Journalism needs more nerds

The new issue of Columbia Journalism Review has an interesting article on the rise of “hacker-journalists.”

Back in May 2007, Brian Boyer was just another computer guy short-circuiting from ennui sitting on a friend’s couch, reading blogs. Then he noticed a post on BoingBoing about Northwestern University’s Medill School, which had just announced big scholarships specifically for computer programmers interested in a master’s degree in journalism.

As any good techie would, Boyer Googled “journalism” to learn more about the practice and beliefs of the profession that was courting people just like him.

He was invigorated by what he found: ennobling definitions that described journalism as a way to inform people and help them better self-govern. By January 2008, he was an inaugural member of the program, which was funded by a Knight News Challenge grant and designed to train people who write code to write ledes. The idea: to re-boot the industry’s online presence, which has suffered from lack of talent (and imagination) in producing user-friendly databases and interactive news applications. As Boyer says: “Journalism needs more nerds.”