By David McKie
There has been a lot of distressing talk about the slow but sure death of journalism as we know it. With each passing week, there is news of yet another newspaper scaling back traditional content delivery and migrating much of that content to the Internet. In this space earlier this month, I introduced Kelly Toughill’s piece about some of the leading research into journalism’s foray into the digital universe, a space that has been likened to the wild, wild West.
Among all the uncertainty, there is a sliver of good news that we, and especially journalism schools, should pay attention to: The emergence of a market for a new breed of journalists who combine programming, computer-assisted or data journalism skills, and, for lack of a better term, low-tech and old fashioned shoe-leather journalism of working the phones, conducting solid research, writing coherent stories and getting it right. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching students who possess this unique combination of skills. And they will have jobs for the foreseeable future.
The recent U.S. conference of the National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting this spring was the largest ever, featuring a job board that was so large that even organizers were surprised. Anyone who belongs to the NICAR listserv knows that job postings are becoming more frequent.
Here in Canada, The Globe and Mail, Global, the CBC, the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, and other outlets have journalists using these skills to produce interesting work that will be featured in the upcoming edition of Media.
I was at a gathering earlier this month in San Francisco called the Logan Symposium where a journalist from the Pulitzer-prize winning, non-profit online newsroom called Propublica made a pitch for more data journalism in a talk that I wished had lasted longer. A student at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, which hosted the symposium, argued in a blog that there is a disconnect between what schools are teaching and the data journalism emerging skills that a growing number of employers are seeking.
I’ve chosen to run Glen McGregor’s article, in large part, because he exemplifies this hybrid that combines computer programming skills with the old fashion ones. Glen uses many of these skills to tell original stories, including the one he discusses in his column in the upcoming Media magazine. If you ever wondered how he ended up telling the story that combined navigable waters, federal Conservative ridings and the playgrounds of the rich and famous, like actress Goldie Hawn, then please keep reading.
Glen will also be part of a team -- comprised of yours truly; Fred Vallance-Jones, who teaches data and investigative journalism at University of King’s College; and Karen Li, ESRI Canada’s technical solutions specialist -- that will be offering a data journalism workshop at Carleton University on the weekend of May 4 as part of the Canadian Association of Journalists’ annual conference. There’s still room, but I wouldn’t delay because it’s filling up fast.
In the meantime, enjoy Glen’s article.
Protecting playgrounds for the rich: The Conservative government’s omnibus budget bill gave “cottages” in certain Conservative ridings special treatment
By Glen McGregor, for Media Magazine
The Conservative government angered environmentalists last fall when it introduced changes to a law that protects lakes and rivers from development. The Navigable Waters Protection Act is one of the oldest statutes in the country
The law required federal approval for construction on any body of water large enough to float a canoe. Changes to it were introduced with some stealth through the federal omnibus budget bill.
The government argued that the law needlessly constrained development of small projects like bridges or docks by wrapping them up in federal paperwork. Environmentalists charged that the rescinding the key provisions of the law effectively shed a key level of environmental protection for Canadian lakes and rivers.