What journalists need to
know about code

Northeastern University
Media Innovation
School of Journalism

Aleszu Bajak

What is côdé?

What is hardware?

– Vacuum tubes to microprocessors
– Disks, keyboards, screens, mice
– Dell, Gateway, Acer
What is software?

– A program made of code, machine-readable instructions for specific operations
– MacOS, Windows, Microsoft Excel
What is a server?

– A computer with no monitor
– An oracle that answers questions if you know how to ask them
– "Deliver me my email" "Build me a database and allow me to access it"
What is an API?

– A digital middleman
– A set of protocols to serve up data to a client
– Facebook, Twitter, Weather Channel, Google Maps
What does back-end mean?

– Data access layer
– A.k.a server-side, client does not interact with
– Back-end code patches into servers, databases
– Built with languages like PHP, Ruby, Python
What does front-end mean?

– Presentation layer
– A.k.a client-side, free of server-side code
– Built with languages like HTML, CSS, Javascript

What does full-stack mean?

How does this apply to journalism?

What is HTML?

– The skeleton
– Markup language to structure website content
– Framework that websites are built on
What is CSS?

– The skin
– Design, layout, style layer to present HTML
What is Javascript?

– The muscles
– Dynamic page elements

HTML/CSS/JS in the wild

Fun with headlines

Flavors of coding in journalism
Designing story layouts, news apps
Scraping websites, PDFs, APIs
Analyzing data with Excel, R, Gephi
Visualizing data, multimedia
Improving internal workflow, collaboration
It all starts with practice
And ends with paychecks...
Where to start

– Source code
– Developer’s Tools
– Codeacademy, StackOverflow
– NICAR list, Chrys Wu’s NICAR slides, Storybench!
Workshop: Scratch.mit.edu

– Open with laptop, team up in twos.
– Start with Event, use two or more Motion, one Sound, and one Control.
– Think about variables, strings, functions.

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