What A Difference A Year Makes

OpenNews Fellows 2012. From left: Mark Boas (Al Jazeera), Cole Gillespie (Zeit Online), Nicola Hughes (The Guardian), Dan Shultz (Boston Globe), and Laurian Gridinoc (BBC)

OpenNews Fellows 2012. From left: Mark Boas (Al Jazeera), Cole Gillespie (Zeit Online), Nicola Hughes (The Guardian), Dan Shultz (Boston Globe), and Laurian Gridinoc (BBC)

Now that the OpenNews fellowship programme is beginning to recruit the third round of fellows, I thought it ripe to reflect on my time as a fellow, an alumni and the only alumni to still be in the news industry.

If you are interested in applying for the fellowship then you can read about what the current fellows are doing: Noah Veltman wrote how you should not worry about your coding skills as so many newsrooms are learning as well as practicingSonya Song says it’s a great opportunity for graduatesManuel Aristaran enumerates the many perks of being part of the OpenNews communityBrian Abelson writes about gaining knowledge and working for whimsy; and Stijn Debrouwere let’s you know you get to do whatever you want!

To get an idea of what I did and with whom I worked at The Guardian here is a video:

I am now a Data Journalist at the Times Newspaper Limited. I have the role and the job title I wanted when I decided to learn to code. Most importantly I consider myself a programmer. It took me a long time to get it into my head. I was at a D3 workshop recently and I realised I was more knowledgable and more capable than most of the programmers who have ‘developer’ in their job title. It came as a shock, but I think it has allowed me to take even longer strides in my data journalism.

Even though I can no longer do whatever I want I still have immensely more creative freedom and self-governance than anyone else with ‘journalist’ in their job title. Because I am self-taught, because I don’t need any instruments in a news organisation to produce everything they can, because I hunt for ideas on GitHub and Source and from DataMiners; I cannot be managed. And the digital team at the Times Newspaper Limited are ok with that.

I see myself as a disruptive force and have been told to “keep on doing that”. I am working with a young, creative and determined team. We have huge challenges ahead of us and that makes us a team. We are a motley crew with the most diverse skills ever seen at News Corp. So my time as a fellow has carried on in spirit. You can’t undo a realisation. So I will always go where I can code stories.

Dan Sinker anouncing the first ever OpenNews Fellows

Dan Sinker anouncing the first ever OpenNews Fellows

And with me will always be Mark, Laurian, Dan and Cole. I was recently asked to describe the best team I ever worked with. I said the OpenNews fellows. Even though we weren’t in the same newsroom and in most cases not even in the same country, I still feel they were my fellows. We hacked, we taught, we drank whiskey together.

So to the next round of fellows I say: work open, make news, cherish the fellows.

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