The programmer as journalist

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

This is an interesting article with Adrian Holovaty of the Washington Post about the intersection of programming and journalism, an intersection I often find myself exploring.

The way I see it, there are three basic tasks that journalists do:

1. Gathering information. This involves talking to sources, examining documents, taking photographs, etc. It’s reporting.

2. Distilling information. This involves applying editorial judgment to decide what parts of the gathered information are important and relevant.

3. Presenting information. This involves shaping the distilled information into a format that is accessible to the readership. Some examples: writing style (inverted pyramid, etc.), photo color-correction, newspaper page design.

“Doing journalism through computer programming” is just a different way of accomplishing these goals. Namely, the technique favors automation wherever possible.

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