In college I sort of aimlessly played. I read what I wanted and tinkered with my computer, I made little websites for my own amusement, I slept late and skipped class, and though sometimes I saw myself as an intellectual-at-large in the style of Will Hunting, I was basically just irresponsible. It’s only because of an exogenous miracle that, when I graduated in 2009 with a 2.9 GPA and entered a famously bad job market, I didn’t end up in privileged limbo — in Brooklyn, say, on my parents’ dime. In fact, I was among the most employable young men in the world
James Somers, Are Coders Worth It?, Aeon Magazine.
FJP: An excellent, nicely designed, long read on values, career decisions and coding.
And I am not advising younger women (or any woman) to tough it out. You can lash back, which I have done too often and which has rarely served me well. You can quit and look for other jobs, which is sometimes a very good idea. But the prejudice will follow you. What will save you is tacking into the love of the work, into the desire that brought you there in the first place. This creates a suspension of time, opens a spacious room of your own in which you can walk around and consider your response. Staring prejudice in the face imposes a cruel discipline: to structure your anger, to achieve a certain dignity, an angry dignity.
As we started to collect our ideas for the structure of the project, the multimedia group agreed that we didn’t want to create a bunch of different overlapping pieces and hang them all off the text. We wanted to make a single story out of all the assets, including the text. So the larger project wasn’t a typical design effort. It was an editing project that required us to weave things together so that text, video, photography and graphics could all be consumed in a way that was similar to reading—a different kind of reading.
Last month, the NY Times created a beautifully compelling story on avalanches and skiing in Washington State. This morning, we get to read about exactly how they did it. Most fascinating is their discussion of how to pace the story so it would feel like a seamless reading experience:
Q. There’s a ton of audio and moving-image work in Snow Fall, and you used a lot of techniques from filmmaking, but within a very reading-centric experience. What kind of challenges did those elements present?
Catherine Spangler, Video Journalist: The challenges of crafting multimedia to compliment a text-based story were the same challenges faced in any storytelling endeavor. We focused on the pacing, narrative tension and story arc—all while ensuring that each element gave the user a different experience of the story. The moving images provided a much-needed pause at critical moments in the text, adding a subtle atmospheric quality. The team often asked whether a video or piece of audio was adding value to the project, and we edited elements out that felt duplicative. Having a tight edit that slowly built the tension of the narrative was the overall goal.
Graham Roberts, Graphics Editor: With the visuals, especially ones that would actually interrupt the reading, we wanted it to feel like a natural continuation. This required choosing appropriate color palettes, and the right kind of fluid movements. The reader would hopefully feel that they were reading into the graphic, and not see it as a distraction. Content wise, these elements needed to occur in passages that were challenging to express with words alone, like the layout of the terrain, and the shape, speed and duration of the avalanche itself. Or something that was very hard to follow without a visual aid, like the trajectory and timing of each skier’s path down the mountain.
It was late last year when we saw the first job posting promising a free iPod just for agreeing to come in for an interview. Even boozy informal “hacker” get-togethers were collecting multiple “sponsors,” driving the hackers to arrange social events practically in secret, to avoid being harassed by desperate would-be employers. A company called DeveloperAuction has actually begun auctioning qualified software developers to the highest bidder.
David Wood, Forbes. An Insider’s View Of Silicon Alley’s Talent Feeding Frenzy.
Silicon Alley, New York City’s version of that other place out in California, has its perks. Woods, CTO of Jun Group, writes that it’s a very good time to be a talented, temporarily unemployed developer in New York. But that was a bit of a given, wasn’t it? Anyway, the numbers are surprising.
More from Wood:
This has been particularly pronounced in New York, where entrepreneurs, enticed by free-flowing VC money and local successes like Tumblr and OMGPOP, have started 500 new technology companies in five years, creating a 29 percent jump in technology-related jobs. To put that number in perspective, it’s eight times the growth rate of the city’s total employment.
The job goes to people who don’t just have the skills, but to those who demonstrate knowledge and curiosity about the job, the company and the broader digital landscape.
Meredith Artley, Vice President and Managing Editor of CNN Digital, discusses what she’s looking for when hiring digital journalists in Nieman Lab’s series evaluating j-schools. Two of Artley’s most important insights:
1. Know the industry and have a dialogue during your interview.
The main mistake I see recent college grads make in interviews — and sometimes not-so-recent grads as well — is an expectation of a one-way conversation. I’ve seen candidates with strong resumes who haven’t appeared to have done their homework or haven’t come with their own questions. It could be anything — tell me something you like or don’t like about CNN, ask me to describe the culture of the newsroom, share an observation about a competitor. Just don’t expect a passive experience where we ask the questions, then you supply answers and wait for the next question. I’ve always seen interviews as an opportunity for a conversation, and to learn if it’s a right fit for both parties, no matter what side of the table I’m on.
2. Coding is a hot skill but know your beat too.
Skill-wise, people who have the killer journalist/coder combo have been a hot commodity for some time. But those candidates now are becoming easier to find thanks to schools evolving their programs by melding programming and journalism courses, and people who learn interactive reporting skills on the job.
It’s getting harder to find specialists in certain beats. There are generalists galore. A broad curiosity about the world is a good prerequisite for landing a job in journalism, but the resumes that show specialized interest and experience in a beat or topic are increasingly rare and precious — health, foreign affairs, science, education, religion, to name a few.
FJP: Not everyone would agree that enough journalists know how to code, though. Miranda Mulligan, executive director of Northwestern University’s Knight News Innovation Lab, encourages a re-vamping of j-school curricula.
We need to innovate our curricula, really looking at what we are teaching our students. Learning, or mastering, specific software is not properly preparing our future journalists for successful, life-long careers. No one can learn digital storytelling in a semester. Mastering Dreamweaver and Flash isn’t very future-friendly, and having a single mid-level “Online Journalism” course offered as an elective does more harm than good. We should be teaching code in all of our journalism courses — each semester, each year, until graduation.
I didn’t see participants wringing their hands and worrying about the future of journalism. They’re too busy building it.
The event is well-summarized by another conference attendee, Anthony DeBarros, senior database editor at USA Today:
The conference is a place where news nerds can gather and remind themselves that they’re not alone in their love of numbers, data analysis, writing code and finding great stories by poring over columns in a spreadsheet. It serves as an important training vehicle for journalists getting started with data in the newsroom, and it’s always kept journalists apprised of technological developments that offer new ways of finding and telling stories. At the same time, its connection to IRE keeps it firmly rooted in the best aspects of investigative reporting — digging up stories that serve the public good.
Read the full conference report here, and check out the first two interviews in Alex Howard’s new series profiling data journalists.
The Long Form Developer: Originally an aspiring long form writer, Pro Publica’s Dan Nguyen says,
With data journalism techniques, there are countless new angles to important issues, and countless new and interesting ways to tell their stories… It just happens that programming also provides even more ways to present a story when narrative isn’t the only (or the ideal) way to do so.
The Elections Developer: the New York Times’ Derek Willis emphasizes how data can help journalism fulfill its promise of public services. He says,
We live in an age where information is plentiful. Tools that can help distill and make sense of it are valuable. They save time and convey important insights. News organizations can’t afford to cede that role. [Data journalism and news apps] really force you to think about how the reader/user is getting this information and why. I think news apps demand that you don’t just build something because you like it; you build it so that others might find it useful.