Calling All Coders: Journalism Schools Want You To Save The News Industry

As newspapers struggle for viability, and media managers attempt to shift presence to the web, a need has arisen for talent with the technical skills of a programmer and the creative skills of a journalist. Over at TechCrunch, we are fortunate to have talented developers who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into making the site what it is today.

Northwestern University’s journalism school is offering free scholarships to software developers so they can further hone their journalism skills and possibly integrate the two for a media company down the line (disclosure: I attended this journalism school). The idea of creating programmers who understand journalism is compelling and brings attention to an important trend taking place in the industry.

Hyperlocal news site Everyblock and the St. Petersburg Times’ truth finding political database Politifact were both built by developers with journalism backgrounds. Their model falls on the heels of Politifact, started by coder-turned-journalist Matt Waite, which won a Pulitzer Prize this year for national reporting.

Some question whether a journalism degree is critical to success as a reporter. A talented programmer certainly doesn’t need a journalism background to create successful digital platforms. And journalism school may be irrelevant for programmers who are more interested in coding than writing.

Both sides of the journalism school debate can agree on the definite need for programmers in the news space. As more news publications shift their focus from print to the web, management increasingly feels pressure to to invest in talented coders, sometimes even more so than talented journalists. Northwestern would argue that investing in one group does not need to come at the expense of the other. Perhaps the future of print is in the hands of hackers.