Graduating Programmer-Journalist Wants to Help Underserved Communities

    by Rich Gordon
    November 22, 2010

    When a Knight News Challenge grant made it possible to award journalism scholarships to people with backgrounds in computer science, no one — not even the first scholarship applicants — knew what career opportunities would be available to “programmer-journalists.”

    One of the first two Knight scholars wrote a guest post for Idea Lab suggesting eight different career paths for people who, as I like to put it, are bilingual in journalism and technology.


    Five Knight scholars will graduate from Medill in December.  Here’s the first of a series of posts describing them and their career goals and plans.



    Geoffrey Hing’s goal is to collaborate with people who aren’t well-served by media or other information sources get the information they need to make important decisions, improve their lives or better understand their communities. He sees his future not exclusively as a journalist or a software developer but more as an information designer who helps solve problems by drawing on technology, community insight and knowledge, and the multidisciplinary skills of diverse collaborators.

    "I am interested in using technology to try to meet the information needs of communities that aren’t served or likely to be served by industry," he says.

    Projects that have excited Geoff recently include Voces Móviles (Mobile Voices), which enables immigrant workers in Southern California to create and publish multimedia stories from their mobile phones, and Between the Bars, a project at MIT (written about recently on Idealab) that crowdsources the transcription of prisoner letters into blog posts. He is interested in exploring participatory design methods like the ones surveyed in a recent article from the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative.

    In his time at Medill, Geoff wrote articles on housing issues such as eviction and affordable rental housing, the intersection of race and political power in Chicago, uses of social media for community empowerment and neighborhood conflict across race and age.

    He missed doing programming work. "At Medill it was very frustrating not to do more technology development, especially when there were problems that could be solved with a little hacking," Geoff said.

    Geoff has has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from the Ohio State University. After graduating, he worked for an Internet service provider, the Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project (which provides reading material to prison inmates), and the research technologies department at Indiana University.

    Geoff has settled in Chicago and would prefer to stay here. His ideal job would be about one-third programming, one third management and strategy, and one third training or community organizing.

    "I would love to be the go-to developer for community-centered media projects in Chicago, especially short-term, fast, agile ones," Geoff says.

    You can learn more about Geoff on his Web site, The Reality Tunnel.

    Tagged: geoffrey hing knight news challenge medill northwestern university programmer-journalist

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