Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

The news dev pipeline problem

Two weeks ago, Stijn Debrouwere wrote A Culture of Coders, about how programming has become easier and everyone, in any industry, can benefit from learning how.

“Imagine what the world could look like if basic computer literacy isn’t reading email but writing code.”

This post sparked a conversation on Twitter about how hard it is for news organizations to find the right people for news developer jobs. (Also known as the programmer/journalist and half a dozen other titles.)

Michelle Minkoff made a really important point:

“More entry points in news orgs for those beginning this type of work. Yes, there are a lot of openings right now. But as someone fairly new, how do I get from “aspiring coder” or “learning Django” to “Yes, I can be your solo/one of two/three programmers”? Where’s the middle step? Or…how do I find the job where I can use most of my code to tell stories as opposed to Web/system administration? How do I find the job where I don’t switch from being a journalist to a Web developer because I’m inspired by these projects, but I use Web development to practice journalism and can get continued mentoring on journalism and programming sides so I can keep getting smarter? IMO, we don’t have enough of those.”

In other words, the pipeline problem is that there is no pipeline.

A lot of solutions to this pipeline problem were suggested:

  • mentorships
  • workshops
  • school programs
  • compiling learning resources
  • Medill
  • internships
  • demystify the job

After a couple of days, the conversation died out. Part of the purpose of this post is to try to get it started again. (A good discussion started up here.)

The other part is this:

That conversation hit home. Hard.

Because I feel like I was on track for one of these jobs when I graduated from college three years ago. I had the passion, the determination, I was learning the skills, I had some pretty good connections and mentors.

Then I moved to New York. The economy and the industry spun out of control. I needed any job I could get to pay rent. And this is where my life spun off the track I could see, pointing to the job I wanted, and off into the wilderness.

I’m still passionate and determined. Still teaching myself the skills I need to get where I want to go. But I’ve realized that on my own, that isn’t going to be enough. I need help. I need advice on choosing jobs that will get me where I want to be. I need help promoting myself and my skills. I need support in my continuing education. Mentors, teachers, employers, and those of you already doing this: Can I get a hand?

August 8, 2011 | Comments Off on The news dev pipeline problem | Categories: Posts | Permalink

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