Columbia University will soon offer a new dual masters degree in journalism and engineering, with the goal of cranking out more programmer-journalists, Wired reported yesterday.
This is good. It builds on the success of Medill's Knight-funded experiment offering scholarships to software developers to learn journalism. That's to be lauded.
But... (you knew there was a "but" coming)
Those getting dual degrees shouldn't be the only journalists hanging out with computer scientists. The problem isn't just a lack of reporters who can code, but a shortage of people in the newsroom who know what's possible.
I'm skeptical of graduate programs generally, in part because I'm a programmer journalist without any formal degree in programming or journalism. Maybe I'm an oddity, but (professionally, at least) I don't think I'm that odd. Picking up extra skills on the job (or between jobs) isn't outside the traditions of journalism, and there's no reason technical skills should be viewed differently from writing, photography or multimedia.
So, yes to dual-degree programs. Yes to mixing computer science and social science. But don't let lack of an engineering degree (or the fact that one exists) stop you from learning to code.
Looking for a place to start? Here's what you should know. Get to it.