BarCamp NewsInnovation Chicago: Join the Conversation

    by Rich Gordon
    February 15, 2009

    If you’ve been following my posts to this blog, you know that I’m always interested in exploring ways to connect journalists and technology professionals. The Knight News Challenge "programmer-journalist" scholarships are one approach. So is the idea of a "computational journalism" conference like the one held last year at Georgia Tech. (Early indications are that the second conference will be held this fall.)

    Here’s a new opportunity: BarCamp NewsInnovation, a series of user-generated conferences focusing on the future of journalism. The next conference in the series will be held Saturday, Feb. 21, at the Medill School newsroom space in downtown Chicago. Registration is capped at 50; as I write this there are 18 registration spots left — sign up if you’d like to participate.



    Jason Kristufek at the Gazette in Cedar Rapids is the lead organizer for the event. Beatrice Figueroa of Northwestern’s Media Management Center is overseeing logistical arrangements. (Thanks, Jason and Beatrice!).


    I’ve never attended at BarCamp so I’ve been reading up about them. It will be interesting to see how the BarCamp process works. I’ve been part of many traditional conferences, and when they are well organized, they can be great learning experiences. Still, many conferences end up being just an endless series of PowerPoint presentations that never get to the core questions and issues that I’m interested in learning more about.

    The BarCamp process, which encourages participants to suggest topics and to volunteer to lead sessions, would seem to be dependent on the quality — and insights — of the participants themselves. So if you’re interested in the future of media and journalism — especially if you can bring the perspective of another discipline, such as software development — please sign up. Journalism and our democratic society need your help!

    Tagged: barcamp newsinnovation future of journalism journalist-programmer technologists

    4 responses to “BarCamp NewsInnovation Chicago: Join the Conversation”

    1. Kerri Wachter says:

      Are there any programs for turning journalists into pseudoprogrammers, i.e. giving them enough basic html/Flash/etc. skills to be useful in a newsroom?

    2. Many journalism schools now teach HTML and Flash as part of their general curricula or in specialized courses/sequences for people seeking to specialize in online media or multimedia storytelling. Both HTML and Flash are also taught in courses in other disciplines (design, technology, interactive media), at technical training schools (e.g., DeVry) and online at places like Lynda.com. And there are excellent books out there for self-instruction (I recommend the Visual QuickStart series.)

      Learning some HTML and Flash can certainly be helpful to you as a 21st century journalist. But in my view, neither HTML nor Flash, per se, is “computer programming.”

      Web pages built in HTML can execute computer programs, and computer programs can generate Web pages. Flash has a scripting language (ActionScript) that can interact with databases and computer programs; you can probably even get away with calling ActionScript a programming language. But most journalists who are making Flash presentations use little or none of the ActionScript functionality.

      Computer programmers write the code that makes the Web work. The most successful and immersive Web sites are not just flat pages of text/HTML, they are computer programs that display content from databases. There are some excellent journalists who have learned to become computer programmers, and certainly we could use more journalists with those skills. The “programmer-journalist” scholarships are intended to work the other way around: to bring computer programmers into the journalism world and get them excited about the opportunities to apply their programming skills to the challenges faced by news organizations and journalists, including what might be the biggest challenge: building audience engagement with journalism content online.

    3. Hi Rich, we had BarCampMiami yesterday. Over 800 registrations, not sure how many people actually made it but it was a great event. 5 different rooms with sessions from 11 am to 5 pm.

      Go here and search for #barcampmiami for some of the messages:


    4. Brad Flora says:


      One thing to think about is what you want to be able to do with your newfound technical skills.

      Because they fall into two camps.

      “Frontend” – CSS, HTML, Flash, javascript

      “Backend” – MySQL, PHP, Python, Ruby, Django etc.

      So J-schools are mostly teaching frontend stuff. How to hand-code a web page in HTML and CSS. How to create a flash video. This is good to know if you’re interested in the storytelling and presentation pieces of things. I’d argue that HTML is just plan good to at least understand.

      The backend stuff is where the magic happens though. That’s the actual hacking that creates a structure you can hang stories on. J-schools aren’t really teaching this because it’s basically computer science.

      So do you want to build your own blogging software or tell a story in flash?

      If you want to do font end stuff, then you can teach yourself using online tutorials and a good project that you’re excited about. Maybe you want to take a WordPress blog theme that you like and completely change it into something you like even better. That’s a great way to learn this stuff.

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