, these days technology is communication and communication is technology.
I think it’s great if a computer science undergrad wants to get a grad degree that introduces them to the communication discipline. But, I also think that there are communication majors that are dying for more technology skills. I’ve seen it, both female and male students asking for the next class, where they can go to continue their technical education. And, I’ve seen lots of students already embark on careers that require a wide array of technology skill and the ability to figure things out on their own.
I would be hesitant to start thinking of these programmer types as a separate bunch. What we’re trying to do is train journalists, right?