Archive for October 22nd, 2013

Journalism students today should learn some computer code. More important, they should get a glimpse of the value for themselves and their newsrooms of greater computer literacy.

A post on The Atlantic yesterday by global editor Olga Khazan unleashed a lengthy and vigorous discussion yesterday on Twitter about the value — or lack of value — of requiring students to learn computer programming. I considered — and briefly started — curating the discussion, but it was a heavy volume and I was enjoying a day off. Even so, I retweeted a sampling of the discussion. Check my Twitter feed for yesterday, and you’ll get a taste, if you missed it. Mindy McAdams Storified a bunch of the discussion (though she missed a couple late-night threads I was involved in).

I won’t try to summarize Khazan’s argument here, except to say that she dismissed the value of coding for most journalists:

If you want to be a reporter, learning code will not help. It will only waste time that you should have been using to write freelance articles or do internships—the real factors that lead to these increasingly scarce positions.

She couldn’t be more wrong. And I say this as someone who knows little coding. I took a web design class in the 1990s but forgot most of it. I can cut and paste embed codes or other snippets of code and sometimes I can find or fix a problem in the HTML version of a post. But one of the most glaring holes in my skill set is my ignorance of coding. Filling that gap is on my someday list, but my somedays have been too rare and my list too long.

If you’re a journalism student, fill that gap now, even if you want to be a reporter (or whatever you want to be). If you’re on a journalism school curriculum committee, insist that your students fill that gap.

Here are six reasons why J-schools should teach students to code: (more…)


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