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My (quickly formed) vision for a journ-prog curriculum

Posted by on Mar 26, 2011 in Blog, Uncategorized | No Comments

I’ve written about a curriculum for people looking to be exposed to — and perhaps specialize — in data journalism before.  But last week on Twitter, Dave Stanton (@gotoplanb) asked a slightly different question — what would the curriculum look like if you were a journo-interested student wanting to learn programming to tell stories from the get-go?  Understanding data is just one piece.

Most of the below courses should have input — and visits — from people on journalism faculty and other faculties (in my vision.)  I wrote this in 10 minutes, but wanted to capture here.  Would love to hear from others about what they’d add/subtract/wish they could learn.


1. Introduction to Online Journalism – Show me all the different possibilities of what I can do in the online world.  Lots of diff guest speakers.  Get me excited.

2. Introduction to Statistics – with a social science survey spin.  Took a course geared toward econ, and wasn’t as helpful as it could have been.

3. Blogging: Writing and Delivering Your Own Content – Use this as a vehicle to do online writing and HTML/CSS to a point.  Custom WordPress installs to encourage people to play.

4. Telling Stories Geographically – How maps can be used in journalism, survey different types of map (chloropleth, point-based, when should I use polygons?) how to make them go (not Python/Django quite yet, start introing Javascript for mapping viz

5. Telling Stories with Numbers – Find datasets, incorporate into written stories, create supplementary static/interactive graphs, using tools.

6. Introduction to Localizing Info Through Data – Learn how to give story people that matters to them by understanding art of a detail page, designed once, that can apply to people who care about 10,000 different records. Introduce concepts of MVC framework, and start building stuff.

7. Structuring the Unstructured – Look at projects that have been done requiring data to be structured in the newsroom. Talk to people at current newsrooms about how they’re organizing info they report.  Learn how important structured info is. Continue to learn about a Web framework, and use it.  Early. Often.

8. Business class – I don’t know exactly what this would look like, but I know we need more of it.

9. Design – Go to an info design or fine art department and learn about the display of information.  Get Tufte involved in this. (If not in person, books will do awesomely.)

10. Design II – Tell stories that have a strong visual component, but are not necessarily a multi-page website. Less Everyblock, more Martin Wattenberg or Processing folks.  How can we use this for news?

11. Bridging the Divide – partner with a class of students more focused on traditional reporting.  Work with them, and help them understand how to push forward, but not scare people too much.  These people skills are more important than I ever realized, and I wish I had more guidance with it in a structured environment.  Create a cool project with them, and learn what goes into it.

12. How to Keep Learning – component of a capstone that teaches how to pick up new skills fast, and what to do when a university professor can’t help anymore.  Learn a new skill as part of this class, create tipsheets, share with others in course.  Maybe send these tipsheets to IRE to start students on contributing to community.

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