As someone who started out as a primarily “print” reporter, my mindset — and, more specifically, my thinking — as a journalist continues to evolve after nearly eight years in the field, starting as a high school sophomore.
That made me wonder on Twitter:
How would you characterize the relationship between mindset and thinking? Which one is derivative from the other?
More specifically, I’d say that I’ve long had an open mind(set) in the journalism realm. For at least a couple of years, I considered this one of the most important characteristics for a journalist — along with passion. I still think this is true.
Recently I’ve become fascinated with “computational thinking” (more on that later) and wonder if my mindset is informed by this “new” way of thinking or vice versa.
As Lauren Rabaino (@laurenmichell) and I discussed on IM early this week, my tweet was something of a chicken-and-egg question. As Lauren said (and I agree):
your mindset impacts thinking which impacts mindset which impacts thinking… etc for infinity
So why am I thinking about this now? Well, for one, I’ve proposed a session (with the same name of this post) for Saturday’s BarCamp NewsInnovation in Philadelphia: Rethinking our Thinking. The description:
Journalists often discuss the need for evolving skill sets. On a deeper level, we sometimes talk about mindsets. What I’m interested in currently is, “How can we reshape our thinking?”
That idea formed because I’ve been reading, watching and listening to a lot of insightful things lately, including material on computational thinking (first found via Daniel Bachhuber). For example, check out:
- Computational Thinking article by Jeannette Wing, which I first read months ago
- Jon Udell’s Interviews with Innovators podcast with Wing
- Computational Thinking for Everyone podcast with Joan Peckham
- Computational Thinking and Computing lecture by Wing, the which you can watch below or download as a video podcast [slides].
Finally, there is the Center for Computational Thinking at Carnegie Mellon, the university where Wing worked when she wrote the original article.
In February, as you might remember, I guest moderated a #wjchat (web journalists chat) on journalists and coders.
More recently I’ve stepped back and am looking at coding from a broader perspective. This coincides both with my role in helping to organize the first Hacks and Hackers event in DC as part of the May 4 ONA DC meetup at American University. Also related, is last week’s launch of the Hacks and Hackers forum, where I serve as a community moderator.
So, basically: Whereas before I was interested in teaching myself some coding languages to enhance my skill set, I’m currently focusing more on learning about the fundamentals of programming and computational thinking (with the practical skills on the side for now).
Is this an essential step in learning to code? No. Has it been and will continue to be helpful? Most definitely.
The discussion of the “programmer-journalist” (can we find a better name?) arguably started middle of last decade, so what has lead me to this point? I plan to delve into that with another post.
Also, I’m considering writing another post before BCNI Philly (and one after to synthesize the results of the “thinking” discussion). The pre-Philly post would be more focused on different types of thinking and why they’re important. UPDATE: Heres’s my follow-up post: Rethinking Our Thinking, part 2: Computational thinking and the new journalism mindset. Also, check out these notes and this mindmap from the session.
In preparation for that post and the session, I need your help.
As I asked in the Hacks and Hackers forum, what has most shaped your thinking? As a journalist — heck, as a person. Let me know in the comments.
For now, I leave you with some valuable selections of what I’ve been reading — I recommend reading them all:
- The Pragmatic Programmer Quick Reference Guide on Coding Horror
- New dual-degree master’s in journalism & computer science announced by Columbia (plus Wired magazine’s coverage and some reactions)
- The Journalist as Programmer: A Case Study of The New York Times Interactive News Technology Department by Cindy Royal
- Software Is Media by Fred Wilson
- The Zen of Python
- The Bias of Veteran Journalists by Lane Wallace