So I say this is a journey, I say this is an experiment. In that case this blog is my journal/lab book. I am coming up to the end of the Knight-Mozilla Learning Lab and you’ll read my proposal shortly. Although it wasn’t coding-led, it did highlight the importance of coding for the future of journalism, and I was very happy to be invited to take part as it brought me back to my student days of lectures and homework. I’m starting to learn to code from the bottom up and UX and design are more top end programming. I wanted to leave that until later but the opportunity arose sooner.
Opportunities, that’s something I haven’t been short of of late. Conferences, webinars and workshops. I am now giving them rather than partaking. I’ve had to turn down an invite to the NUJ seminars. My blog has gone from sink to source. The top 2 search terms are ‘datamineruk’ and ‘data miner uk’. I never planned for all this and the 1,000+ Twitter followers. This was all supposed to be an internal tool, for learning. But learning has turned to teaching and teaching turns to knowing. And knowing is what turns you from a sink to a source. But the cycle must continue. And that’s my big concern. That’s why I am attracted to data journalism. You can never know it all.
Maybe that’s what detracts traditional journalists from the niche. Or maybe they don’t feel learning is part of the job. I am a typical nerd. I need to study. But I’m disillusioned with institutional education, so I’m setting up my own course work with no real qualifications other than satisfaction. For me, it’s about the knowing and my downfall is being able to mediate that. I come from a strong scientific background where discovery is my strong point and mediation my sore point. My communication was good when I was in science, but in journalsim it was used as stick to beat me. I didn’t see the point of making stories ‘punchy’ when they came from press releases.
I find myself now, a datajournalism advocate which puts me as a person in the limelight more than I had intended. I haven’t put my picture or CV on this site for a reason. It’s not about me. However, a really lovely journalism graduate interviewed me for her blog, datajournalismblog, so here I am:
It’s a very good site. I recommend you join. For most people who get into broadcast journalism it’s all about them and getting their face known. For me, it was because I am more articulate at conversation than writing as I’m used to academic writing. That and I liked the constructive nature of filming and editing. Although I am enjoying that aspect of programming more, and data mining using ScraperWiki. Or ‘the pursuit of facts in plain sight’ as I now like to call it thanks to Evan Hansen, Chief Editor of Wired.com.
That being said, the Knight-Mozilla Learning Lab has taught me some great lessons that apply to journalism as much as code. Chris Heilmann, Mozilla Developer Evangelist, said “The web is amazing but where is the amazing?“, the same can be said for journalism. Jesse James Garrett, cofounder of Adaptive Path, said “Good design has human experience as the outcomes and engagement as the goal“, so should journalism. Oliver Reichenstein, CEO of iA, said “Really understand what you need to do. If you don’t you can’t work” in terms of prototyping but the same can be said for journalism. Echoing my blog, Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of Online at Al Jazeera English, said “Any [news] technology project should solve problems journalists have, even [ones] they don’t know they have“. Reflecting my life mantra, Shazna Nessa, Director of Interactive at the Associated Press, said “Frustrations is part of the challenge, don’t let it poison your mission“.
Building a new product, working for a new business, exploring a new area of journalism means taking risks. I like taking risks. If you don’t take risks you can’t get lucky.