Old Media Ups Its Game

Flow chart

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On the same day I blogged about Storyful, I caught up later with an old friend. We are both employed full time in tech but are also interested in media — he makes films — and I like journalism and new media.

We met for a few drinks, and in between solving the country’s problems, we also puzzled about how content providers can ever make their sites profitable. Despite sinking in a swamp of debt and red ink, we had the country’s issues settled quickly. How online content providers will ever make money proved to be a little trickier.

But the efforts continue apace. Maybe the trick is to find multi-skilled people. In the case of this humble blog, for example, I am using my current tech skills combined with remembered writing ability from my old journalism days. In terms of staff numbers, I can do both jobs so there is no need to hire a techie and/or scribbler — a 50 percent reduction in personnel.

It was some interest, therefore, that I read this article on SocialMedia.net (@socialmedianet). Author Tom Murphy looked at three reasons why journos should not learn programming: It’s hard, its tough to know where to start, and more time will be spent at the keyboard. Then again, even a little knowledge can give the journalist some valuable insights in to technology.

The flowchart itself came from a site called 10000words. It’s a bit tongue in cheek but it does ask some pertinent questions. And it may also introduce journalists to the flowchart logic employed by programmers.

Elsewhere on the 10000 Words site, the author tells of why it may be hard for some writers to learn programming. He says journalists are more likely to be right-brain thinkers (creative, etc.) while most technical people would be left-brained (logical and so on). There is a quiz here that supposedly tells you what you are.

I took the test and 13 of my 18 results told me I was right brained — that is, better suited to journalism than the technology sector I have been in for the past 17 years!

However, the split is not that neat between journalism and technology. Programming, network architecture and even project management are just some segments that call for creative approaches. I would say some of the most creative people I have met work in tech.

And journalists are basically reporters. They need to understand what they just heard or saw. The good ones analyze numbers quickly. In reporting on things like budgeting or planning, for example, they consume vast amounts of data and outline the main points in an easily understandable manner. My memory of writing those particular stories was of a very procedural approach.

Perhaps the problem is that people in any profession develop their expertise and, over time, come to realize that switching professions would require considerable retraining and effort. Programmers with 20 years under their belts would blanch if asked to do what cub reporters fresh out of J school are doing.

Nevertheless, old media and new tech are converging. And where would a problem like that be without some innovators around to tackle it? Hacks/Hackers (@HacksHackers) is a website that helps bridge that gap. They explain it like this:

Journalists sometimes call themselves “hacks,” a tongue-in-cheek term for someone who can churn out words in any situation. Hackers use the digital equivalent of duct tape to whip out code. Hacks/Hackers tries to bridge those two worlds.

They have a survival glossary and are even offering courses. They are only based in the U.S. at the moment, but the courses are available online.

Flowchart courtesy 10000words.net.

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