Computational journalism

This is an excellent post and you should read the whole thing, BUT read this first:

And also…why the hell don’t I know about these conferences BEFORE they happen?!


Here’s what Gordon has tried at Medill: 

What didn’t work: Teaching short “programming for journalists” mini-courses in new media journalism courses. Encouraging students to take introductory computer science courses (He said the reactions have generally been that they were “scared to death” and did not want to do it. Those who did didn’t like it). Giving joint appointment in Medill and computer science to junior faculty members. 

What has worked: Northwestern adjunct Emily Withrow converted their “Flash course” into an introduction to programming using ActionScript. “I was blown away at how successfully she had gotten” the students to learn computer programming. They also got a Knight grant to bring computer programmers to get a master’s degree at Medill. They worked with the Chicago Tribune on an app, released code that others have built on. Since 2009, they have offered joint classes, equal number of computer science and journalism students, co-taught by computer science and journalism faculty, and gave the students something to build. “We facilitate their learning in their teams,” Gordon said. As an example, he showed off an app students created called “NewsFeed” that gives off news content in time increments. He also showed off a “machine-generated sports” program that generates narrative sports stories based on the data. It has turned into a startup, which mostly generates business stories based on data. Medill also got Ph.D students of computer science who love teaching to teach classes on coding to journalists.

Lessons learned: “Generally, computer science courses don’t work for journalism students,” Gordon said, attributing that to lack of obvious relevance. However, he said the principles of beginning programming can be taught in journalism courses “without calling it programming.”

“It’s absolutely as important that we teach programming to journalists, but let’s figure out how to teach journalism to programmers. If we want to save journalism, the key is to turn out people who are bilingual in technology and journalism,” Gordon said.

About Me

Lisa Williams

Founder of | Winner of Knight News Challenge | Center for Civic Media, MIT Media Lab | Cambridge, MA | @lisawilliams on Twitter | lisawilliams on Github