Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Multimedia Journalist: statistician and computer nerd?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 11, 2009

Multimedia journalists: expected to be film makers, radio reporters, photographers,  interviewers, web designers,  independent researchers, graphic designers, idea generators, legal eagles not to mention just your average text-hack.


But I got two more to add to the list now-statistician and computer programmer. Why? Well look at this brilliant piece of interactive journalism by Grace Koerber at the University of Carolina (Hat tip: Innovative Interactivity)

Energey Interactive by Grace Koerber

Energy Interactive by Grace Koerber

Click on the picture, go to the site and play with it yourself.

Writing on Innovative Interactivity, Grace says:

Completing this interactive took somewhere around 120 hours. A lot of this time was spent learning how to use Flash’s drawing API and use PHP to communicate between Flash and a MySQL database, both of which I had never done before. The amount of research was also particularly time-consuming.

Could the image of a street savvy, scruffy alcoholic hack bashing away at a typewriter be replaced with a street savvy, scruffy, alcoholic computer geek bashing away at XML?

Journalism students at UNC are actually taught things like XML and MySQL; these extra skills make them hugely more versatile, hugely more valuable to employers – and preparing them for a brand new way of story telling.


7 Responses

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  1. Chris Doidge said, on March 11, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    XML and MySQL are great (I wish I knew how to use them). But journalists’ skills are only as useful as their employer’s website. I don’t think any of my previous employers have had a website flexible enough to allow tinkering with code on this kind of scale.

    I’m sure this multiskilling will get bigger and better over time, but at the moment the media needs better webmasters before it can think about training journalists to do cool stuff like this.

  2. adamwestbrook said, on March 11, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    A good point well made Chris.
    Even if employers were to take on board a platform like wordpress, their multimedia content would improve exponentially!

  3. Voli Dublino said, on March 14, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Vell, not pеrfeсt рost, but I liked it аnd that is the main thing. 😉
    I am Voli Dublino

  4. Tracy Boyer said, on March 17, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Glad to see that you were as impressed with Grace’s work as I was, Adam!

    I have found in my past experience using Flash and XML at AJC and that it is not a matter of site capabilities because these are stand-alone packages. A producer does not need to integrate code into the framework of their employer’s website simply because mere embed tags or pop-up javascript capabilities is sufficient, and EVERY website can handle this.

    If nothing else, producers can keep their databases, XML and Flash content separate and linked out from the site (which would give them more room!) and use the employer’s site for mere hosting capabilities.

    I believe the problem is not that the site can’t integrate these interactives, but rather the editors don’t understand the difference between programming used in packages vs. programming used on the site, so they shy away from it.

  5. How to Get Six Pack Fast said, on April 15, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    The style of writing is quite familiar . Did you write guest posts for other blogs?

  6. Computer News said, on January 3, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    My husband would really appreciate this post. We were just talking about this. lol

  7. Peter Buechle said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:12 am

    If you are looking for how to increase traffic to your blog, I have some advice.

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