There’s a fascinating discussion around the question of whether journalists should learn to be programmers.
I’d say it can’t hurt but it’s not necessary for everyone because there still will be some specialization and because the tools to create content rich with data, functionality, interactivity, and dynamic display will continue to get easier and easier; see the post below about map aps. Everybody wants their Adrian Holovatys and well they should. But one Adrian — using tools he helped create — can enable and empower lots of journalists with technology. At CUNY, the interactive students all take a week of Flash and, frankly, I was dubious that they needed to learn it but the students came out enjoying the class and the power it gave them. So when in doubt, learn. But just because you don’t know how to do it doesn’t mean you can’t imagine it and get it done. What I want to see journalists and journalism students learn is the art of the possible.
David Cohn (with whom I’m now working on a project; more on that soon) started the discussion here and here. Lots of response followed. Here‘s William Hartnett arguing that journalists do need to know how to program. Here‘s Matt Waite agreeing. Here‘s Dan Gillmor saying that journalists should work with programmers. Here‘s Scott Rosenberg saying they need to be digitally literate:
But the pressing need is not for people who can write code with one hand and stories with the other. What journalists do need is working digital literacy. They need to understand something about how the technology that’s reshaping media works, how it’s built, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and how to harness it. Journalists don’t need to study object-oriented PHP in order to do that; yet it’s helpful for them to be able to mess with a WordPress template without running in terror.
Robert Andrews sums it up at Journalism.co.uk.