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Computational journalism in the UK newsroom

Hannaford, Liz (2015) Computational journalism in the UK newsroom. Journalism Education, 4. ISSN 2050-3903

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Abstract

As new forms of multimedia, data-driven storytelling are produced by news organisations around the world, programming skills are increasingly required in newsrooms to conduct data analysis and create interactive tools and news apps. This has prompted some universities to combine journalism courses with computer skills and there is much hype about the emergence of hybrid programmer-journalists, journo-coders, journo-devs who are equally proficient writing code and copy. To date, most of the academic research into computational journalism in the newsroom has been restricted to the United States where studies suggest a model whereby the roles of journalist and programmer are merged. There is, therefore, a need to identify the extent to which this organisational model is replicated in newsrooms in other parts of the world. This paper is an exploratory study into two news organisations in the UK – the BBC and the Financial Times – to investigate the extent to which journalism skills and programming skills are being combined and the different professional identities being created. This study finds that the journalists and programmers are considered as two distinct professions and the idea of a hybrid role is rejected by the newsroom staff interviewed. A new model is identified in the newsroom whereby teams consisting of journalists, programmers and designers work closely together on interactive, data-driven projects. These findings are valuable to journalism educators in that they identify the technical skills and attitudes required by journalists working on innovative storytelling formats.

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