UBC j-students get hands-on with sensor journalism


Fergus Pitt wrote the book on sensors and journalism

Students will get practical experience of using sensors in journalism in a two-day immersive workshop at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism.

The workshop on Feb. 27 and 28 will be led by Fergus Pitt, a research fellow at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Small groups of students will build, program and collect data using sensors, while Pitt provides a framework for effectively incorporating this data into reporting.

Low-cost sensors are the latest technology changing journalism, allowing journalists to collect data and tell better stories. The increasing ubiquity of sensors, their increasing capability and accessibility is moving the technology into the mainstream. However, they also present challenges for properly gathering, processing and making sense of the data.

“The use of sensors to allow journalists to collect their own data, rather than relying on the data of others, is a new and exciting space of journalism,” said UBC Journalism professor Taylor Owen, who co-organized the workshop.

Students will come out of the workshop with foundational skills to begin using sensors and other advanced technologies in their own reporting. Pitt will also take students through the legal and ethical implications of sensor journalism.

“Very few journalism schools have engaged with sensors seriously, and one of the leaders in the study of their use, Fergus Pitt, will be at UBC to lead this introductory workshop,” said Owen.

Fergus Pitt literally wrote the book on sensors and journalism in his work at the Tow Center. He worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, beginning in producing and reporting for radio. He moved into online development and production for the ABC, then ran projects, wrote strategy and managed product development. He tweets at @fergle.

“The workshop is part of the school’s strategy to equip students with the skills and abilities needed for success in a radically changing media industry,” said UBC Journalism professor Alfred Hermida, a co-organizer of the event.

“It is not only an opportunity to explore new forms of gathering, processing and analysing information, but also to try out different ways of teaching journalism through intensive and focused learning activities,” he said.