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Why Journalists Should Pay Attention to Knight-Mozilla OpenNews’ Source

Here at 10,000 Words, we’ve written about why developers should work in the newsroom, we’ve told you why journalists should learn to code, and we’ve also shared tools journalists can access to start coding.

While there are plenty of reasons to why journalists should gain some coding skills – it makes you a stronger digital journalist, you can fix things that break on your site, you can create projects without always going to the time-deprived developers, and so on – many journalists don’t see a real need to get their hands dirty in some code.

Well this week, the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project team has provided journalists everywhere with a lot of motivation to start coding with the launch of its journalism code sharing site, Source.

According to the site’s About page, the project is “dedicated to amplifying the impact of journalism code and the community of developers, designers, journalists, and editors who make it.”

In a recent interview with Journalism.co.uk, Dan Sinker, who heads up the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project, said:

“While the community of people writing all this code is vibrant, it also has existed on the margins. At Source, we wanted to shine a spotlight on both the code and the community.”

And shine a spotlight they do. Source provides users with the ability to easily search its index of newsdev source code as well as look up the developers and organizations who have contributed work to the community.

Where I think most journalists will get the greatest benefit, though, is getting some background information on how some of these projects were put together, from the initial idea to site implementation. For example, The Washington Post’s recent interactive app, Homicides in the District, is recapped in a piece today on Source which chronicles how the data were collected and how the app was built. There’s also a great Q&A with ProPublica members who were part of the Free the Files project.

Overall, what I think Source is going to do, beyond giving a voice to those developers creating awesome journalism projects, is to motivate a new generation of journalists to start doing some coding early on – and hopefully motivate current journalists to stop thinking about whether to start learning to code or not and just start building.

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