The most exciting news in journalism eduction for a long time comes from the Medill j-school at Northwestern University which has got $600,000 from the Knight Foundation for scholarships to attract people with computer programming and development skills.
"Putting the geek into journalism" is how Alfred Hermida neatly put its. He writes: The idea came from Professor Rich Gordon, who recognises that journalism in a digital age needs people who understand both journalism and technology.
This does not necessarily means that every journalist needs to be able to code in Perl or some other computer language. But the industry needs people with an understanding of emerging technologies to develop new forms of journalism.
There will be full scholarships and cash stipends for MA students who will complete the same academic programme as other students on the MA programme. The school says: The first academic quarter is spent learning reporting and storytelling skills in multiple media.
At least one other quarter is spent in Medill’s Chicago newsroom, covering a beat and creating multimedia stories. As part of the program, all of the scholarship recipients will also be enrolled in one of Medill’s innovation projects, in which scholarship winners will have the opportunity to apply their technology skills.
They also will be able to choose among a variety of elective courses. Recently I have been working with some computer undergraduates at the University of Westminster who elected to take part in a very basic introduction to journalism module. The results have been enough to convince me we need a programme like the Medill one on this side of the Atlantic.