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A Journalist Tries Coding for the First Time: 3 Take Away Lessons

As a Master's Degree in journalism student in Studio 20: Digital First we are building tech skills, one of them includes coding. I have never touched code. The only "codes" I know are the ones sent to my iPhone for verification.

Today I gave it a try. I was quite surprised that there was some logic to the code.

I've learned the following three lessons:

01. "Learn how to do things by breaking shit"

Our inspiring and thought-provoking instructor, Erin Staples, said that she does not expect to have our code edits exactly work. She wanted us to break the code and see how when we publish it, it will be broken. "Learn how to do things by breaking shit," she said enthusiastically. As a writer and journalist, it didn't feel so natural to feel like making a mistake on purpose would lead me anywhere, but this exercise felt very rewarding and I did learn by breaking shit.

02. Coding is collaborative

Today we learned about the ins and outs of GitHub and Visual Studio Code. By forking code and using open source, you get to tap into the talents of others in this community and help improve the web. When you think of a coder, you might think of someone introverted or even not collaborative but the world of open source is as collaborative as it gets. So thank you to those talented coders out there who are helping a newbie like me get started.

03. Read between the lines

When our instructor told us to look over our homepage's code and index and choose three things to change, I was thrown off my game. I had no idea what this gibberish code meant. After taking a much longer look, I started making sense of the patterns and keywords that would begin to explain what the code was referring to. My first lesson in coding is much like the lessons of life. You need to know when to take a step back and see how things make sense by looking at them a bit differently.

What was your first experience coding?

Whiteboard class notes by our instructor Erin Staples to explain GitHub


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