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Journalists get crash course in coding

By eijnews

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.57.33 PM 
Journalists started to learn a new language Thursday afternoon at the Excellence in Journalism conference. Speaker Andy Boyle wasn’t teaching basics of French or Japanese.

Boyle, an applications developer at The Chicago Tribune, taught the building blocks of writing HTML and CSS and then set attendees free to try it out themselves. He said that sometimes learning code can seem overwhelming but that nothing is really impossible.
“I think a lot of times people think they can’t do this stuff because it’s a new thing and its hard,” Boyle said. “What I try to show is that there are some quick, easy wins that you can have to prove that you can do this stuff.”
If you missed the session or are just dabbling in code, here are some key takeaways from the workshop.
Break it down. Boyle advises a project-focused method of learning code over just working through theory on its own.
“The way you actually learn stuff very well is by doing,” he said. “By doing (projects), there are actually brain things that help you learn this stuff because you did it with purpose.”
Tools to help. Tools like Leaflet, a Javascript Library, and Mapbox, a map-building tool, can assist coding newbies and alums alike in working on code-focused projects. For a bigger picture, there are educational sites on coding, like the popular Code Academy and Boyle’s favorite, Treehouse. 
Tell a story. Boyle compares learning to code to learning to report – it takes time and practice. But it pays off, he said, pointing out that building web applications can illustrate data.
“Anyone can do this,” he said. It’s to tell better stories and to tell stories a different way.”
Have any stories about learning to code or top tips for EIJ attendees? Tweet at us @EIJ_News!