How do you feel about the intertwining of computer science with journalism?
Not surprisingly, I’m quite positive about it. I think most industries benefit from being exposed to different practices and ideas, as they make you reevaluate your own habits and assumptions.
That has very much been the case with the influence of computer science on journalism: in many ways data journalism is more open and more collaborative than other parts of journalism, and that has led to some of its best work.
Eva Constantaras is a data journalist and trainer who recently wrote the Data Journalism Manual for the UN Development Program. In a special guest post she talks about the background to the manual, her experiences in working with journalists and professors who want to introduce data journalism techniques in developing nations, and why the biggest challenges not technological, but cultural.
There is a growing awareness that the challenge of teaching data journalism in many countries is split straight down the middle between teaching data and teaching journalism — where neither data science nor public interest journalism are particularly common. Open data can be a boon to democracy — but only if there are professionals capable and motivated to transform that data into information for the public. Continue reading →
For the last 18 months I’ve been talking to people across the industry, reflecting on the past 7 years of teaching the MA, and researching the forthcoming second edition of the Online Journalism Handbook. Here, then, are the key conclusions I arrived at, and how they informed the new course design:
I’ve just published a free ebook documenting a method of teaching collaborative journalism. Called ‘Stories and Streams’ the method, which was piloted last year, uses investigation teams and focuses on student-driven, peer-to-peer learning. Traditional lectures are not used.
In January 2012 I was facing an old problem: as I prepared to teach a new undergraduate online journalism class, I wanted to find a way to encourage students to connect with wider networks in the area they were reporting on.
Networks have always been important to journalists, but in a networked age they are more important than ever. The days of starting your contacts book with names and numbers from formal organisations listed in the local phonebook are gone. Now those are instantly available online – but more importantly, there are informal groups and expert individuals accessible too. And they’re publishing for each other.
Because of this, and because of reduced resources, the news industry is increasingly working with these networks to pursue, produce and distribute stories, from Paul Lewis’s investigative work at The Guardian to Neal Mann’s field reporting for Sky, the Farmers’ Weekly team’s coverage of foot and mouth, and Andy Carvin’s coverage of the Arab Spring at NPR.
How could I get students to do this? By rewriting the class entirely.
In a guest post Alexandra Stark, Swiss journalist and Head of Studies at MAZ – the Swiss School of Journalism, argues that it’s time for journalists to take action on business models for supporting journalism. Stark proposes a broadened set of skills and a new structure to enable greater involvement from journalists, while also fostering further teaching of such skills.
Ask a journalist if his or her job will remain important in the future: “Of course,” he or she will answer while privately thinking, “What a stupid question!” Try changing this stupid question just a bit, asking: “How will it be possible that you’ll still be able to do a good job in the future?” It’s likely you won’t receive an answer at all. Continue reading →