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Ask HN: How do I get programmers into the college newsroom?
15 points by mgerring on Nov 30, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments
I'm going to be the sole web developer at my college newspaper (or "media organization" if that suits your fancy) at San Jose State next semester.

We have an existing website, but it has scaling issues and is just kind of sub-par overall. My editors are looking at going to an outsourced solution that we can't contribute any code to, that basically reduces our responsibilities to drag/drop/copy/paste, with no room for innovation.

It's a drag, because YCombinator is looking for news startups, and there's a huge opportunity to do cool stuff with journalism and tech if we can only get CS and CmpE students interested enough to come work on the paper.

What would entice you, as a developer, to come work in a newsroom? What should I say to CmpE/CS students either in person or on a flyer, or something?

And, more to the point, are there any SJSU students here that are interested? The possibilities are wide open, and we could make some seriously amazing stuff alongside some incredibly talented (though technologically lacking) people.




Treat them like you treat your reporters.

Partner them one on one with a reporter to create one off stories.

Young programmers dream big, find a way to limit them, have them complete something in a week.

Not all people who know how to program work in the CS dept. Cultivate those already on your staff who show an intrest in programming.


We used to have this problem at the Minnesota Daily, the U's paper of 40,000 daily print circulation, and found 4 strong sources for hiring. 1) Craigslist 2) Talk to the CS profs and ask to promote your on-site event with free pizza to get feedback on what should be done with the papers site. 3) Talk about the pay, despite objections to keep it hush hush. The recruits need to know they're getting paid a decent amount, like $11/hr (which is still fair for on-campus work with flexible hours) 4) Find alumni to talk about the experience and how that was worth more than the pay.

If you have questions, ping the active staff at the Daily - they're always open to sharing ideas.


Why do you think Craigslist was particularly effective, and how did you convince management to pay $11/hour?


Craigslist is effective because the programmers on campus (just like the HR professionals or people in finance) don't think about the college paper as a place where people other than writers are looking. College coders are looking for gigs on Craigslist to fill their free-time, simply because they probably don't know there's an opportunity at your paper.

Regarding talking to management, have them find out what the board members are paying their coders and have them call other college papers in the circuit to find out what the average is (and tell them to compare the rates they hear to the quality of the site). Its one of the beautiful things that I miss about the college paper world - other college papers aren't competitors, they're colleagues and welcome inter-paper exchanges.


Let them work on more interesting problems. The InfoLab at Northwestern had cooperation between the EECS department and the journalism school and managed to build a system called Stats Monkey which wrote automated stories when given a sports data set. Ends up working so well that it's spun off into a startup.

http://infolab.northwestern.edu/projects/stats-monkey/

http://narrativescience.com/


I'd look to the Django community for examples of what hackers are doing in the field--that's been their bread and butter.

LJ World, lots of stuff at Washington Post, Washington Times, EveryBlock (who received a Knight Foundation grant and was acquired by msnbc), "open data/hacking government" by Sunlight Foundation and others, PBS, etc.

I'd think this would interest young developers: lots of things to dig into, your work is seen and has an immediate impact, hone your skills "with deadlines" and it beats working on the intranet.


Find a great designer. Great design can convince your editors to keep the solution in house. Great design can attract talented developers.


Free pizza. Never fails.




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