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Why should developers work in the newsroom? NYT and ProPublica coders explain

Newsrooms can be stressful places, full of strong personalities, short deadlines and an insatiable news hole. For reporters and editors, they’re stressful for another reason: The on-going uncertainty of when the fun may end and their ride on the journalism merry-go-round will stop while they join the queue of former journalists vying for fewer and fewer news jobs.

Meanwhile, software developers can often have their pick of locations and a plethora of job opportunities to go after. Their skills are in demand in many industries. So why should they bother to take their talents to a corner of the development industry where so often the “developing story” is about its own struggles or layoffs?

Besides the obvious — we need help to make cool news apps to compliment and help build on our stories! — Dan Sinker at PBS MediaShift Idea Lab tracked down six developers working in the news business to get their take on why they wanted to code in the newsroom.

It turns out they’re drawn for similar reasons as the writers and editors: the unpredictable, deadline-driven development atmosphere is fun, and there’s the opportunity to help tell the story and make news and data more meaningful.

I really loved the developers take on how the deadline-driven, shortened release cycle compares to traditional software development and how the unique and useful data news agencies use make it interesting. In particular, I really liked the way Jeff Larson at ProPublica put it: “Everybody gets to create their own story. That’s the most important thing. … We’re making individual stories for every single person that comes to our site based on the data that we put online.”

At The New York Times he talked to Jeremy Ashkenas, Tiff Fehr and David Nolen; and from ProPublica he spoke with Jeff Larson, Al Shaw and Krista Kjellman Schmidt.

To watch the rest of the interviews, go to PBS MediaShift Idea Lab post.

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