How Will We Find the Programmer- Journalists?

    by Rich Gordon
    April 6, 2008

    Thanks to the Knight News Challenge, the Medill School of Journalism can offer full scholarships to our master’s program to people with computer programming backgrounds. The first two are on campus now. We’re looking for seven more — and they’re not easy to find.

    Part of the problem lies in the nature of what we’re trying to do: attract people to journalism school who might not even be thinking about journalism school as an option. And part of the problem is that journalism school requires students to do things — like interview strangers and do a lot of writing — that may not come naturally for programmer/developer types. But based on my experience with technology professionals and computer science students, I am confident there are people out there who fit the profile of what we’re looking for: people with strong programming skills who (1) are interested in journalism and public affairs and (2) think that studying journalism would be interesting and enlightening.


    When the first Knight News Challenge winners were announced in May of 2007, the novelty of our idea was sufficient to get interest from sites such as Boing Boing. For the second and third years of our three-year grant, we’re using more traditional approaches: getting word of the program out to undergraduate computer science programs, and placing some ads on sites that cater to programmer types.


    Thus far, we’ve placed ads on the 37Signals job board and on an ad network called "The Deck" which includes sites such as A List Apart, Twitterrific, The Morning News, Design Observer, Kottke.org, and Fray.

    We’re looking to catch the attention of some talented programmers with an intriguing offer. We’re looking for skilled coders who want to explore ways of applying technology to improve journalism, create a better-informed public, invent new forms of storytelling or build new media products. What is the message that will get them interested in our journalism scholarships?

    We’re looking for input and ideas. Here are the messages we’re posting on The Deck (image and text tagline) — please chime in and let me know if you think they strike the right message to intrigue programmer/developers:

    Advertisement 1
    Your coding skills + a master’s in journalism = a chance to change the world.


    Advertisement 2
    Full scholarships available – get a master’s from Northwestern


    Advertisement 3
    Full scholarships available to Northwestern’s journalism master’s program


    I’d welcome any suggestions — for new messages, or for other places to go looking for candidates for these scholarships. A few specifics about the program: Medill’s master’s program is an intensive, one-year course of study. To win a scholarship, candidates wiil need to meet Medill’s normal admissions standards. Accepted applicants can win full or partial scholarships as well as stipends to cover living expenses. More information about the scholarships is available on the Medill Web site. Applicants can apply online and start their studies in September 2008, January 2009, June 2009, September 2009 or January 2010.

    Tagged: education medill programmer-journalist promotion scholarship
    • Well, you might try a cubicle flee-er who looks a little more like a programmer. I don’t think the folks you are looking for spend much time in suits.

      The link you gave got garbled:

      I still can’t tell who you are looking for. Mid-career programmers? Recent graduates with degrees in computer science? How much programming experience will the successful applicant have?

      What kind of technology resources do you have on campus? Are there faculty who can support IT driven reporting projects?

      Good luck! It sounds like a great idea.

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