Thursday, April 8, 2010

Will Columbia-Trained, Code-Savvy Journalists Bridge the Media/Tech Divide?

Columbia University will soon offer a combined engineering and journalism degree. It’s a unique program the Ivy League institution hopes will produce cross-disciplinary ninjas prepared to develop the newsrooms of the future. The new Master of Science Program in Computer Science and Journalism is the first of its kind, according to Shree Nayar, who chairs the computer science department at Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, which offers the program with the Columbia School of Journalism. The university shared the details with Wired.com in advance of the announcement later Wednesday.


Journalism schools have frantically updated their programs in the last decade or so, as it became increasingly clear that traditional, newspaper-oriented skills were no longer enough to prepare students for the real world. But even fluency in broadly defined “multimedia skills” isn’t enough, with coding becoming as crucial to the news business as knowing how to use a computer was a couple of generations ago.


The Columbia program, which will accept its first 15 students (tops) in the Fall of 2011, seeks to attack the barrier between journalists and the increasingly important IT professionals whose web and digital savvy are crucial to any form of news gathering, reporting and delivery. The problem: Users really don’t know what to ask developers for (or how), and developers have no real idea what their software will need to do in the hands of the users.


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