Programmers wanted … as journalists

Newspapers are looking for computer programmers to work as journalists in America, reports MediaShift, the PBS guide to digital media. It shows how programmers can make a difference to online reporting. For example, Adrian Holovaty created ChicagoCrime.org, a website which feeds police reports into an online database to show the level and nature of crime in each district. You can get the information from the website, on your own newsreader like My Yahoo! or Google Reader, or look it up on Google Maps. A map could be useful to a stranger wanting to know which districts to avoid. The information is updated daily.

Something like that could add value to a news website and it couldn’t be created by traditional journalists. Imagine if The Straits Times or Today newspaper here in Singapore provided information like the time you could catch the last train or bus from Hougang to go to Woodlands on a weekday. It could be done with the help of transport authorities. Newspapers could provide a lot of reader services using variable data which need programming. An American newspaper, for example, created an interactive map showing all the free hotspots in a town where one could surf the Net wirelessly. Readers could update the map by adding spots missed by the newspaper staff.

But why should a newspaper provide such services? Because it’s no longer enough to report what a minister said or what the BBC says. I could get all that on the Internet. And I don’t even have to surf the Net. I could get all the headlines in one place, on a personal news reader like My Yahoo! or Google Reader.

Ministers’ speeches delivered to home PCs

Here in Singapore you could even get ministers’ speeches delivered direct to your home computer, unedited by any newspaper, radio or television journalist. Just visit the Singapore government website and click the RSS button. Or open your newsreader and type in the URL — http://www.gov.sg/rss.xml.

The question is, do you want to? Obviously, some do. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be there.

The Internet is adding so many possibilities that newspapers have to change too. It’s no longer enough to cover just the day’s news. By the time the newspaper comes out in print, it’s already old news.

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