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Why Should Communicators
Learn To Code?
Associate Professor
Texas State University
Stanford Knight Journalism Fellow 2013-2014
“Learning these skills isn’t just important for your
future, it’s important for our country’s future.”
Barack Obama
“Everyone should learn a computer language,
because it teaches you how to think.”
Steve Jobs
Coding is becoming an important literacy
• Supports algorithmic thinking
• Develops a problem-solving
• An expression of innovation
and creativity
• Provides a perspective on the
tech environment
Computers will be a part of any media
career and most other careers
Data, data everywhere
People will get information in a variety
of embedded and atmospheric ways
Storytelling has become interactive
Retrieving data: Scraping and APIs
We have a high % of women in the
mass communication discipline
An opportunity to address the digital divide
• New York Times, Interactive News Developer
“The job requires solid coding skills and the ability to execute.”
“Expert-level of standards-driven CSS, HTML, JavaScript.”
“Experience with Ruby, Python or MySQL is a plus.”
• Quartz, Reporter on “Things” Team
“Quartz seeks a reporter to help us commit acts of journalism with code.”
“Chiefly responsible for our data-driven and visual journalism, from
charts to interactive graphics to news apps.
Background in “front-end Web development, systems administration,
statistics, data science, design, writing or information architecture.”
– BuzzFeed, Data Journalist for Investigative Reporting Team
“Track record of using data to find, tell and reinforce powerful stories.”
“Be proficient in at least one modern programming language.”
– Austin American-Statesman, News Application Specialist
“Programming skills to develop apps for HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript.”
“Familiarity with Web APIs and common data visualization libraries.”
“Experience with a web development framework such as
Rails or Django is preferred.”
Work with a CMS
The rise of the media platform
• The content management system defines a media
company’s business
• Who can publish, participate and share?
• What kinds of stories can be told?
• What kind of analytics are available?
What is Computer Programming?
• Problem solving using computer code
• Working with and developing algorithms to accomplish
specific tasks
• Web development is a type of computer programming
• Combination of content, design, functionality and data
• Computers are dumb, but obedient –will do what you
tell them.
• It’s fun! Provides a sense of accomplishment.
Types of Languages
• Markup languages – HTML/CSS
• Interpreted languages – JavaScript, Python, Ruby,
• Data-oriented languages – SQL
• Web Development Frameworks – Bootstrap,
Django, Rails
• Libraries - JQuery
Coding Syntax
• HTML/CSS – foundation of the Web, provides
structure and styling of Web pages.
• Logic-based languages:
– Data types and variables
– Logic via if statements and loops
– Functions
Coding in the Curriculum
Charting Tools
Python Web Scraping/API
Web Frameworks
Tech in the Curriculum
• History of computers, Internet
and Web
• Social and cultural effects of
• New business models/platforms
• Network effects
• Technology entrepreneurship
• Social media
• Data
• Tech news
• Communication skills introduced
in these contexts
New Major Proposal
• Digital Media Innovation – a digitally immersive major for
a subset of students.
• Same core as other majors: Intro. to Mass Comm, Media
Writing, Media Law and Digital Fundamentals
• 15-18 hours in digitally focused courses – Web Design,
Programming, Multimedia, Advanced Social Media,
Analytics, Entrepreneurship, Mobile
• 6-9 hours in traditional courses
• Partner with computer science or other technology
• Find community resources
• Allow and encourage faculty to seek these
• Prioritize when hiring
• General faculty development around technology
awareness and literacy
Get Started
• Google Charts, MyMaps and Fusion
• Chart.js or HighCharts
• Coding meetups/hackathons in your
community, like Girls Who Code,
Get Started
• Introduce technology concepts:
– Agile Methodologies
– Design Thinking
– Prototyping
• Spreadsheet basics
• Chartle/Wordle
• Review great work