a cirriculum for Journalists in geek

Geek training for Journalists, that is how I have been describing it.

In July 2011 I ran a one day course at The Frontline Club, a basic introduction to the web, how it basically works, what HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP are and how to recognise them. How to look at, say an HTML document and begin to take it apart to understand what it was doing.

It was very basic level but for the audience that was what they needed. At the end of the day the feedback was that they were no longer afraid of looking at said pages, or even with experimenting with mark-up. To me that was a success.

I am now planning the next course, again one day this time August 20th (they are both Saturday courses). This time, based on further feedback we are going to go through how to get up and running with WordPress, hosted versions as well as install your own. How to use plugins and how to change the look and feel of the site.  Hopefully it will be as well received as the last course.

In the meantime though, it is time to pull this together, what is the cirriculum for training Journalists in the tools and medium of the internet?

There are fundamentals, how the Internet works, smarts at each end and a relatively ‘dumb’ network inbetween. How anyone can write a client, how you do not have full control over the use/consumption of material on the internet.

There are the basic building blocks, HTML/CSS are vital but so is some understanding of code. You don’t need to be able to code in C/C++ or similar but being able to use a scripting language is going to be of great use.

You can then get into areas of interest I guess. Are you interested in publishing / curation? Then CMS/Blogging platforms might be the tool set you are interested in. Maybe you want to exlpore large data sets or produce visualisations. Maybe its how to make, edit and publish video onto online platforms or maybe its how to work with community sourced leads and information.

Each of these areas can lead you off into a whole rabbit hole of new learning and experimenting and exploring.

So, for both the Frontline Club and Hacks/Hackers London I thought I would try and compile this starting point, I think we need to make a resource, probably helped by both communities that we can point to. Some will be taught courses but I can’t teach everything and some of it is stuff I want to learn about.

To start though we can look at the work that is being done for the two new MA/MSc courses at Goldsmiths, in Digital Journalism and Creating Social Media. They have created a Digital Boot Camp run over three weeks to get all students up to speed on the key digital tools and building blocks that they are going to need for their courses.

All new students of journalism are going to be using these, to be taught some of these but for those already working in the industry its another set of skills to acquire or at least understand.

So let us begin:

The Building Blocks:

  • How the Internet works – TCP/IP, Packets, DNS, Server / Client model
  • Web Servers & Web Browsers
  • HTML / CSS
  • Programming
  • JavaScript / DOM / AJAX
  • Server Side Scripting PHP, Python, Perl
  • Databases SQL

Tools and Services:

  • WordPress
  • CMS / Publishing platforms
  • Video publishing Vimeo/YouTube
  • Social Media Tools
  • Data Tools
  • Mapping Tools

Other Topics

  • Security
  • TOR
  • Encryption
  • System design
  • Community development

We could look at tools out there like the tools built by mySociety.org, platforms such as Ushahidi and SwiftRiver, ScraperWiki and DocumentCloud.

There are many other tools that can be used to drill down further into these subject areas, specific tools for manipulating large data sets or even just gathering them, tools for analysing documents or tools to markup video and audio with extra metadata. If you know of something that you think should be included in such a curriculum, or some resource that would be good to point someone too as a way to learn more about it then please add it to the comments.