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How to explain journalism to developers

by: Amy Gahran |

Increasingly community news publishers and journalists seek to collaborate with developers of software, websites, or apps. But often these efforts at engagement run aground because most programmers are unfamiliar with the practice and culture of journalism.

Data Driven Journalism recently summed up several key aspects of journalism in a way that will make sense to, and hopefully intrigue, developers. Journalism for Developers is handy guide to review before your next local tech meetup or coding hackathon. It's definitely tongue-in-cheek -- but educational as well as entertaining.

On the flip side, if (like most people in the news business) you don't understand much about how the process of programming works, following the links in this post can help you understand key concepts and context that can help you relate more easily to developers.

A few choice excerpts:

"News stories need to be relevant, which means they have a use case beginning with: 'As a person drinking coffee in the morning I want to...'."

"...Journalists use an outdated search engine called a "'telephone.' Mostly it is used for point-to-point information transfer, but it often has many of the characteristics of a good VPN, allowing you to tunnel through institutional boundaries and to get a kind of social port scan. A channel with even higher latencies is the Freedom of Information Request, a query run against government knowledge which often conflicts with their internal security policy."

"...The newsroom is the space where journalists work together. It functions in an agile fashion resembling Scrum. The scrum master is called the editor-in-chief. They are also the product owner. Every morning, senior journalists gather around the Scrum master to share story ideas and find out what they will be covering that day. A sprint usually lasts 24 hours. Journalists ship a new version every day -- that's even faster than Chrome!"

"...You cannot do includes in an article. You have to estimate the audience's level of familiarity with the issue at hand and manually rewrite as much content as needed for the story be compiled properly."

"...You can correct typos after publishing, but once your idea is out in the open, it's very hard to modify it. You cannot just push a patch or an update to the user's device."

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Amy Gahran

Amy Gahran is a journalist, editor, trainer, entrepreneur, strategist, and media consultant based in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to writing
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