‘Are you studying IT?’

Rough draft of my most recent story for PBS Idea Lab, complete with handwritten HTML

Rough draft of my most recent story for PBS Idea Lab, complete with handwritten HTML

That’s what one passenger asked me on my most recent interstate bus trip. I don’t consider myself an IT specialist, but I’m honored by the misunderstanding.

I traveled often this summer, back and forth to my home in D.C. and spending time with family in New Jersey and New York City. On this particular bus ride, I was on deadline for a story on the Knight Foundation News Challenge’s #OpenGov grant winners.

I usually write my stories for PBS¬†directly in our content management system so I can format the story with pictures and links as I’m writing the content.

It’s a lot easier than the alternative, which is handwriting all of the basic formatting code in HTML (bold,¬†italicized, links, video embeds, etc.) But Internet was unreliable on that bus, so writing the story along with the code in plain text made more sense.

A year or so ago, that would have been inconceivable for me. I’m no Luddite, but I’m certainly not a tech genius. I still don’t consider myself fluent in code. But from my time in classes at AU, internships and at The Eagle has slowly taught me some basics.

In fact, every single internship I’ve ever had has require that I produce my own stories online.

Those online skills, rudimentary as they might be, have been a huge boon for me. I work in an industry that requires digital literacy, and I’m happy that I have started that path. I’ve also gotten some practice in audio editing from my work in Latin Pulse, and all of those help me become a better journalist.

And code, like any language, is one best learned by practice, not in lectures. In this regard, the value of hands-on education in this regard, whether on the newsroom, in the classroom, or on a bus, cannot be overstated.