08:39 AM

Journalists need to learn to speak some geek. . .

. . .and learn to type

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Acronym_Toolbox.jpgJournalists have had it far too easy, for far too long, compared with the geek professionals--especially those involved in coding, scripting and building online sites.

In those professions you have to upgrade your skills constantly. There's an astounding number of alphabet-soup technology acronyms that you need in your toolkit.

Five or six years ago web site developers just needed to know HTML tags and some simple applications and tools.

Today they need to know HTML, XML, PHP, PERL, MySQL, Linux, Flash, Javascript, and CSS. And also be a master of sophisticated applications such as DreamWeaver, Movable Type, Illustrator, PhotoShop, plus they had had better have a good understanding of the underlying business processes.

Yet journalists barely know how to type, or even how to spell (v. true believe it or not).

Most journalists don't know a lick of HTML or even much about their software and hardware beyond the basics familiar to a 10-year-old.

That's going to have to change as the print/broadcast world, on which journalism was been built, becomes a mostly online mediasphere (I include the blogosphere in this;-).

Journalists are going to have to learn to speak some geek, because increasingly, they will not only be researching and writing, but also producing and editing and publishing online too.

Yes, journalists are very skilled, despite barely knowing how to operate a keyboard. They know how to tell stories, how to research, how to interview, how to structure ideas, how to communicate complex concepts, to ask the right questions. And, they have the essential skill of being able to sniff out a story.

These, and the many other skills journalists have, are extremely valuable, and they take time to develop. It's a skill set that cannot be easily or quickly learned (or outsourced).

Dump your word processor

My recommendation to fellow journalists preparing for the new world is to dump your word processor.

Microsoft Word and the others, were created to format printed pages and they litter your copy with invisible control characters that need to be stripped out for online publishing.

You should be using a HTML text editor--it produces clean copy and it enables you to embed links and scripts.

I really like EditPlus, and for online research and note taking I really like EverNote Plus.