This is a good question. If you don’t know WHY people are urging journalists to learn how to code, you probably wouldn’t work very hard to do it yourself.
The biggest reason, maybe, is that code is what determines HOW journalism stories speak to people.
Later, that same design director (now in a new job at Northwestern University) explained why journalism schools must teach students to code.
When then New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said he wanted to learn how to code, the Internetz went a little crazy with reactions. Then there was this reaction to the reactions:
I think a good perspective for journalists and journalism students to adopt would echo this statement by Zed A. Shaw, a programmer:
People who can code in the world of technology companies are a dime a dozen and get no respect. People who can code in biology, medicine, government, sociology, physics, history, and mathematics are respected and can do amazing things to advance those disciplines.
People who can code have something extra to offer. In a highly competitive job market, that’s a really good thing. Especially for a journalist!