Cardiff University is to introduce a new Computational Journalism Master's degree in September in a bid to supply the industry more journalists with coding abilities – so-called 'journo-coders'.
The idea for the course, which was announced yesterday, resulted from discussions with "various people in digital journalism", Richard Sambrook, professor of journalism at the university, and previously the BBC's director of global news, told Journalism.co.uk.
The individuals he spoke to indicated that they would "love to be able to get more graduates" with both skill sets entering the industry, he said, adding that the move to introduce the Masters was "reinforced by what we're seeing in the States", with some US colleges having already launched degrees focused on both computing and journalism training.
The question of whether coding is necessary for all journalists formed part of the conversation in Journalism.co.uk's latest podcast on key digital skills for new journalists, where those we spoke to in the digital journalism industry reached a similar conclusion to Sambrook, that there is no "right or wrong", but that for those who have it, it can open more doors.
"The answer is some should learn how to code," he said, while others do not need to. But he added there is a "new area of expertise opening up that combines these skills".
He said there are "lots of examples of news organisations needing to be able to combine both editorial skill and technical know-how", which means additional employment potential for those who carry such skills.
This area "doesn't replace traditional journalism", he added, "but there is a market now for people able to code and understand core principles of journalism as well."
And for those with an entrepreneurial edge, gaining such skills can support their quest to explore new ideas or ventures, he added, as "the industry is wide open to that at the moment".
It is worth noting that other universities in the UK do already offer students the chance to gain coding and data journalism skills within digital and online journalism degrees, and feature collaborations between computing and journalism schools.
Cardiff's course, which places a focus on computing skills, alongside journalism, throughout the syllabus, will begin by covering the "foundation skills" in both journalism and coding, Sambrook explained, bringing together the expertise of the university's existing journalism and computer science schools.
On the coding side this will mean learning the basics of computing languages like Python, he said, and "web app development", while on the journalism side it will see students taught the essentials, including media law.
As the year progresses the students will also be taught "how to use digital and computational skills to do investigative journalism", with a choice of different "specialised options".
The course concludes with students either creating an "extended piece of digital data journalism" or other digital project, he said, that "brings both journalism and computing skills together", backed up with a written dissertation.
Update: This article was updated to clarify that other digital and online journalism degree courses also feature collaborations between computing and journalism schools.
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