Name: Ben Welsh
What year did you graduate Prairie High School? 2000
What is your current position?
My title is Data Editor with The Los Angeles Times, a 24-hour website and daily newspaper in Southern California. I am a journalist, albeit an unconventional one. I specialize in what some people call computer-assisted reporting, and some others call data journalism. Journalists in the past were often hack novelists. I’m a hack computer programmer. I write code to collect, organize, analyze and present large amounts of information.
What are your job responsibilities?
I am the manager of a team called the Data Desk, a team of reporters and computer programmers in the newsroom who use our technical skills to find and tell stories.
Describe your career/educational path since graduating from Prairie High School.
My education includes a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism — where I worked at the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR). I received my undergraduate training at DePaul University in Chicago. Before working at The Times, I worked on investigative projects at The Center for Public Integrity and helped produce long-form documentaries for cable channels like CNN.
What advice would you give to today’s high school graduates? Do what you love. Computers aren’t just for nerds. There’s so much opportunity for you if you pick up technical skills, like computer programming. And it’s not just in science and technology. You can be a nerd and do all kinds of artistic work, in journalism, the fine arts, academia and design. Even if you see yourself as an artistic person aiming for a career in the humanities, I urge you to still try to learn technical skills so you can succeed in our digital era.