Fear not programming!
News librarians need not fear programming, says Derek Willis of the Washington Post. He showed us how he uses programming like Python to create easy-to-use databases. To get a quick grasp of what he's doing, check out this Congressional votes database. This database is available to the public, but Derek has created similar databases on different subjects (Washington mass transit, the Pillsbury Bake-Off) for reporters to use inside the newsroom.
We should view this type of programming as not altogether different from Boolean searching, he said. It's just another way for us to capture and view information. It may seem intimidating, but it gets much easier the more you get into it.
Derek said he'll be posting notes on his presentation later today at his website, thescoop.org.
My two cents: I would have found this presentation near incomprehensible over a year ago. What helped me "get it" a little more easily was learning to blog with Blogger software and using an RSS reader, that helped get me more familiar with html and ways of manipulating it. Programming in Python seems like a couple of steps up from blogs and RSS -- hard but not inconceivable. So if you're clutching your head at the idea of Python, you might want to look at those two things as a way of getting comfortable with some of the terminology. Plus it's fun!
This post waaaaaaay oversimplifies things but I'm blogging this on the public workstations at the conference, and there's a 10-minute time limit.