Digging through notebooks or scanning old articles isn’t the best way to find archival information. Structure your beat using the key subject matter as your foundation to track people, places, organizations, incidents, schools and more.
“Why develop in the newsroom?” asks Dan Sinker. In short, I’d say because you have near limitless opportunities to solve interesting problems. For example:
How can we find better ways to tell stories?
How do we uncover new information and find meaning in it?
How do we properly inform people about their communities?
How do we foster and contribute to important conversations?
How do we hold public officials and powerful figures to account?
How do we increase understanding of complex issues?
In The Washington Post‘s newsroom, where I work, developers are a highly valued bunch. There are far more ideas and a far greater desire to collaborate with developers than we have time or resources for — and we probably have more coders than many newsrooms.
Developing in a newsroom is not about “IT” or support — it’s about building things. Things that our audience and others across the newsroom use. We have folks who do a mix of the following:
develop news applications
create platforms and services
These individuals work in different areas — from graphics to digital design to the embedded developer team. Personally, I coordinate data and technology projects for a specific desk — local — and occasionally use code. I previously did a six-month stint on the embed team after starting at the Post as a producer.
“Six-month stint?” What does that mean? It means my newsroom gave me half a year to improve my self-taught code skills and build projects alongside full-time developers. How awesome is that? I’m forever grateful for this opportunity to level-up my coding abilities, build strong relationship on that team and better manage projects because of those two things.
Another example of the value our organization places on fostering and recruiting developers is evident in this excerpt from Miranda Mulligan’s response to the “Why develop in the newsroom?” question:
Earlier this year, the Washington Post and Medill School announced a partnership to offer programmers scholarships to study journalism at the school. The hope is that those programmers will eventually bring their technical skills to news organizations around the country. The Washington Post will assist the Knight Foundation — which helped originally fund the program — in paying for the education of three scholars over a three-year period. After graduating, the scholars will work a paid internship with the Post’s tech team. If you have questions about the scholarship program, please contact Rich Gordon at email@example.com.
Opportunities abound. Whether they’re hard journalistic problems or even hard computer science problems, you’ll have the opportunity to tackle a wide range of projects. Bring other domain knowledge or expertise — science, business, sports, politics, whatever. I’m ridiculously excited just thinking of all the possibilities.
I’m very excited to be teaching a new course at Georgetown University this summer called Web Development for Media, which begins tonight in Clarendon. The class includes 10 journalism and five public relations graduate students in the School of Continuing Studies.
The course assumes no prior knowledge of code or web development and will be akin to a practical survey class — intended to guide students through understanding and using some key tools. With fundamental understanding and hands-on practice, they’ll be able to dive deeper and teach themselves more after the 12 weeks. Here’s the official description:
Merely using the web and digital tools is no longer enough for today’s media professionals. Journalists and communicators alike need to have a strong foundational and practical understanding of how websites and applications are built and how to troubleshoot when problems arise. This class does not aim to make you hard-core coders or require any web development experience, but we do want you to come away with some coding skills. You’ll also be able to more effectively collaborate with web developers and continue learning on your own.
Follow along on the course site, check out the syllabus and let me know in the comments below what you think.
I participated in an SPJ region 2 conference panel in Norfolk, Va. this past Saturday. The topic: how a few recent graduates got their first jobs in journalism. Tweets from the session appear below, enjoy!
Storified by Greg Linch· Sun, Apr 21 2013 20:32:54
NOW! Follow #GenJ #SPJ2 to find out how young journalists at @washingtonpost @progressindex @pilotnews @Wavy_News landed their first jobs.SPJ Generation J
We’ll be live-tweeting from a #SPJ2 session about how to get your first journo job, which features @greglinch, one of our awesome faculty!GeorgetownJournalism
.@greglinch got his first job through a contest, of all things! #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
.@sarhutch got her full-time job at the @PilotNews by starting there as an intern. #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
.@vwremmerspi got her first job by starting working part-time when she could during school. #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
Places to look for jobs include JournalismJobs.com, conferences (@ONA) or associations (@va_newspapers). #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
You need to approach your job search like a mini-reporting project. Know who you will be working for. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Watch the listings over time to see which places seem to have high turnover – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Faculty member @greglinch on a panel about #journojobs at #SPJ2 conference pic.twitter.com/7AUhY1KXfkAmy L. Kovac-Ashley
Big message about job searching is to be flexible #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Even if there are no job openings, feel it out and try to extend your internships! Be honest and realistic. #SPJ2 #jobs with @robynsiderskyLani Furbank
Be realistic about your housing and financial situation – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
And by being awesome. RT @HoyaJournalism .@vwremmerspi got her first job by starting working part-time when she could during school. #SPJ2Pat Kane
Don’t bank on your internship turning into a job. You need to look for jobs while you are there. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Work hard and show your enthusiasm. Don’t nag for a job – they’ll notice your dedication and it might pay off. @greglinch #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
There’s a fine line between showing initiative about wanting to stay at a place and being annoying/acting entitled – @sarhutch #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
Bigger places including @PilotNews won’t really consider you unless you’ve had good internships before – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
"Journalism experience begets more journalism experience." – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Student newspaper experience was critical for @vwremmerspi #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Look at all the opportunities out there. You can make a case as to how different experiences are relevant. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Relationship building is key. Start talking to people early. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Skills and relationships go hand-in-hand. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
@greglinch says keep in contact w/your recruiters. Relationships (not just "networking!") are key in landing a job. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
Want to stand out in the application process? The cover letter. Tell a specific story/anecdote that showcases your talents. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
People make a mistake when talking about a story in a cover letter but not including it with the application – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Other mistake is not being specific enough in your letter about what you can do. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Sometimes work ethic can show through with your resume/cover letter and make the difference – @vwremmerspi #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
@vwremmerspi landed her job because of her dedication. Experience can be taught, but work ethic is part of who you are. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
You do not want to embellish in your resume/cover letter. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Your cover letter might be the only way that a potential employer will get to know you. Tell a story. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
A hand-written thank you note is a rare thing these days. It can make you stand out. — @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Having a portfolio website is a way that someone else can see your work easily – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Treat your Facebook as though anyone can see it. If you use it to reach out to sources, you’ll want it to be appropriate. #SPJ2 #genjJMU SPJ
You need to be aware of what is out there in social media and how you see your accounts – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Assume everything is public when it comes to your online portfolio/social media – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Your social media can be an asset! Tweet and post professionally, and assume everything is public. @greglinch #genj #SPJ2Lani Furbank
If you don’t want everyone to see something, then don’t post it online, don’t take that picture, etc. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Most important thing is to start learning how to learn. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Your degree is not a ticket to a job, it’s a ticket to keep learning on your own. @greglinch #genj #SPJ2Lani Furbank
#spj2 "no one is impressed with a wide range of skills if you can’t write a story."Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
You need to diversify your portfolio but also know how to do one thing really well that you want to focus on – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Critical thinking, knowing how to ask sharp questions that challenge assumptions – those are important skills – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
A wide array of skills doesn’t mean anything if you can’t do the job you’re being hired to do. Strike a balance. #SPJ2 #genj #jobsLani Furbank
Things you learn on the job: How to manage the newsroom and work culture you’re in – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
In a full time job, learn how to assert yourself professionally. You’re not an eager-beaver intern anymore. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
Things you learn on the job: How to stand up for yourself – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobs (Earlier tweet was wrong – apologies!)GeorgetownJournalism
There’s no such thing as an eight- or nine-hour day – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
You have to learn how to manage your time and your own schedule without someone telling you how. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
@vwremmerspi says her first job can be like a roller coaster. Expect long days and odd hours. She’s found a balance. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
Beyond internships, you can do your own projects to try to stand out – and then pitch them somewhere. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Look for places to create opportunities for yourself – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Look for news events close to you to cover. If you were in Boston right now, you should be covering #bostonbombings – @sarhutch #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
Fellowships can offer a really good experience and offer good relationship-building opportunities #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Knowledge about other disciplines – especially if it’s a beat you want to cover – is helpful – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism