Making coding more enticing

Two weeks ago an old friend asked me how he might get his daughter — a beautiful, precocious, 8-year-old — more interested in computer languages one day. I wish I’d had this link then.


How’s your coding?

Why Journalism Students Need a Baseline Understanding of Coding:

At most universities, students are required to take English composition courses, and at many others speech and/or foreign language classes are also required. Yet in the debate about teaching code in journalism programs, code is often reduced to a shiny toy.

If we value clear writing and the ability to communicate clearly with a wide variety of people, we should value teaching our students the basics of computer languages and digital communications. These skills will only be more important going forward, and more importantly code, a broad term encompassing several computing languages, is the future of digital and global communication. If we don’t expose our students to this — students we want to lead the next generation of journalism and communication — we are doing them a disservice.

I’m a self-taught coder. And I know from experience — every job I’ve ever had involved coding, and it has only been in one of my job descriptions — that it is another great arrow in my quiver.

Samford students have free access to tons of tutorials at Are you taking advantage of that to increase your skill set?

Just so you know the world you’re going in to …

This is an incredibly exciting time to begin a journalism career. Here’s another argument why. Newspaper to Put All Reporters Through Social Media Boot Camp:

One of the country’s oldest remaining big city newspapers, the San Francisco Chronicle, is set to announce a radical plan to arrest circulation decline and remain relevant in the digital age, Mashable has learned.

Audrey Cooper, the first female managing editor in the paper’s 148-year history, will require all staff to enter what is being described as a startup-style incubator. In a plush off-site office procured from the paper’s Food and Wine section, journalists will undergo two months of rigorous training — in effect, a digital and social media boot camp.

“The approach is novel for newspapers,” says Cooper. “It physically removes reporters from the traditional newsroom and gives them new digital metrics, such as engagement time, to judge whether their stories have reached our core audience. We also plan to use real-time monitoring of the clicks we get from social media and other referral sites, including LinkedIn, Pinterest and Reddit.”

Could you find a place to fit in an environment like that?

‘If a bot can write the story better than you can, let it.’

Are you competing with a machine?

Yes and no.

Matt Waite, writing at Poynter, goes on for a bit about the humanity of journalism and the humanity-sapping nature of some of the boring stories we write from time to time. He also says “use your humanity to find a better story to write.”

A bot can free you from having to write that awful “Crime is up!” or “Crime is down!” story six months after anyone cares because that’s when the FBI releases the data.

Given structured data and some time, a programmer can write a bot that can write stories. You can write a bot that can write stories with first-week-of-class programming skills. I can teach you how to write a bot that writes a lead of a story in a single blog post.

And then he teaches you how to do that very thing. You can file this under working smart, not working hard.

You want a feather in your cap when it comes time to get that internship or nail that job interview? Show off some coding and programming skills. Waite is teaching you something important here.

Hacker journalism, the wave of today

Data is everywhere and growing more freely accessible by the day. We have to figure out the best ways to process and share this information with our audience(s).

Maryanne Reed and Dana Coester write:

Data Visualization, geo-mapping, audience engagement, agile development, responsive design. What do any of these terms have to do with journalism? Turns out, quite a bit these days.

With a staggering amount of data now available to journalists, the ability to capture, interpret and present it to audiences has become a critical skill.

If you don’t think coding is a part of your work (growing in importance by the day) you haven’t read that story yet. Read it now.

Another great list of tools for digital journalists

Do you have all the tools you need in these categories?

  • analytics
  • audio
  • citizen journalism
  • community management
  • content curation
  • country switch/geographical content filters
  • headline a/b tests
  • live reporting
  • photos
  • real-time search
  • scraping
  • trend monitoring
  • video streaming
  • visualization of data
  • Then this link from Liquid News Room is for you. Even old pros will find new and valuable tools here.