Journalism Programming: Supply and Demand

July 11th, 2008; 9:21 am by Ryan Thornburg

One of the reasons I’m so struck that online journalists in North Carolina have such an emphasis on traditional skills and duties is that it starkly contrasts with the skills I hear editors at top national sites tell me that they are looking for in recent j-school grads. The Knight Foundation believes that programmers are in such high demand in newsrooms today that they gave Northwestern $638,000 to fund nine full-ride scholarships for programmers who want to get a master’s degree in journalism at Medill.

One of the scholarship recipients, Brian Boyer, writes about his career prospects over at the MediaShift blog.

Listed below are the job titles he thinks are available to him. He’s most interested in becoming a “applications developer” or a “hacker journalist.” Are any of these jobs available in North Carolina?

  • CMS developer
  • CMS implementor
  • Web producer
  • Applications developer
  • hunter, gatherer and data-miner
  • visualizations developer
  • new media translator
  • hacker journalist

But with the average salary for a new graduate with a BS in computer science at nearly $60,000 and the average salary for a starting journalist at about $32,000, any programmer who takes a job in journalism is definitely worth his or her own story.

The good news is that many of them are telling their own stories. One of the most inspiring discoveries I’ve made in the last year is the number of very young journalists who have blogs that are generally bullish on the future of news.

A few of my favorites:

  • Shannan Bowen, Wilmington Star-News, UNC grad, 2006. She wants to know how to avoid burn out and is looking to compile a list of innovative journalists that will inspire young people.
  • Jessica DaSilva, University of Florida, 2009. Her post on the recent reorganization of the Tampa Tribune newsroom where she is interning elicited 213 comments on her blog as well as a firestorm of comment on other journalism blogs.
  • Brian Boyer, Northwestern, MA expected in 2009. One of two programmers who got a full-ride to study journalism. He’s looking for the right job description.
  • Ryan Sholin, San Jose State University, MS expected in 2008. Sholin is leading a growing movement among young (and older) journalists by exhorting them to declare their independence from the curmudgeon tribe.

If you’ve graduated from college in the last five years and turned down a higher salary to stay/become a journalist, please e-mail me. I’d like to examine your head interview you.

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One Response to “Journalism Programming: Supply and Demand”

  1. Brian Boyer Says:

    Thanks for the props, Ryan!

    Though I’m definitely not in this game for the money, you’re right, I’m quite optimistic about the future of news — though not necessarily the future of existing news organizations.

    I believe that journalism is safe and sound on the web, but only the most savvy newspapers will make the transition intact. (Ditto TV news.)

    One thing is for certain tho: journalism needs more nerds. My comrade Ryan Mark ( and I are having a blast thinking about what comes next.

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