New class combines computer science and journalism



Taylor Titus

Journalism majors and computer science majors are collaborating in a newly offered class, Web Programming for Multimedia Journalism.

“We wanted to create a course that creates new opportunities for CS and journalism students,” said Paul Wang, computer science professor.

The objective of the course isn’t to turn programmers into journalists and journalists into programmers, but for each major to collaborate with the other.

“One of the goals is to increase literacy, make it so these groups of people can talk to each other better, and also increase knowledge of technological problems facing news organizations,” said Jacqueline Marino, assistant professor in the school of journalism and mass communication. “CS students are going to be a greater value to media organization if they understand the basic value of journalism.”

The idea for the class started with buzz in the news about programming journalists. Marino reached out to Wang. Then Marino, Wang and JMC professor Sue Zake submitted a grant in March 2010. The University Teaching Council awarded a grant of $6,500 for the class.

“We want to instill an appreciation and understanding of journalism in the CS majors, and in the journalism majors, we want them to have a better understanding of the web and how computer science can enhance their journalism,” Marino said.

The class currently has 12 journalism students and 12 computer science students. Wang is teaching the journalism students programming in the Math and Computer Science Building, and the computer science students are learning the basics of journalism by Marino and Zake in Franklin Hall.

“Since I started the class, I’m starting to see the connection between the programmers, journalists and VCD students,” said Douglas Dzurilla, senior computer science major.

The main focus of the class is the final project. The students are divided into teams of both computer science and journalism students. The students have to create original journalistic content tailored to a specific audience and integrate computer science and journalistic elements. The students can develop a multimedia feature, a new website or a game that can be adapted for different media.

Professional publications, such as The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Magazine, Akron’s, as well as and The Burr will be watching the progress of the class.

“I feel like this is where journalism is headed,” said Erin Perkins, graduate student in magazine journalism. “In order for us to keep our jobs, we need to start thinking about technology and how we can use it to benefit our story.”

Contact Taylor Titus at [email protected].