By A.J. Feather
There are several skill sets all writers, broadcasters and editors need to have for their day-to-day work - AP Style, the ability to use a specific workflow environment like iNews, an understanding of certain applications like Final Cut Pro and the Adobe Creative Suite, etc.
But no matter how many applications you try and no matter how good your understanding of the English language is, new environments, software and technical issues will come your way. To help you conquer the learning curve, I have made a list of three things I recommend every journalist do.1. Keep up with Tech News
It has almost become cliché to say “Journalism is moving to the web.” Journalists have mastered the art of analytics tracking and how to respond to readers’ wants over the past decade. Sites like BuzzFeed have capitalized on click-bait, while offering what I consider to be solid journalism, especially in the realm of politics. But the migration from print does not stop at the website. The best illustration of this is the tablet.
Apple released the iPad in March 2010 and manufacturers began selling Android tablets about the same time. Within four years, the market has exploded, essentially doubling from 2012 to 2013.
|(Via Pew Research Center)|
Several publications have taken advantage of the new platform. One of my favorite examples is FastCompany, which produces an interactive version of its print publication every month.
The evolution of tech is never-ending.
Earlier this month, Apple released 4,000 new developer APIs that open up even more methods for content delivery. Google is releasing new designs and software updates to Glass every week. And the impending explosion of wearable watch-like devices that do everything from sending news alerts to tracking blood pressure may be just around the corner. So if you haven’t already, it’s time to start paying attention.
This is a list of sources I follow religiously, and I suggest you consider looking at regularly.
- Website: The Verge
- Podcast: This Week in Tech
- Website: WSJ.D
- Website: Re/Code
- Magazine: FastCompany
2. Have an Understanding of What is Going on Behind the Scenes
HTML and CSS are great, and classes available to MU Students that focus on them have been covered on this blog previously, but applications, operating systems and most forms of technology do not run on an HTML or even HTML-like code.
For MU students who still have time, I would recommend taking Computer Science 1050 and Computer Science 2050, as they will introduce you to algorithm and application development. I have taken both of these courses. They can be frustrating and challenging, but they were certainly worth the effort. In addition, Computer Science 3330 becomes available after taking 2050, and it covers object-oriented programming, which is most of what someone would need to know to begin developing mobile and desktop applications.
For those who are out of college or out of credit hours, I recommend Treehouse. I started the iOS development track at the end of the Spring semester, and I have learned A TON in just a few weeks.
Having a general understanding of how applications are built and function has helped me understand and use technology more effectively. My guess is that it can do the same for you.
3. Build Your Own Email Server
|Via Wikimedia Commons / PCL-BO|
Bare with me on this one. The most obvious question is “Why do I need my own server? I have a Gmail address.” But having control over your communication as a journalist is essential, especially when you are working with very important or sensitive information.
Lee Hutchinson from ArsTechnica makes the case for building your own email server:
“Why do battle with arcane dragons to roll your own e-mail solution?
I'll tell you why: because if it's in the cloud, it's not yours.
Because you must rely on others for your security. You have no control over who can read your correspondence—you must allow your data to be mined and your marketing profile extracted. You won't be told if your metadata is collected or if your inbox is vacuumed up by a secret government request. You consent to be not a customer but a product, and a product has no rights.”
Wendy Grossman of the Scientific American says:
“Although someone targeting you for surveillance can still access your Internet traffic, if they want access to your entire archive of email they cannot gain it secretly via a private arrangement with a large company. Someone who wants your data will have to come to you directly.”
And who knows? If your story is big enough, the Justice Department may decide it needs to go through your emails. It would be nice to at the very least know when that happens, so your emails are not being handed over without your knowledge. In the process of building the server, you will also gain a substantial technical know-how that may come in handy later.
Here’s a link to ArsTechnica’s tutorial: