Nice post from Mark Glaser about the growing number of newsroom programmers. I’ll respond to this quote:
â€œA huge number of journalism students select that major because they are math-phobic and they think they will get away from numbers,â€? Bentley said. â€œYou donâ€™t have to be a mathematician to program, but you canâ€™t be afraid of math.â€?
Some might dispute that I was ever a programmer, but I learned a thing or two along those lines, wrote some worthwhile applications, etc.
For years, I avoided programming and only got into it out of economic necessity. For several years, it’s how I made my living, and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
The thing that kept me from programming in my younger years was the math thing. Numbers and I are not friends. You could say I’m afraid of math.
When I got into programming, though, I found numbers (unless you were writing an app specifically to calculate something) had nothing to do with it.
Programming is more about grammar and punctuation than math formulas. It’s also about logic, and the disciplined mind that is usually the math mind helps, but logic is also something that can be learned.
Great programmers, I’ve learned, are great at math. I wasn’t a great programmer.
But I was good enough for a newsroom.
Most of what is needed in newsrooms is pretty basic at this stage. What’s needed for most newspaper business apps is pretty basic. This isn’t rocket science.
The point here is that if you’re a journalist and have an opportunity to make a contribution to your career, your company or to our industry through programming, don’t let the math thing scare you. You can do it. Eighty percent of programming (if my math is right) is easy. If I can do it, you can.
[…] Howard Owens: Journalists can program, too “Most of what is needed in newsrooms is pretty basic at this stage. Whatâ€™s needed for most newspaper business apps is pretty basic. This isnâ€™t rocket science.” (tags: newspapers journalism data) […]
[…] Howard Owens writes that journalists can program too. “The point here is that if youâ€™re a journalist and have an opportunity to make a contribution to your career, your company or to our industry through programming, donâ€™t let the math thing scare you. You can do it. Eighty percent of programming (if my math is right) is easy. If I can do it, you can.” […]
[…] And if your answer is database-driven, so to speak, where should I start?Â MySQL/PHP, or straight to PostgreSQL, Python and Django?Â There’s obviously demand for folks with chops like this, and I certainly like the sort of journalism it turns out, but I Am Not A Programmer. […]
“eighty percent of programming is easy”
And this is how 80% of all software becomes such a complete and utter mess.
Writing is easy to. But the fact that anyone can learn to write doesn’t make them novelists of journalists.
Coding is easy. Programming is a profession that requires knowledge, talent and experience. Don’t confuse hacking code with programming.
(By the way, I’m not denying a lot of stuff that needs to be done in the newsroom, or many other situations for that matter, can be done with simple code-hacking instead of the usual overblown selfimportant obfuscating IT processes.)
about the ‘great programmer’ quote, good for you for knowing your limits. that puts you ahead of most people who write code for a living. most of us think we’re god’s gift to programming.
also the math thing is very different when programming, often you can take more of an experimental hands-on thing in contrast to the proof-solving theoretical approach, so you’re right, it’s not that intimidating.
[…] First, I did have something to say on this topic once before. […]
[…] Journalism, coding, confusion Posted on June 12th, 2007 by Maria Varmazis. Categories: writing, geekiness, journalism, media.I’m going to add my voice to the chorus of confusion over reporters-as-programmers. Howard Owens says reporters should go for the gusto and get some coding skills, though fluency is not requisite. Matt Waite says something similar: “The idea is to create new forms of journalism with whatever tools we can, and if they donâ€™t exist, create them too.” […]