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Interdisciplinary Training for Journalism and Computer Science Students

The afternoon session at ECREA 2016 starts with a paper by Gunilla Hultén. She presents Storylab, a collaborative project with Svenska Dagbladet, one of the major daily newspapers in Sweden. This brought together journalism and computer science students and their educators with journalists and editors at the newspaper.

The media industry in Sweden is experiencing rapid changes, much as such industries are doing around the world. In addition to many challenges, new technologies are also creating new opportunities for journalistic storytelling; to realise these, it is necessary to bring together journalists and developers even while they are still in training. The Storylab project formed interdisciplinary teams, led by educators and supervised by professional journalists, which were assigned to a range of recent and historical stories that were to be covered in a number of innovative ways (from data-journalistic storytelling to audiovisual features).

What are the drivers of and barriers to such interdisciplinary collaboration, then? How do the students themselves perceive their own futures in the media industry? What competences do they believe are necessary for their future careers? Surveys and interviews of the participating students aimed to explore this in more detail; there was a 5:1 ratio between computer science and journalism students, and a majority of female students.

Design and usability were seen as most important; other themes, in descending order, included the ability to cooperate; language skills, computer programming; data analysis; and an understanding of the media economy. Computer engineering students generally had a much more positive view of the future of the media industry than their peers from journalism, unsurprisingly; half of both groups of students were confident that they would find work in the industry within the coming five years. They also pointed to the need to be able to collaborate, even if this was also seen as difficult at times.

In a university context, this also involves a range of specific challenges, including the management and design of the group project, and the communication of its relevance to students. But these challenges are also indicators of the challenges encountered in the media industry itself; cooperation is increasingly important there as well.