Doubt quickly took over me when the "Build Your First News App" session kicked off Friday morning of the CAR Conference.
During the six-hour class — split into two three-hour seminars — Derek Willis from ProPublica and Ben Welsh from the Los Angeles Times guided the group through the process of building a website about the victims of the 1992 LA riots. I'd been assigned to write a first-person blog post about the session, and I was excited to get started.
Some class attendees had some experience with web development and others were coding novices. I was among the latter group. So, upon hearing phrases such as "command line" and "terminal," I thought about packing up my stuff, leaving the room and telling IRE: "I can't do this. I think I accidentally signed up for a session that deals with concepts way beyond my skill level. This is going to go way over my head."
Although I've been doing journalism for about three years, I first delved into computer-assisted reporting and web concepts only a few months ago. Quite honestly, I was terrified of not being able to keep up with the class.
But Derek and Ben quickly assuaged my fears with their coding metaphors and jokes about living a “Pythonic” life. Ben, an editor of the Los Angeles Times Data Desk, compared the virtual environment where our code would reside with a Tupperware container, eliciting a few laughs from the group. He later likened the directories, folders and repositories we would use to a Russian doll, again making the group giggle. My anxiety dissipated, the adrenaline kicked in, and I got working. Here’s the result of our six-hour session, and here are some of the lessons I learned along the way:
Daniela Sirtori-Cortina is an Assistant City Editor at the Columbia Missourian helping coordinate state government coverage. Politics is her favorite sport.
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