Newsroom developer? Why? Journalism matters and it is in crisis is why.

I care deeply about journalism and it is in crisis. Journalism matters. The free press is important to a functioning democracy. Journalism has the power to change the world. There are few moments in time more innovative, entrepreneurial and exciting than right now in the news industry.

It amazes me how often I find myself talking about journalism's design problem and that technologists are struggling to understand why the digital transition has been so painful for newspapers and magazines. Technologists are winning at media technology innovation, but they do not understand "Journalism" … And — this part is terrifying — most journalists barely understand how the Internet works, let alone how to get the most out of storytelling on the web.

We can fix this. We need more media professionals skilled in both editorial and web; infusing technologists into our traditional newsrooms can help get us there.

Working as a programmer or web developer in newsrooms has its own unique set of challenges, sure, however those in the trenches often remark about how much they enjoy the work. If you’d like to hear from the professionals in their own words, last year, Dan Sinker conducted some short interviews with news application developers at The New York Times and ProPublica about why they enjoy this work. Watch.

Where are the newsroom development opportunities?

A couple of years ago, Matt Waite started a public Google spreadsheet that lists currently available news developer gigs, links to applications and contacts. I am pretty sure that the details are up-to-date and there are tons of jobs with more and more added each day.

Earlier this year, the Washington Post and Medill School announced a partnership to offer programmers scholarships to study journalism at the school. The hope is that those programmers will eventually bring their technical skills to news organizations around the country. The Washington Post will assist the Knight Foundation — which helped originally fund the program — in paying for the education of three scholars over a three-year period. After graduating, the scholars will work a paid internship with the Post’s tech team. If you have questions about the scholarship program, please contact Rich Gordon at richgor@northwestern.edu.


Currently, the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project is taking applications for the third year of the Knight-Mozilla Fellowships. The fellowship places developers and technologists with news organizations for 10 months of hacking, experimenting, and building new open-source tools for journalism. If this piques your interest, you should definitely apply. The application is pretty simple with only five questions and links to your work. They are accepting applications until August 17.

Finally the following are not currently open for applications but still good to know about:

  • Google Journalism Fellowship is giving undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to spend the summer contributing to a variety of news organizations with a focus on data driven journalism, online free expression and rethinking the business of journalism.
  • Dow Jones technology summer internship is for undergraduate students studying computer science and engineering.
  • Nieman Foundation offers visiting fellowships for publishers, programmers, web designers, media analysts, academics, journalists and others to work on special projects designed to advance journalism.

About the author

Miranda Mulligan

Executive Director, 2012-2014

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