To those of us who design and code in newsrooms, it’s hard not to see this as an exciting and vibrant moment for our field.
Newsroom developers are doing so much interesting, creative work; every day my Twitter feed turns me on to some new project a team has shipped, or an open source library just posted to GitHub.
This awesomeness begs the question: why now?
Great things can happen in organizations when you’re working right at the edge of chaos, places that reward energy and imagination (or at least let it go unpunished). The rennaisance we’re enjoying feels a bit like Deadwood-style lawlessness, with a confluence of factors at work:
- Newsroom devs are flying under the radar and setting their own agendas. When the organization around you don’t quite know what you do all day, you get to spend more time experimenting and trying out crazy ideas. Sometimes developers are in the best position to see - and sieze - big opportunities.
- The news biz is full of interesting problems for developers to solve. Interesting challenges abound for designers and developers right now, and news is one place where they can apply their skills for the public good. As a result, there’s a surprising number of smart, generous, skilled people who actually want to work in newsrooms right now.
- Journalism is generally bereft of project management red tape. With little formal project management discipline in place, small dev teams inside newsrooms put their own lightweight process in place, operating almost like a startup. They can move with agility, experiment, and even fail without catastrophic consequences. (I’m in favor of better project management in newsrooms, but my dismay at how journalism lacks project management is a topic for another blog post.)
I’m sure this doesn’t describe the environment in every news organization, but there’s something that rings true to me about this list. Here’s to this golden age - while it lasts. Ship as much great work as you can. And like Al Swearengen, let’s find a way to keep threading the line between order and chaos, and avoid those who would seek to tame and civilize this beautiful mess.