Of journalists and programmers

This week, while working on our architecture diagram, we read a blog post titled Journalism Inside ® by Jeff Jarvis. It struck a chord — and we immediately related it to the project we have been working on in this class.

The article´s thesis is that journalists and programmers aren´t really that different. Nick Diakopoulos, researcher and expert in computational journalism, is quoted saying: “One of journalism´s primary raisons d´etre is in gathering, producing, and disseminating information and knowledge. What is perhaps most interesting about these processes is that they can, in theory, all be executed either by people or by computers.”

Jarvis’ point is that technology is not all about taking journalists´ jobs or replacing them, but instead that it provides new tools and opportunities for news to be produced and showcased.  Another journalist who basically makes the same point is Matt Waite, developer of PolitiFact.com (now a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska), who argues: “Bots are letting [journalists] be more human.”

Over the course of this class and the development of our project, WordPress Layout Engine, we have noticed that both journalism and computer science students decipher information. During our workflow, the journalist on our team has asked questions that are necessary and pertinent in order to make the system understandable for a layman; computer scientists have ordered the data obtained through that process and translated it into a useful tool for journalists.

Kevin Marks, software engineer at Salesforce, was quoted in Jarvis’ article saying that both programmers and journalists model the world, one with algorithms and one with narrative. We would say then that in the case of the projects developed in this class, the journalists are modeling the world as a storyteller and the programmers are the actual builders of the product.

What´s wrong here?

We again reflected about this “division of labor” and came up with an ideal that we are going to put into practice in the following weeks. Maybe we should aim during this class to merge both types of models into one and make us all equally proficient in building tools that make sense of information and enable narrative storytelling. Maybe we´ll try Extreme Programming during the coding phase? We are still working on how we are going to accomplish this. Bear with us.

BTW, this is our architecture diagram

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