Saturday, August 27, 2016

The news graphics designer skill set

I continue working on the-project-that-must-not-be-named. I'm currently analyzing several interviews with news graphics professionals and I keep finding many quotes worth saving. Here's Washington Post's Kat Downs on the skills she looks for when hiring for her department:
“Our team is really multidisciplinary, a lot of our projects are team projects. There are fundamentally three skill sets that I am looking for when I hire people. One is reporting, a storytelling skill set. Another is design and that would include things like data visualization, or drawing skill, illustrating skill, modeling skill, strong aesthetic or UI design skill. And the last would be development skill, so that would include data analysis, front end development, full stack development. Typically all of our hires have two and sometimes three of those skill sets. But maybe one is their main and then they’ve got a second or third, but those are the main things that we are looking for. So we have across the team based on that artists, designers who are very focused on usability, visual design, reporters, data focused reporters, developers from junior to people with CS degrees who are extremely, extremely competent, sort of groundbreaking computer science people.”
Take note, students —and professors.

And this a portion of the raw transcript of the interview with NPR's Brian Boyer, a journalist who has a background in computer science. It made me cheer out loud several times (my kids are witnesses):

“I think that, yeah, if you want a journalist who's an experienced software developer but a novice reporter, yeah, teach your programmer how to be a reporter. I'm certainly not going to claim that I'm a great reporter, and I'm still learning about being a pretty good editor. But I would say that I believe the Computer Science —fuck Computer Science, right? I have a four-year degree that is not actually that useful at our day-to-day work. The kind of software that we're building in these rooms, the kind of software that most people are building as consultants, or working for PricewaterhouseCoopers, working for IBM, working for Facebook, —. there's a small subset of people who are doing hard computer science problems, but the vast majority of us are writing code to make webpages, and writing code to make webpages is not that hard. There are certainly some learning curves. There's some bumps in the road you've got to get over, but I really, truly believe that coding is something that anyone can do with practice.  
The analogy I use is it's like learning to cook, right? Anyone can make themselves a grilled cheese sandwich. Anyone can make themselves macaroni and cheese for dinner, and most of the programming we do is macaroni and cheese. Now, there's a certain subset of people who are obsessed with food or obsessed with programming, and then go on and they learn to do much more complicated things, but the difference between you and I and a great chef, is there's a little bit of inspiration, but it's mostly practice. It's mostly just doing it over and over and over again, and that's how you become a great chef. It helps to have good taste, but that's how you become a great chef, and that's how you become a good programmer.  
There's a lot of words we use in the software world like "wizard," and "ninja," and "rock star," and "unicorn," and all those fucking words are bullshit. They create a notion that this kind of work is magic, that it can only be conducted by freaks, and that you don't disturb the programmers; they're special. And that's horse shit. It's not magic. It's just practice, and when we use words like that, we further the idea, we promote the idea that this is fundamentally different than other work that only certain people can do, and that is bad for the field. That's bad for journalism. It keeps people out, and we shouldn't use words like that because we shouldn't be keeping people out. We should be as inclusive as possible. All right. That's my soapbox speech. I think it's really important.”