Programming, not coding, is key for journalists, says Hirst

I wasn’t convinced that this Guardian post really added much to the ‘should journalists code’ debate (something we didn’t really discuss at news:rewired) but I thought Tony Hirst’s contribution was worth pulling out from the comments:

I was also at at the news:rewired event where Hadfield made his announcement, getting a feeling for the extent to which technology is driving innovation in news gathering and reporting, and it seems to me that it’s not CODING that journalists should be able to do, it’s PROGRAMMING and being able to think in a computational way.

Coding can play a part of this, but it might only be a tiny part. Just knowing what’s possible is a start. Using visual programming tools that minimise the need for remembering syntax is one approach which is why I use Yahoo Pipes a lot; being able to grab, manipulate, clean and visualise data is also useful, and need not require classical CODING skills: an increasing number of tools provide graphical interfaces for constructing interactive visualisations if the data is represented in a particular way.

By wiring different applications together that each, automagically, perform certain representation transforming steps, it’s possible to wire up a series of applications that act on a particular set of data, transform it,manipulate it, query it, filter it, i.e. “wire a programme together” without having to write a line of classical computer software/code. But it is programming; it is about manipulating representations in a particular sequence. That’s what people need to learn to do – start appreciating the power of algorithms and representations, and start learning how to use them as everyday information skills.



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  1. Pingback: Recommended Links for January 19th | Alex Gamela - Digital Media & Journalism

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