Thursday, May 23, 2013

Coding for the Future: The rise of hacker journalism

Hacking is a practice and a new way of thinking that the field of journalism is beginning to embrace. It is a way to participate in media to make meaning of the social and cultural transformations happening in our society and is a skill necessary to be a journalist today. This doesn’t mean that journalists need to become programmers avid in understanding multiple coding languages. Rather, journalists need to know how to tinker with code and re-configure the social spaces and media tools available to make sense and tell stories about the world we live in.

There are many examples that represent this shift in Journalism. 

  • The hashtag is a form of a hack to better serve the needs of citizens. Hashtags are a common social practice for million of users on twitter and a way to self-organize around subjects that matter – something we saw or participated in ourselves with #OccupyWallStreet or #ArabSpring. 

  • Maps, charts and graphs are forms of a hack to situate the reader into the story with personalized questions, such as “What’s the wild fire danger near my Grandma’s house? or… Do I live in low-line flooded area?”. 

With the rise of free visualization tools and more accessible data sets open to the public, the process of making sense of our world and our place in it has become democratized. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on this topic at West Virginia University's Reed School of Journalism. In a rapid-fire Ignite-style discussion, the journalists addressed the challenges and opportunities in inventing new practices and acquiring new skill sets on the front lines of big data. And they called on students to become change agents in their future profession.

To hear some of the recordings of the ignite talks by our Hacker Journalists, check out this great article from MediaShift! Enjoy!

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