The (dis)connection between journalists and developers?

Image: telegraph_media_group / some rights reserved

Very interesting piece from Poynter on the relationship between programming and journalism – something I’ve been dealing with a lot at the Guardian, of late.

  • News apps challenge longstanding perceptions of who owns technology within a media company.
  • Regardless of who is placed in what department, developers and journalists must be able to collaborate so they can create new tools.
  • News organizations will have to emphasize project management and product development if they hope to compete with digitally-native information companies.
  • News organizations must truly support risk-taking in order to see its rewards.

Amen to that.

**Update: 21/02/11**

I’ve been thinking about the Poynter piece, above, a lot. I keep on coming back to the same two conclusions on what can be done to further aid the essential – but often dysfunctional – relationship between reporters and developers within a newsroom. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Editorial-Tech Matchmakers
Editorial teams are always coming up with good ideas. So are development teams. Often, however, these ideas never get a chance to meet, let alone settle down and have beautiful news babies together. Sometimes, this is because of historical suspicions between the two families. More often, it’s because they don’t hang around in the same places. The editorial idea and the tech idea sit longingly at opposite ends of the same building, like star-crossed lovers. What they need is a matchmaker: someone who knows both families, and can see where the crossovers exist. These news shadchanim flutter around the office poking their noses into everyone’s business, and where appropriate, arrange the first date. Have I extended this metaphor far enough?

• ‘Loose’ developers
Development teams are usually stressed. They have a hell of a lot to do. Site iterations, microapp updates, design tweaks, database population, bug repairs, future-proofing, yadda, yadda. This sometimes makes them difficult to approach. Understandably so. When a developer is working their arse off, few things are as annoying as an wide-eyed editor approaching them with a wooly idea about a new interactive feature they want, involving singing 3D dogs and multi-platform reader interaction, to go with the feature they’re running tomorrow. So, perhaps development teams could try to always have a couple of unassigned developers. Their role is to act as floosies. They’ll do it with anyone. When it’s their turn on the rota, anyone from across the newsroom can approach them with ideas – perhaps this will be the matchmaker, described above, or maybe it will be a wide-eyed editor needing a singing dog interactive. Either way, they have the time and space to be creative.

Disclaimer: I realise that both of the above roles entail employment, in an age of employment freezes and plunging budgets. I also realise that, chances are, they already exist in newsrooms, in various guises. Either way, I’m intrigued to know your thoughts.

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2 responses to “The (dis)connection between journalists and developers?

  1. You make a good point with your topic “Loose developers”. However, more than just having a development team that walks around the office looking for great ideas. Maybe there should be a suggestion box, in which development teams are supposed to look through each week…etc. This allows all employees to always be involved in a project, while also giving them the ability to look at new ideas. In a sense, it might just add responsibility.

  2. You make a good point with your topic “Loose developers”. However, more than just having a development team that walks around the office looking for great ideas. Maybe there should be a suggestion box, in which development teams are supposed to look through each week…etc. This allows all employees to always be involved in a project, while also giving them the ability to look at new ideas. In a sense, it might just add responsibility.

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