Here is where I'm learning how to work.

July 17th, 2013, 12pm

It was 34.4°C with few clouds. The breeze was gentle.

I’m in the fifth week of my internship at Gannett Digital. It hit me that this job is, in fact, the first time I have ever worked one full-time job rather than a myriad of part-time jobs or attending school. A job where I come in every day of the week, sit down at a desk, and work on something. On my first day, I received a laptop, monitor, keyboard and mouse specifically for working at Gannett. Even that, having a machine dedicated to work, is new to me. In essence, my first five weeks at Gannett have been about learning how I work as a full-time programmer for the first time in my life.

I’ve always loved experimenting with my workflow, trying new text editors and new command line tools. I always want to be using the most efficient tool available. But I could never commit to the more labor-intensive development tools like vim or grunt because it took too long for me to learn them. Hacking on my projects as a full-time student in classes that have nothing to do with programming meant that I needed a low barrier to entry. After all, I needed to get something done in the two or three hours I managed to set aside.

Now, I’ve gotten comfortable with vim and use it regularly, though I still use Sublime Text for certain tasks (as seen in the photo). I develop using grunt and other powerful command-line tools that make me more efficient now that I understand them. I fully appreciate tmux and having sessions for my different projects that I can switch between with ease. Full-time programming has allowed me to invest in more efficient tools that take more time to learn.

When I first started, I had concerns about checking Twitter or RSS feeds while working. I felt like I should be spending every second of my day working. I’m being paid by the hour, right? But I quickly discovered that my mind needs little breaks and distractions so that it can fully engage with tasks in more concentrated spurts. And as a journalist, staying connected with the world is just as important as the programming we do.

There is a delicate balance to strike, but the most important thing I have learned is that I cannot force anything to happen if I expect high-quality work. Sometimes, it requires a minute of reading a Twitter feed. Other times, it takes a short walk around the building. But I find that most times, I find the solutions to my problems when I’m not staring at a line of code in my text editor. Programming is little more than a series of problems to solve, and staring at a dark screen with a lot of colored words does nothing to stimulate the mind in the ways necessary to solve the problem.

Finally, any qualms I had about pursuing journalistic programming as a career have been erased. Grappling with the problems and fleshing out the ideas that arise in this field require deep thought and, most importantly, time. This week has given us wonderful arguments from a plethora of talented developer-journalists as to why developers should work in newsrooms. I’ve believed that since I got started, but now I fully appreciate the power of focusing on the intersection of programming and journalism for 40 hours a week. And I want to be a part.

MIRANDA, Emily and Jonah said thanks.

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Tyler Fisher

I'm a senior at Northwestern University studying journalism currently interning at Gannett Digital. I am an AP/Google Scholar for the upcoming school year.

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