Journalists and developers

It still happens once in a while that my girlfriend and I look at each other and almost in unison exclaim:

“I can’t believe that we get to do this!”

We both got Journalistic fellowships in Cambridge this year. She the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard and me the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Her focus is managing how your 269-year-old newspaper moves from broadsheet paper to infinitely smaller LED screens. Mine is the relationship between developers and journalists in the newsroom.

I left several of such relationships when I took a leave of absence and got on the plane from Denmark. Back in Denmark I was the only journalist in our editorial development team. I think of it as a producing innovation lab. Apart from me it consists of three programmers and two graphics artists. Together we develop new ways of doing and presenting Journalism.

Before that I tried just about every position in digital Journalism in Denmark. I have reported from the field, edited the frontpage, and helped build our social media desk. I have covered everything from terrorist attacks to missing animals. I have been in charge of our digital election coverage. And I have increasingly done all of this through the collaboration with people with technical know-how.

Because in my view technology offers one of the brightest beams of light for the current state of news media. Digital journalism used to just be words under an image, but not anymore. Code is just as important.

Recent events in politics had made the crystal clear why we need a vibrant and engaging news media that can compete with the social networks for people’s attention. And in order to do that and stay relevant we need to get smarter and bring new types of people into the newsroom.

But even though the partnership between our journalists and developers can be beautiful, innovative and yield completely new ways of telling stories, the relationship is not without pitfalls. Because we speak different languages and employ even more different workflows.

So how do we make it work?

That is the overarching question I will spend my time in Cambridge trying to answer.

The MIT Media Lab is an obvious place to explore the dynamics of interdisciplinary collaboration and get a feel of the technologies of tomorrow. The potential is endless, but this class (Technology and Social Change) will probably help to reign in the optimism too. But looking at the flip side of the tech that we call upon to save the news business sounds like a healthy thing to do and something I look very much forward to this semester.

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