Journalists should learn to code.
That is an idea that has gained wide acceptance both among journalists and developers. Many blog posts and conference speeches have been dedicated to pushing this idea to its current status of “The absolute truth of the media industry.”
So I am not going to belabor the point any more. Instead I have a somewhat radical proposal.
Technologists should learn to work with newsrooms.
If you listen closely you can hear the Silicon Valley collectively gasp before scrambling to find ways to automate the “mundane” process of news gathering and reporting.
While that may be an interesting computational problem to solve, that is not the only way or necessarily the best way to apply technology to news. Journalism technology is so much more.
Media companies have been the breeding grounds of some of the amazing libraries and technologies that run the web today. D3, Backbone.Js, Underscore.JS and Django have all had their beginnings in a newsroom.
Tools and services like Tabula and DocumentCloud have closer ties to journalism than you might have guessed.
On the flip side, big Silicon Valley brand names are courting media companies to publish their content on their newly minted platforms like Apple News, Facebook instant articles and Snapchat stories.
As a newsroom-dev, you get to work with huge datasets and sometimes even space imagery.
In journalism, constraints of small budgets combined with short deadlines and tiny teams result in some interesting solutions.
The possibilities of journalism technology are limitless.
If you are a developer looking to break into this amazing world of journalism, here is a great opportunity – The Knight-Mozilla Fellowship.
In many ways it is 10 months of getting paid to do things you never thought anyone got paid to do.
It has now been nearly three years since I left my job at Microsoft to work in journalism. And since then I have been asked a lot of questions about the switch. Here's the FAQ.
Frequently asked questions about switching from tech to journalism
Why did you switch?
Ever since I learnt to write, I have always wanted to be a writer. But then I discovered coding and fell in love with it. I couldn’t pick between the two. So I became a developer-journalist and it lets me do both. Hyphenation for the win.
How is working in a newsroom different?
For starters, you work with a lot of different people. Not just engineers. You get to work on big impactful projects with truly inspiring people.
A big change for me was the length of the projects. Most projects are short. You learn new technology faster because every project is different and new projects come by very often.
You get to make more opensource contributions and secretly revel in the growing star count on your GitHub repo.
And best of all the journalism tech community is very welcoming and awesome.
How much of a paycut would I have to take?
Not mincing words here. It could be anywhere between 20- 80 percent. With my first job in journalism, I took a 78 percent cut. Sure, I could have done without it. But I don’t see it as a sacrifice.
The Fellowship, however, is a different story. Once you add up all the supplements and travel allowance, the pay looks a lot better. In many ways it is 10 months of getting paid to do things you never thought anyone got paid to do.
How do I get started?
Apply for newsroom-dev jobs. Attend journalism-tech conferences like NICAR and SRCCON. Or go for the all inclusive package and apply for the Knight-Mozilla Fellowship.
How do I know if I am qualified for the Fellowship?
If you like to code and want to work in a newsroom, you are qualified. But there is only one sure way to find out. By applying.
I have a question you did not answer. Where can I find the answer?
AMA on twitter – @kavyasukumar
By the way, have I mentioned the Knight-Mozilla Fellowship?