The journalist & developer relationship (or why I’m in Cambridge right now)

Me in front of the great dome at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Photo: Jeff DelViscio

We all know about programmers doing software and makers doing hardware. But last week at the MIT Media Lab I was in passing also introduced to the growers doing wetware. People in the building are working on stuff like brain computer interfaces and even growing computers. Everything feels like a mad lab 20 years into the future.

The short visit to the Media Lab blew my mind several times and convinced me that I was at the perfect place.

I will spend the next two semesters at Massachusetts Institute of Technology doing my Knight Science Journalism Fellowship. I still can’t believe I am actually being paid to spend a year getting smarter at the best technical university in the world. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Especially for me.

The Knight Fellows visiting The Media Lab. Photo: Jeff DelViscio

I have written about technology and worked with developers redesigning our website and news app. When I got on the plane from Copenhagen I took a leave of absence from the Editorial Development Team at TV 2 Denmark. A small motley crew of developers, a 3D graphics artist, an illustrator and me, the journalist. I like to think of it as a producing innovation lab. It’s the most fun, creative and always-evolving place to be in Danish news.

But I have also come to a point in my career where it is obvious that I need to do something radical to take the next big leap in this direction. I think diving into the intersection of journalism and technology here in Cambridge might be just that.

Because we need to get smarter to stay relevant, to stay alive.

Technology offers one of the brightest beams of light at the end of the tunnel for the current state of news media. Because journalism is no longer just words and images. Code is just as important.

However, as matching up journalists and developers can result in an epic love story it can also be a complicated relationship. We speak different languages and use incompatible workflows. So how do we make it work?

This is one of the things I want to explore while in Cambridge. I want to learn how we can move from idea to impact and show how we can win by cross-pollinating our fields of expertise.

Why are computers so much better at recognizing white faces? That is just one of the many questions the Media Lab is working on right now. Photo: Jeff DelViscio

The MIT Media Lab is an obvious place to explore the dynamics of interdisciplinary collaboration and get a feel of the technologies of tomorrow. I have already planned doing classes there as well as several other classes in innovation, but meeting the students and faculty at the informal open lab meetings and brown bag lunches at the Media Lab might prove to be just as enlightening.

On top of that I have a bunch of scientific seminars and workshops at the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship headquarter. My brilliant girlfriend, Christina, is also doing a Nieman Journalism Fellowship at Harvard at the same time, so I will be spending a lot of time there too.

Exciting times. I will try to share as much as possible right here.