This is great advice. I know it’s great advice because I’ve heard it half a bazillion times in the past year. I’d love to teach my journalism students some of these skills, but first I have to learn them.
If you know what McDonald means by “the grammar and logic of computer languages” (I do not), I could use your help. Got any specific recommendations? Where should I start?
Hi, Kim, awesome question. I disagree a little with what McDonald is saying here, specifically that knowing a little bit about programing makes one better prepared to allocate resources (I’d say the exact opposite is just as likely true) or that dabbling dilettantism for its own sake is necessarily a good thing.
However! I’m certainly a proponent of code literacy and that journalists should learn more about all aspects of the business, whether it’s how the CMS works or how ads are sold.
The highest bang/buck ratio for your students would be to learn HTML and CSS. They are going to be publishing on the web, they need to know what that means and why the CMS is throwing in stray tags or why copying and pasting from Word is probably going to get screwed up. Here’s what I’d consider a basic level of understanding:
A more intermediate to advanced level of understand would include:
There are certainly plenty of things I’ve left out or forgotten but this should keep just about anyone busy for the summer.
I’d recommend starting with a high-level, interpreted language like Python or Ruby first. They’ll run on any computer, are easy to start with, you can see the results of your programs immediately, and they don’t require anything more than a text editor. My personal preference is Python.
These days, there’s no shortage of places, many of them free and online, to learn all of this stuff. And, true to Sturgeon’s Law, most of it is crap. There are a few bright spots, some of them requiring a little bit of money.
I hope this helps. Happy to add more or answer any questions I can.
Your pal in nerdy journalism,
I just wanted to second Jim’s recommendations. I will add that our own newsroom has had a lot of success running its own Django (a web framework built on Python, originally for newsrooms) server for data-intensive projects. I’ve heard similar stories from other publications as well.
The issue with paying a fee for no ads is that I imagine it’s not cost effective to Tumblr to do so. And by that I mean they can’t just all of a sudden charge 5 bucks a month, (although that’s doable, but can you imagine the outrage with that?) but anything less than that would not counter the lost advertising money in page views, I mean think of how many times we refresh tumblr? Page views per ad would go down for those who pay to not see them, but for the rest who don’t pay, Tumblr will get a lower advertising rate that could possibly outweigh all the money people pay.
The other reason subscriptions drive down advertising rates is because advertisers pay less when all they are reaching are the users that aren’t willing to pay for things.