Classes | Page 4 | Columbia Journalism School

Classes

Please note: The classes listed here represent recent offerings at the Journalism School. These include M.S., M.S. in Data Journalism and M.A. courses. Choices vary each semester depending on faculty availability and other considerations. Classes described now may change or be dropped to make room for new additions. We cannot promise that students will gain a seat in any specific class.

Photojournalism II (Offered in the fall only)

This course assumes basic knowledge of DSLR camera operation and basic knowledge of Adobe photo processing software.  Students will learn how to make multi image photo essays incorporating techniques of reportage, still-life and portrait photography.  Fieldwork will be supported by discussions of contemporary examples of photojournalism and the ethical and legal issues of visual reporting. Students will learn best archiving practices, advanced Adobe software, and business and pricing standards including day rates, usage fees, and copyright.  Students will leave the class able to identify visual opportunities in the field, and be equipped to produce single image and multi picture slideshows for print and internet publications.

Note: There is a $50 equipment fee associated with this class for students planning to use our equipment.  Students who bring their own dSLRs and lenses will not be charged this fee.

Multiple instructors teach sections of this class.

Radio Workshop

Radio Workshop develops the skills to tell compelling, sound-driven news stories as well as the fundamentals of long-form audio storytelling. The class operates as a working newsroom to produce a live, hour-long weekly news-magazine program, Uptown Radio.

As reporters, students produce four enterprise stories of increasing complexity, a personal commentary, two day-stories, two newscasts, and two host interviews. On the production side, students rotate through key leadership positions and technical positions to ensure a high-quality, timely broadcast. The leadership team makes all of editorial decisions with support from the instructors as needed.

Learning to write well for audio forces you to write clearly and concisely. As such, this course develops your reporting and writing in ways that will be useful in whatever career path you choose.

Reporting

In this core class, which begins in August and continues through the end of October, you'll explore the methods journalists use to gather and evaluate information. You'll learn how to think and behave as a journalist, how to conceive of journalistic story assignments, and how to report them quickly and accurately on deadline. You’ll learn how to gather original information first-hand and to combine it with contextual information that can be found online and elsewhere. You will be taught how to ensure that a story is true, both in the sense of getting the facts right and also by stating the implications fairly.

You’ll also get some basic training in digital technologies such as mobile photo, video and audio that are essential parts of a modern journalist’s toolkit, and you’ll begin using them in service of journalism, while thinking about ways to use social media to engage an audience for your work. 

Multiple instructors teach sections of this class.

Reporting and Writing Profiles

There’s a reason one of the most successful magazines launched in the past 40 years is called People. You’ll learn and practice the specialized interviewing, reporting and writing skills used to portray individuals. We’ll read and discuss some of the best classic and contemporary profiles, of subjects from Ty Cobb to a sex-toys saleswoman. We’ll talk a lot about structure. I’ll take a machete (at first) or a scalpel (later on) to every sentence you write. Some gifted current practitioners will tell us how they do it. I’ll schedule two to three individual conferences with each student to review your stories. We’ll discover how to leverage readers’ intrinsic interest in other people to inform them about things they think they don’t want to know.

Reporting I

In this introductory reporting course, each student will be assigned a beat and will be expected to produce news stories on deadline. Students will learn to think like reporters and to practice the core skills of the trade: developing sources, conducting interviews, structuring a story, writing clearly, and getting the facts right. As data journalists, they will also seek out and analyze data, both to deepen their reporting and to identify promising leads. In this way, the tools and techniques learned during the summer will be immediately applicable as data students begin to develop a journalistic mindset and the capacity to find and produce journalistic stories.

Reporting II

Students will continue to will learn how to apply their data and computational skills to real-world journalism. They will hone their ability to construct a narrative from both quantitative and qualitative sources, how to think critically, how to report under deadline and how to document so that others can replicate and critique their work.

Reporting in Conflict Zones

What’s the true human toll of conflict? With few independent observers in areas of conflict, journalists play an essential role in conveying the costs of war, its impact on local communities, and holding conflict actors to account.

The reporters who undertake this work confront challenges that go beyond navigating violence and chaos on the ground. The best among them also make sense of complex historical and political contexts; they pick up new languages and dialects; they ethically interview vulnerable populations; they resist sensationalist narratives and misinformation; they clear incessant logistical and bureaucratic hurdles; and they learn how to adapt when, inevitably, things don’t go as planned.

In this course, students will gain a sound framework for reporting in conflict zones in the contemporary media landscape. Over 14 classes, we’ll read, watch and deconstruct some of the best pieces of conflict reporting over the last decade, often going behind the scenes with the reporters themselves. Key themes include:

  • Preparing For Conflict Reporting
  • Safety & Security
  • Developing Contacts
  • Learning Local & Historical Context
  • Identifying Misinformation
  • Collecting Data On The Ground
  • Ethical Minefields
  • Sensitive Interviewing
  • Going Beyond Conflict
  • The Economics Of Foreign Reporting
  • Dealing With The Unexpected

Shoe Leather: Multi-Casting Investigative Stories

This class is for students who want to take their long-form journalism beyond print. In it, students will work in small teams to produce episodes for an original podcast — SHOE LEATHER — and create a corresponding web page with text, photos, primary source documents and short videos. Students will take a deep dive into a specific news event from New York City in the 1980’s, and explore how it was covered at the time, and its impact decades later.

Using online resources and old fashioned shoe leather reporting, the goal of each podcast episode will be to find the main newsmakers of the past event and reveal how the news coverage influenced their lives. Students might pursue crime stories, missing persons cases, the rise and fall of political figures, catastrophic events that impacted a neighborhood, natural disasters that swept through a community, or an act of heroism that received wide acclaim. The stories will take the listener back in time using clear narrative writing and archival tape, and explain the significance of the news event and the role the newsmaker played.

Three seminars will be co-taught by professors Faryon and Maharidge. They will focus on the cross-over between long-form print narratives and storytelling for journalism-driven podcasts. Students will learn how to plan their reporting to ensure a three-act structure, and animate stories beyond talking heads. They’ll learn to think in scenes, and how those scenes translate into print, audio and video. This class prepares students to produce long form audio for a digital newsroom such as the LA Times, or podcast creation company. It will also train students to think like a “platform neutral” journalist — in other words — open to telling stories in different ways for different audiences.

Short Doc Storytelling

This workshop is for students with shooting and editing experience who want to hone their storytelling skills, experiment with new styles and explore the expanding landscape of video. You will produce three short documentaries (3-10 minutes long) over the course of the semester culminating in a final project and public screening.

This year, we will be including an extra, two-day After Effects training session to introduce you to the sophisticated graphics animation that is becoming a staple in the video world.

Our emphasis is on substantive reporting and compelling storytelling of all kinds. We will encourage and support first-person, on-camera, non-narration or text-based approaches. The goal is to produce videos suitable for online, broadcast, cable or social media platforms (and, of course, viewing at the Career Fair.)

In class, we will focus on story structure, interview techniques, lighting, editing, graphics and pitching your stories and yourself to media outlets. Guest workshops will be conducted by professionals from Vox, Quartz and 60 Minutes, as well as master classes from award-winning documentarians like Lynn Novick (Vietnam.)

Students in previous classes have produced assignments that have been posted on Slate, Channel Thirteen’s METRO FOCUS, Frontline, the Daily Beast, and in the J School’s 100th anniversary celebrations.

Sports Reporting

Sports occupies a special place in American society. Television props up its financial investment by giving sporting events professional, college and high school – staggering blocks of time every day; many newspapers keep readers by devoting huge percentages of their daily news holes to local, national and international coverage. Sports talk radio and countless internet sites dissect every play, every individual and every move, often adding to the stifling pressure on athletes, coaches, owners and administrators. Sport has evolved into a complex part of American life that requires thinking, well-trained, well-read and fundamentally sound journalists. A sports journalist must be able to quickly and clearly tell readers and viewers what is happening on the field, on the court or on the track; and the modern sports journalist must have a solid background on issues as diverse as labor, medicine, performance-enhancing drugs, stadium financing, race, Title IX, gender, masculinity, youth sports – and the daily police blotter. A sports journalist must understand the fascinating history of this world, as well as social media and emerging trends, and must continue the tradition of adding to some of the best writing, reporting and commentary in journalism. This course will address all of these matters with coverage of local professional and college games, feature pieces, columns, issue-oriented takeouts and investigative stories dictated by the news.

Stabile Investigative Seminar

This seminar will examine the tectonic shifts that are taking place in the media and challenge students to think about how they can produce, pitch and fund investigative stories in such a dynamic environment. It will also familiarize them with the investigative tradition and the traditional investigative narrative forms. An examination of the classics of the genre will be linked to a critical appreciation of how the genre has evolved in response to changes in technology, the audience and more broadly, society.

The seminar will focus on changing techniques and narrative forms of journalistic investigation and the continued innovation on those techniques.

Storytelling About The Environment

This course will focus on documentary storytelling about one of the most exciting and wide-ranging areas of coverage: science and the environment. Students in this course will learn how to report on and think critically about the many facets of this complex beat, which includes disciplines from ecology to public health. Through extensive reading as well as visits with science journalists and researchers studying issues such as climate change, students will learn to how to identify and write compelling stories about science. The stories they write and the issues they explore will lead to the production of short documentary films.

Students will learn advanced principles of field production, as well as sophisticated post-production techniques.  The course will focus on shooting techniques, proper audio recording, and narrative storytelling skills. Although there will be theoretical discussions and critiques of professional work, a great deal of class time will be spent in the field in order to strengthen each student's production capabilities. The course will be rigorous and will meet for two full days a week.

The course will work closely with Field of Vision, the documentary unit founded by Laura Poitras. The class will take several trips to the Field of Vision offices to meet and learn from professional filmmakers.

Telling True Stories in Sound

The goal of this course is to teach the skills of long-form audio journalism, and the techniques of nonfiction storytelling used in established shows like This American Life, Radiolab or Invisibilia, as well as newer podcasts like Reply All, or 99% Invisible. The style of storytelling used in the public radio style podcasts is a combination of in-depth reporting and long-form storytelling. This course will prepare students to tell complex stories using strong character-driven  narrative.

The workshop will be run as a newsroom. We'll have pitch meetings, where each student will have workshop edits (modeled on This American Life) and welcome guests from significant team members at WNYC Studios, Gimlet Studios, This American Life, Radiolab, as well as NPR shows like Code Switch, Planet Money and Radio Ambulante.

The Art of the Profile

There’s a reason one of the most successful magazines launched in the past 45 years is called People. There’s also a reason the earliest stories we heard usually began, “There once was a little girl/evil wizard /mighty queen” and rarely began, “There once was a Committee on Ways and Means.” We are hardwired to take interest in the adventures, histories and dilemmas of other members of our species.

 

In this course, you’ll learn and practice the specialized interviewing, reporting and writing skills used to portray individuals. We’ll read and discuss some of the best contemporary and classic profiles, of subjects from baseball legend Ty Cobb to a sex toys saleswoman. You’ll discover how to leverage readers’ intrinsic interest in other people to inform them of things they think they don’t care about.

You’ll put together three profiles of various types, plus proposals and revisions. I’ll take a machete (at first) or a scalpel (later on) to every sentence you write. Some gifted practitioners will come tell us how they do it.

The Data-Driven Newsroom

This class will prepare students for a job in the data team of a news organization or as a data reporter in an investigative team. By dissecting pieces ranging from prize-winning to their own work, students will be trained in the standard of work than an editor will expect when pitching and executing a data story.

Students will leverage their advanced technical skills in pursuit of asking the right questions of data sets and communicating about data findings in an accurate but accessible manner, while avoiding pitfalls common to data-driven pieces. We will be interrogating data in the same manner that a good reporter asks questions of a source.

Students should come to this class with skills in data analysis tools such as Excel, SQL, R or Python. This class will not focus on building new technical skills, but rather, using existing technical skills to produce a data-driven narrative. For M.S. Data students only.

The Journalism of Death and Dying

Just about every journalist has to cover death, whether a fireman’s funeral, a fatal car crash, a memorial service or a simple obituary of a community leader. This seven-week course will equip students to cover end-of-life issues, including terminal illness, murders, suicides and fatal accidents in both the personal and public spheres. With the help of experts on trauma, students will discuss best practices about interviewing the bereaved and survivors. The reading list will include some of the great journalism on death and dying, including classic obituaries and accounts of disasters such as 9/11, Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami. The class will also look at some of the digital media outlets that are increasingly used to memorialize the dead. Finally, the class will explore the cross-cultural and cross-theological practices surrounding death. Over the course of the semester each student will visit a public memorial and a funeral home and write a story from each venue. There will be weekly research, writing and rewriting assignments with the goal of producing three 1,200-word articles.

The Journalist as Historian

A good work of history reads like a novel in which all the details are true. In this course, you will learn to frame a piece of history as a story, uncover sources, and transform evidence into an accurate narrative that casts the past and present in a new light. We will develop skills for finding and using archives, and for using sources including memoirs, newspapers, and popular culture to strengthen a story. With a focus on long-form writing, we will work on how to uncover the plot line in actual events and develop characters. To build a repertoire of techniques, we will look at fine historical writing, especially by journalists. Examining work on American race relations and the Israeli-Arab conflict, we will look at the relationship between facts, accepted narratives, and the writer's personal perspective — and at the impact of new writing on "what everyone knows." In short, we'll see how a writer can change history. In your own work, you will define a subject for a book-length work of history. You will then find sources and write one extended episode of the story. Finally, you will create a chapter outline and rewrite your episode in response to new sources and intensive workshop discussion of your writing. 

 By the end of the course, each student should have the materials for a book proposal, along with the skills for enriching magazine writing with reporting on the past.

The Memory Project

This course takes as its inspiration these words from Samuel Johnson: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

This is a storytelling class — both written and spoken. But it is also a class where students are expected to identify and connect with an audience — readers, and listeners who so value their work that they will want to share and, yes, even pay for it. First to the story telling: The Memory Project – in which each student begins by taking a memory inspired by a photograph (his, hers or someone elses) then goes back to report what, in fact, happened. Or to quote, William Faulkner: Memory believes before knowing remembers.

Then, to the telling: This year's class will do that telling in two formats: in a book and on a podcast. Stories told for eye, and the ear.

And then, to the publishing: guided by James G. Robinson, who's worked on audience and analytics at the New York Times for over 10 years, we will identify readers and listeners most interested in these stories and experiment with ways to connect with them.

One thing we have learned, and believe is that readers connect most with stories writers need to tell.

Those are the stories you will work on this class.

Using Data to Investigate Across Borders

Exponential amounts of information about the world are being produced daily and journalists everywhere need to have a global mindset if they are to write about organized crime, corruption, human trafficking, global trade and threats to the environment.

We live in an increasingly borderless world. Goods, money, people and ideas flow freely across borders thanks to technology and the liberalization of customs and money controls. We all benefit from globalization and the free flow of commerce that it makes possible. But there’s a dark side: A borderless world also makes it easier for crooks and criminals to do their work.

Around the world, journalists are developing techniques to cope with the globalization of crime, corruption and environmental damage. They are adopting strategies that include the smart use of data and collaboration across borders. The volume and velocity with which information and data are being produced and the variety of open sources currently available make it possible to develop reporting strategies that are truly global.

This course will prepare students to find global data, process and analyze it; and to report on it from New York while working with sources and possibly other journalists overseas. Students will learn skills like doing background checks on people and companies, mining the social web, tracking offshore entities and finding assets and cargo. They will be divided into reporting teams and will be able to find, scrape, consolidate, analyze and visualize data in the context of a big global story by the end of the semester.

Video 1/Broadcast

This class is for students interested in broadcast news. In this course, you’ll learn the basics of video journalism as it is practiced in broadcast newsrooms: gathering sound and picture simultaneously, the fundamentals of exposure and composition, the grammar of video, writing to picture, selecting sound bites and the basic concepts of non-linear editing. By the end of the course students should have a foundational understanding of the basic skills involved in video news gathering and the ability to produce short-form video news pieces.

Video 1/Web & Documentary

This class is for students interested in producing short-form videos, of the type that appear on web sites such as Vice.com or NYTimes.com. In this course, you’ll learn the basics of video journalism: gathering sound and picture simultaneously; the fundamentals of exposure and composition; the grammar of video, writing to picture, selecting sound bites, the basic concepts of non-linear editing. By the end of the course, you should have a foundational understanding of the basic skills involved in video storytelling and the ability to produce short-form video pieces.

Video 2

If you already have a solid foundation in video, you may request admission to this module, which will give you the chance to develop a more sophisticated understanding of, and approach to, the medium. We’ll delve into the elements necessary for producing compelling stories; teach you how to light and shoot sequences and well-framed interviews; discuss the practical ethical and legal considerations of working in video; and help you develop rapport with subjects. You may request this module during balloting, but when you get to campus, you’ll be required to demonstrate the ability to shoot video interviews and action scenes; identify and use sound bites; and edit a short story using pictures and sound. Those not qualified will be placed in Video 1. For more information, contact Prof. Betsy West.

Video Newsroom

Whether your interest is broadcast news coverage or long form documentary, learning to report news and quickly produce a clear video story prepares you to be agile in the changing video journalism marketplace.

In Video Newsroom, students will report, write and produce video stories ranging from the four-minute BBC-style story to the 90-second US broadcast news variety to 30-second social media spots. We will apply reporting techniques to the audio-visual medium, to tell news, feature and investigative stories effectively. We will explore ethical issues applicable to video journalism and learn to interview for video, shoot sequences and write for the short news format. 

This class meets two full days a week. Most weeks, students will produce stories with one day largely dedicated to working through scripts and edits.

The class functions like a newsroom. Each week, students will be assigned to an editor. The editors/adjunct professors are video news professionals who work as producers and on-air reporters. Please note: Every morning (M-F) at 8am, students and editors will have a 20-minute morning call to discuss the news of the day and stories you are working on.

Students will pitch and be assigned news, feature and deep dive/investigative stories.

In addition, students will receive additional support in camera skills, voice tracking, graphics production.

The on-air clinic will run for five sessions on Fridays* led by an on-air news reporter to develop live and camera presentation skills. We will visit network and local newsrooms and hear from producers and reporters in the field. During the last five weeks, students will produce a newscast, each taking on a different role as producers and reporters.

(*Subject to change) 

Visual Storytelling

This course will focus on issue-driven photojournalism and multimedia in the social documentary tradition with students producing two multimedia stories focusing on a human rights or social justice concern.  Students will see examples of work that made an impact, critique the aesthetic strategies employed and learn about NGO and foundation collaborations. Students will incorporate text, video and audio into their stories, with the final outcome being a website of professional quality that can serve as a portfolio and material for contests and possible grants. Students will learn narrative storytelling, post production, archiving practices and business and pricing standards, including day rates, usage fees and copyright.

Note: There is a $75 equipment fee associated with this class for students planning to use our equipment. Students who bring their own dSLRs and lenses will not be charged this fee.