Journalism Needs Geeks

The interesting aspect of the coverage of last week’s Lamont victory/Lieberman loss centered on the mysteriously disappearing Lieberman web site. Last Tuesday, the Times’ Empire Zone blog picked up the “hacking” story from TPM Muckraker blogger-reporter Justin Rood. (Here’s a summary of TPM-M’s recent Lieberman reporting.) Greg Sargent wonders if the media is going to cover the hack story all the way through.

But do the news media have the techie chops to cover a hacking story? I am reminded of recent comments by Chicagocrime.org creator Adrian Holovaty in an interview with AJR

OJR: What ought news organizations do to encourage tech innovation from their staffs?

Holovaty: Hire programmers! It all starts with the people, really. If you want innovation, hire people who are capable of it. Hire people who know what’s possible.

And once you hire the programmers, give them an environment in which they can be creative. Treat them as bona fide members of the journalism team — not as IT robots who just do what you tell them to do.

In the comments to the article, Adrian suggests How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python. From the first chapter:

The single most important skill for a computer scientist is problem solving. Problem solving means the ability to formulate problems, think creatively about solutions, and express a solution clearly and accurately.

Which brings to mind the other big story of last week. To what degree are the media “thinking creatively about solutions” when discussing the GWOT– as James Fallows does in his Declaring Victory piece in the Atlantic Monthly? Or are we, as Chris Lydon suggested in his show last Wendesday, stuck in a rut, repeating the same things over and over? As that beloved “wanker” Jarvis asks, again:

I am eager to hear the winning strategy in Iraq and the Middle East — and I do not count leaving alone as a strategy — and the winning strategy against terrorism and Islamic totalitarianism. Democrats attacking Democrats will not win elections. Democrats attacking Republicans will not rule the nation.

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