Monday, June 16, 2014

Computers, science, the newsroom and me

“Will the geeks inherit the newsroom?” was one of the many questions posed at the Association for Journalism Education annual conference in Liverpool.
The engaging Angela Long from Dublin Institute of Technology directed us to the Columbia Journalism School which has devised a Dual-Degree Program in Journalism & Computer Science.
Students will earn MA degrees in both Computer Science and Journalism taking in units on ‘Analysis of Algorithms’, ‘3D User Interfaces and Augmented Reality’ and ‘Web-Enhanced Information Management’ along the way.
It’s easy to be a bit sniffy about what road this is taking journalism down, but I’ve always been a bit of a New Romantic and ready to embrace whatever is round the corner – or in Columbia’s case already set up on the High Street.
But within all the app development, data journalism and statistical analysis I hope we don’t forget some of the fundamental lessons of journalism, like the ability to talk to people, get them to say something and deliver that info quickly and succinctly.
The anonymity of email questions and nicking quotes from twitter is all very well but as one of the students before taking a final year assignment asked me rather sheepishly: “Do you mean we’ve actually got to talk to people?”
Other conference highlights:
  • Student attendance was the talk of the bar. Everyone seems to be struggling to get a decent show in class, despite the £9,000 fees and our value for money drive. But I couldn’t help thinking we’re looking at this from the wrong end of the telescope. Perhaps the days of standing in front of a class like Mr Chips are gone and we should look at delivering our content in ways that the students feel happier to engage with.
  • A Pop-up Newsroom championed by Newcastle University, where students teamed up with partner institutions in India, Holland, Armenia, the United States, and Brazil to look first at global poverty and then celebrate International Women's Day. Great idea, and one that I will unashamedly copy.
  • A presentation about Blippar – “A bleeding-edge content platform” – through which you can “attract, retain and engage with consumers through an immersive experience”.  Strangely addictive and great fun.

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