Multi-: More than one; many

Hello, Washington DC
Hello, Washington DC

It’s fair to say my week peaked by hump day after meeting Oh Land in New York on Monday and James Hamblin in Washington DC on Wednesday.

Jim (as if you haven’t heard of him) ditched his medical career in 2012 for a health editor position at His main focus is an online series called “If Our Bodies Could Talk”

He’s the first to point out his work isn’t conventional journalism; if it can be classed as journalism at all.

While in town I also stopped by National Geographic, where I met a bunch of people who specialise in everything from photography to cartography to data analysis to infographics to clay modelling (I’m not even kidding – I met Fernando Baptista).

I came away with renewed appreciation for the benefits of newsroom collaboration, especially in this time of transition.

Vox is an altogether different scene, but also with collaboration / integration at its core. Owing to reporters, designers, and developers working in the same newsroom, skills are shared organically as well as through in-house training. Plenty of company projects are conceived at lunchtime discussions, Yuri Victor told me.

Jessica Lima took a job at Buzzfeed for a similar sense of creative freedom: “At other organisations there are like 20 people stopping you from being creative.”

I’ve learnt that, perhaps owing to all this heightened collaboration, no one does just one job anymore.

“Journalists are being asked to do much more than ever before, with fewer resources,” Duy Linh Tu said in his book.

“These days, journalists are required to write, shoot photos, analyze data, create graphics, and produce video as regular functions of their jobs.”

This was clearly on show at GeoJourNews, where each presenter boasted a range of abilities relating to half a dozen professions.

Michael Keller is a perfect (if rare) example. The guy does everything: Reports, designs, and programs interactive projects.

Another journalist I met in New York, Justin Silverman, is both a “senior feature writer” and “video producer”.

And Jim, well, Jim is a doctor who writes articles and hosts comedic videos.

What even is journalism.

Ever upwards: Learning to ride the subway

Bryant Park
Bryant Park

It’s not true that foot traffic moves quickly in New York.

Some people do, of course, but all in all it’s not the surging sea of suits I’d anticipated.

Everything else was as I expected; giant pretzels, subway grates, yellow taxis, tree-lined avenues, Times Square lit up like a carnival.

(Not that I’ve seen much – I only arrived on Monday evening).

I told myself it would be just like any other city, but bigger and busier.

Just around the corner from my hotel...
Just around the corner from my hotel…

“Are we there yet?” I asked the taxi driver.

“Not yet,” he said. “We have to go through this tunnel which takes us under the water for two miles, and then we will be in New York.”

After what I assume was two miles, we resurfaced.

“Welcome to New York.”

Taylor Swift couldn’t have said it better herself.

View from Battery Park
View from Battery Park

But I was wrong – it wasn’t like any other city. It was insane. People, cars, everywhere. Music blaring, sirens wailing , taxis honking, there was even a horse pulling a carriage.

Times Square – just a block from my accommodation – was packed. I wondered if there was an event on; but the following night it was just as busy.

Strangely, among all this, people are friendly and kind.

Looking out at the Public Library from The Shop on Fifth Avenue
Looking out at the Public Library from The Shop on Fifth Avenue

New Yorkers are quick to help when it comes to giving directions. Even though bodies are constantly bumping into each other, they generally pause to apologise. I’ve experienced nothing but chivalry among the chaos.

Courts near New York University
Courts near New York University

My first work-related venture involved travelling to the Columbia Journalism School Showcase. This meant riding the subway. I left an hour early, and was still an hour late.

I had better luck on my second go – a meeting in Greenwich Village with interactive news reporter Michael Keller.

But the rest will have to wait until tomorrow; owing to a fire alarm (how New York), it’s late.

The not-so-secret code

Another year in journalism, another non-verbal language. This time, coding.

At the very least, it seems reasonable that journalists writing for online should know what web pages are and how they’re built.

I’m hardly techie by nature (just ask my 15-year-old brother — master computer gamer, operator of the Sky remote, and my personal IT helpdesk), and I’m not planning on going into web development per se,  but understanding our medium makes us better storytellers.

After chipping away at Codecademy, I attended the Enspiral Dev Academy One Day Intensive.

To give you an idea of the scope of the course, here’s the “prep” list:

Playing with the Inspector and jQuery was amusing:

All in a day's coding course
All in a day’s coding course

The day also included talks around “Engineering Empathy”. I hadn’t realised there was such a focus on “softer skills” — such as emotional intelligence — in the tech industry. As the coaches said: in a knowledge-based industry, your mind is your greatest tool. It makes sense to train it.

(Mindfulness… now that’s a whole other post.)

We did “listen and loop” exercises, which felt a lot like what I do on a daily basis. Although as a journo it was rather disconcerting having to answer rather than ask questions.

The whole culture of open-source coding, where developers lay bare the original source code for others to copy, redistribute, improve, is a pretty cool philosophy and makes it much easier for noobs such as myself to get on board.

All in all, a great way to spend my birthday.

Thanks, Dev Academy.