Classes

Please note: The classes listed here represent recent offerings at the Journalism School. These include M.S. and M.S. in Data Journalism courses, except for those that are specifically designated as 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.

Book Writing

This seminar teaches students to prepare a book proposal, including an overview essay and a sample chapter, both at least 4,000 words long. Each student must enter the class with sufficient material from elsewhere or an idea that can be researched in the New York area. Students will not be permitted to use their Master’s Project for this seminar. Coursework ranges from intensive study of literary nonfiction and journalistic fiction, with related writing assignments on a weekly basis, to instruction in the techniques of reporting, writing extended narrative and producing a book proposal. Guest speakers from the publishing industry appear frequently. Enrollment is limited with the approval of the instructor. Interested students should attend the information session where the application process will be discussed.

Business and Economic Reporting

This seminar is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of how the economy and financial markets work and the role of a business reporter in monitoring these vital sectors. By the end of the semester, students should have the tools to write interesting stories about business and finance; search and report through observation, interviews and documents; verify the reliability of information and interpret and integrate numbers, statistics and financial data into stories.  Students will read current and historic business stories, with an eye toward understanding what makes articles transcend the industry or sector they examine. We will cover effective methods for conceiving and pitching stories, identifying and interviewing sources and writing with narrative scope and pinpoint accuracy. Several class sessions will include guest speakers from major business and general-interest news organizations.

China Seminar

Global interest in China is immense and likely to grow. This course helps prepare students to report successfully from the most populated nation in the world by delving into Chinese politics, history, economy and society. Though China is the focus, the techniques of preparation – which include pitching and developing three to four articles – will serve journalists tackling reporting in nearly any country. This intensive course is dynamic, changing each year to accommodate and incorporate new academic works and current events. Students can expect to read about one book a week. They will gain the unique opportunity to learn and report in a classroom regularly shared by Chinese nationals, people of Chinese descent or Chinese speakers, as well as others who are simply interested in learning about China. Students are paired together for reporting projects, allowing teams to report effectively on China from New York. Many graduates of this course have gone on to report from China and the surrounding region.

City Newsroom

The students in City Newsroom will cover all of New York City. They’ll operate, manage, edit and contribute to a live news site: NYCityLens.com. The course is set up to give students hands-on experience running a news site and to hone their skills in reporting and producing ambitious stories in all formats. Students will cover breaking news, develop features, dig into deeper stories and shoot and edit videos. Its goal: to let students cover stories in the medium best suited to tell a particular story. We will focus on five areas: breaking news, crime and justice, culture and art, New York’s immigrant population and politics and policy. Students will pitch stories every week to perfect their pitching skills. We expect everyone in the newsroom to produce a specific number of stories: eight print stories, five videos or a to-be-determined combination of both. The instructors are skilled in video storytelling, digital and print. The course runs over two days: Thursday and Friday. Story meetings and screenings of class work are held during the afternoons of those days and attendance is mandatory. If you love covering news, want to improve your storytelling skills in multiple formats and welcome the challenge of reporting on this city in depth, this is the class for you.

Students who wish to do video in this class will be charged a $275 lab fee.

Covering Education

The course introduces students to the rich landscape of education reporting, a beat that can encompass everything from politics, business, culture and juvenile justice to teen violence and the art and science of learning. Students have the opportunity to embed for the semester in a New York City public high school, middle school or charter school, cultivating sources, ideas and knowledge. Seminar time will be devoted to a combination of history, ethics, ideas and debate with leaders in the field. Guests include Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Alex Kotlowitz, Nikole Hannah Jones and others. An emphasis will be on reporting, writing and producing news, a narrative feature, a class project and an ambitious, longform story outside the embed school. The aim is to publish on our www.school-stories.org site, as well as with our partner news organizations: ny.chalkbeat.org and New York Times/Schoolbook.org. Students in the course may qualify for the post-graduate Teacher Project fellowship and a paid internship for the Hechinger Report. Check out the work of former classes.

Covering Religion

Covering Religion aims at preparing students to write about religion for secular media outlets. Thanks to a generous grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the class travels each year to different countries for a week-long study trip to look at how religion is practiced and influences society. In past years, the class has gone to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank; Ireland and Northern Ireland; Russia and Ukraine; India and Italy. The study-tour takes place over the spring break and at no cost to students. In addition to writing assignments, each student makes an oral presentation in class about the coverage of his or her “faith beat.” While still in New York, students select and begin to report on the stories that they want to cover while abroad. Upon the return from the study trip, students write and produce the stories that they worked on while traveling. The course is open to all M.S. students, both part-time and full-time and from all concentrations. 

Follow the covering religion blog to learn about the places where we've traveled.

Food Writing

The food beat is a diverse one that covers culture and family, politics, health and science, immigration, business, or simply food, from Hudson Valley apples to the global corn crop. Food journalism requires vigorous reporting and offers rich opportunities for both data-driven and observational work; it supports the investigative journalist as well as the feature writer. This course introduces you to the myriad ways you can report on what we eat, whether it’s a feature on an ethnic cuisine or a story about a farmer who’s growing what she hopes will be the next kale. A multimedia class project called “New York Sits Down to Dinner” will focus this year on hunger in NYC and involve data research and added video/photo training to complement the print stories. Visit www.nytable.com to see what last year's class produced.

Students who wish to do video in this class will be charged a $275 lab fee.

Gendering Migration: An Intensive Course on Women and Girls Crossing Borders

Women make up slightly less than half of the global migrant population and they face different risks and challenges. These include vulnerability to discrimination, sexual exploitation, violence and specific health risks. The true extent of the difficulties migrant women and girls suffer is difficult to estimate. Their suffering is hidden: These women do not speak out because they are afraid or ashamed of what has been done to them.
 

While women and girls are leaving their native countries in far greater numbers than in the past, they have remained largely invisible. Because they mostly end up working in kitchens, nurseries, farms or brothels, they are hidden and kept out of public life. They are dispersed, unorganized and without bargaining power. During the 15-week course, the students will study global migration issues while also doing ambitious investigative reporting projects on women and migration. It will review ethnographic and sociological studies on the subject and teach techniques on following the money and document trail in women’s migration.

International Newsroom

The course begins with an examination of what is news and how the definition of news and the ways in which it is reported can change as you cross geographical and cultural borders. Class discussions and assignments cover global press freedom challenges, trends in international journalism and often reflect emerging news. Guests may include veteran foreign correspondents, practitioners of “the new global journalism,” such as citizen reporting projects or bloggers from countries where mainstream media face severe restrictions. Each student pitches, reports and writes several stories on international topics and, in most years, works on a class-wide reporting project. Projects have included studies of state-funded global TV channels, of western media reporting on chemical weapons use in Syria and of digital technology’s impact on international reporting. For project examples done in past years by International Newsroom, see Global Media Wars, The New Global Journalism and Global Newsroom.

International Newsroom: Human Rights Reporting

Journalists covering international and national social justice issues regularly encounter claims of human rights violations. The decades old human rights movement evolved from the scorched earth of the World Wars, when millions of refugees and survivors of genocide demanded justice. Current world crises from the Syrian Civil War to climate change to the persistent attacks on the rights of women have led to more demands for human rights. Nations seldom sanction themselves for violating the rights of citizens and refugees, and the international bodies formed to address human rights violations are often accurately described as toothless. In this course, we will look at human rights from a journalist’s perspective, and we will cover the efforts of the United Nations, NGOs, activists and human rights organizations to ensure human rights for all individuals. We will look at the history and evolution of today’s international human rights institutions, and their policies and shortcomings. And we will look at journalism’s role in human rights. Many examples exist showing that without reporting, human rights violations proceed without international condemnation. How are these issues best covered? What are best practices and ethical considerations? What tools and sources are most useful in reporting often complicated entanglements of human rights? What are our obligations to the most vulnerable? How can we represent victims of human rights violations ethically and with respect?

Investigating Health Care

Exploding prescription drug prices. A mental health system in crisis. Consumers struggling to afford their health insurance premiums. These are among the issues that make taking this course in the spring semester such a great opportunity. You will learn how to navigate one of journalism's most complicated beats, all with an investigative reporter's eye. Individual classes will focus on hospitals, health professionals, our aging society, controversies in medicine, insurance companies, health reform and the pharmaceutical industry. We will also dissect the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The course will explore many issues beyond health care, including politics, consumer affairs, finances, the law, ethics and demographics. Along the way, students will become skilled in using public records, understanding bureaucratic agencies and querying databases that can be used on practically any beat. Class assignments will require use of investigative skills, interviewing techniques and interaction with bureaucracies. You will work hard in this class but may leave with clips published in major U.S. media outlets. 

Investigative Project

This course will explore the mission, methods and history of investigative reporting, as seen through a semester-long project examining a single subject. Our goal will be to build the foundation for a publishable, investigative article based on original research, not recycled government reports. You will learn how to find topics worthy of investigating, how to document wrongdoing and how to present your findings in narrative form. If all goes well, you will have the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of discovering long-buried secrets. We will use the team approach.

Journalism of Ideas

Several newspapers and magazines have established an "ideas" beat in recent years, in which they try to look beyond the news and identify trends in the changing ways we think about the world. The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell ("The Tipping Point") and James Surowiecki ("The Wisdom of Crowds"), or Farhad Manjoo, first at Slate and now at The New York Times, have deftly combined social science research and journalism into a highly successful mix while the economist Steven Levitt, with "Freakonomics" has begun a major trend of social scientists eager to reach mass audiences. Traditional newspapers such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Los Angeles Times have all experimented with ways of building ideas coverage into their papers on a regular basis and much analysis on major news websites from Salon, Slate and the Huffington Post fall into this category. Columnists like David Brooks and Nicholas Kristof routinely rummage through the world of social science to animate and give substance to their work. 

Along with helping students report and write a good ideas piece, the course will hopefully also teach them a way of thinking about stories in general: a way of looking under the surface of events and seeing some larger cultural force at work. For instance, a story about political violence after elections in Kenya could explore different theories about why and under what conditions ethnic groups will resort to violence. A tabloid story about a sociopathic killer slated for execution in Connecticut might turn into a story about what scientists have learned about how people become desensitized to the suffering of others; a piece about bullying could become a piece about what they have discovered about how to make children more caring of others. You could approach the sharp polarization of American politics by looking at how people form their beliefs and filter out information that contradicts their established views. The world of 24/7 cable news and constantly updated Internet coverage has meant that print journalism (or its online incarnations) are looking increasingly for creative analysis as a way of giving value to their work and distinguishing it from the seemingly endless stream of mere information.

The class will be divided into three groups of no more than eight students each so students will receive close attention to their written work as well as meeting as a full group to discuss common readings. The third group will meet in the evening, after the seminar, to accommodate part-time students. The course will meet from 3 to 8:30 p.m., with the first small group meeting to discuss their stories from 3 to 4:15 p.m. and the second from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. The entire class will meet from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. and the third group of students will remain afterward to workshop stories from 6:45 to 8 p.m.  Students will write three substantial stories. Along with developing analytical skills, students will also have a chance to work on narrative technique and developing a writing style.

Journalistic Computing

This course unpacks the ways in which data, code and algorithms are reshaping systems of power in the world, training students to be better reporters and to hold the people and institutions behind these systems accountable. This critical view is made possible through rigorous training in data and computing, preparing students to use these tools in an expanded reporting practice that finds and tells new kinds of stories. Our main programming language for the class willl be Python. Each week, students will read and analyze examples of data and computing in service of journalism; and each week we will dig deeper into the technical skills behind such stories with small coding assignments that mix story and technology. The course will end with a final project, an "act of journalism," that might be a story, a data visualization or a new data set or algorithm.

The course is not simply introducing a new web framework for pulling data from a PDF, or a even a new programming language. Instead, we aspire to a rich kind of literacy around data and computing. By “literacy” we mean a trio of concepts – a functional literacy that prepares students to be creative with data and computing; a critical literacy that encourages students to think about data and computing as cultural artifacts; and a rhetorical literacy that highlights the persuasive power inherent in any technology and that casts system design as a social, rather than a purely technical, act. The course will add a uniquely journalistic voice, one that responds to the needs and talents of reporters and helps them find and tell stories in new ways.

Our goals in teaching this course are simple: 1) provide journalists with hands-on experience collecting, processing and analyzing data, 2) demystify the tools and methods behind computing, 3) supply sufficient background so that students might become creators of new technologies, transitioning from tool users to tool makers, and, perhaps most importantly, 4) teach students how to use data and computing, as both sources for finding stories, as well as platforms for telling new kinds of stories.

As mentioned above, our main programming language will be Python, however, we assume NO PRIOR CODING OR DATA KNOWLEDGE. All we ask is that you bring the same journalistic curiosity you have learned in the first half of the program to these new ways of storytelling. We'll take care of the rest.

Literary Journalism

This workshop combines writing and reporting with the study of excellent stylists, both nonfiction writers who have reached beyond conventional news style to render their writing as compelling and graceful as that of the best novelists (such as Katherine Boo, Ryszard Kapuscinski, John McPhee, James Baldwin, Joan Didion and George Orwell) and novelists whose style is inspiring (Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, among others). Students read and analyze these writers, then do a few short writing exercises and one long article attempting to emulate the best stylists in the field. The idea is to practice the longform style of journalism used in books and magazines such as Granta, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The Believer and literary journals, online and off. 

Longform Digital: The Memory Project

This class is a writing laboratory. It is built upon the written word and is designed for students whose goal is to write ambitious narrative nonfiction. At a time when the centuries-old wall between writers and readers is collapsing, when gatekeepers no longer have sole say about what will be published, the creative possibilities for writers of narrative nonfiction have never been greater. And yet, even as the weight of convention and form fall aside, writers are left to ask: How can I tell the stories I need to tell and how can I find a (paying) audience for my work?

This spring’s class takes William Faulkner’s words – “Memory believes before knowing remembers” – and applies them to journalism. Students will be asked to take a memory, their own or someone else’s, and then report – and tell – the story that lies behind and perhaps beyond that memory. It is one thing to recall and another to learn what happened and why. The class will produce a project called “The Memory Project.” Students will be expected to identify and connect with audiences for their work. 

Magazine Writing

Magazine journalism presents an opportunity to break out of the conventions of newspaperese and find one’s voice. But writing for magazines also involves rules and challenges – not the least of which is figuring out how to position yourself in an uncertain field. In this course, we’ll discuss different forms of magazine writing and focus especially on substantive general-interest publications like The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times Magazine – as well as their websites. We’ll examine the types of proposals that appeal to editors, ways of getting in the door and some useful frameworks for structuring longer magazine pieces. We’ll work on developing or refining a more natural and conversational writing style by reading articles by accomplished writers and workshopping student pieces. In addition to weekly assignments involving the study of individual magazines, students will practice pitching and writing short pieces. At the end of the course, each student will have produced a suitable magazine article of 2,500 to 3,000 words.

Managing the 21st-Century Newsroom

The news business is going through a period of fundamental and irrevocable change. It is vital that journalists understand both the core values and ethics of our industry as well as essential digital skills to succeed.

But news managers – or journalists who aspire to management – must know all of that and more. They need to deal with the basic business principles that have long governed the media world, along with newer concepts like audience-building and technology adaptation.

This class is for those students – that is, those of you who want to run the show, rather than be run by someone else.

 

The course follows naturally from the half-semester Business of Journalism fall class, though that is not a prerequisite as some part-time M.S. students, M.A. or outside students might not have taken it. This class builds in much more detail around revenue and expenses, strategy and learning how to manage change, diversity and crises.

Our goal is to help you understand media firms – those we know of and those that don’t yet exist, or those that you may create – and to appreciate how business imperatives intersect closely with the kind of journalism you and your colleagues can expect to do.

Our class will also give you background to do better journalism about business, including essentials like how to read balance sheets and income statements. It does not provide the level of detail about business and economics coverage as some other seminars.

Students will be expected to prepare each week for class and will do two major assignments. The first is a group project in which you will prepare a presentation, as if to a CEO or a group of venture capital investors, on an important trend affecting the news business. The second is an individual project: a narratively driven story that could appear on the cover of Fortune magazine, the front page of the WSJ or the feature slot on CNBC, describing how a media business is faring. Expect a great deal of feedback on the first project and a similar amount of editing on the second.

Multi-Platform Design & Storytelling

Readers get their news from multiple platforms and today’s journalists must therefore learn to tell stories for and across these platforms. The industry is seeking qualified mobile editors. This course will focus on design (visual presentation) and storytelling (story structures and genres) for mobile, tablet, web and print. It will also cover issues of technology, advertising and other revenue strategies. Students will gain hands-on experience designing story prototypes for the major platforms, taking into account the unique characteristics of each. Emphasis will be on mobile platforms. The course will also include lectures by the instructor and guest speakers, readings and critical writing assignments on contemporary news organizations’ offerings. The final project will involve a single topic developed through a multimedia story. The course includes a basic Design Bootcamp component.

Narrative Writing

All of the best stories in journalism, whether as short as a column or as long as a book, share the same basic narrative principles. The aim of this course is to master those principles, to study them in the work of others and apply them to your own. The first class sessions are spent in an overview of the narrative form, discussing how to recognize, report, structure and write stories that move confidently through time, place, character and event. The remaining weeks proceed through a series of more specific narrative strategies and tactics: using dialogue, choosing and depicting characters, compressing and expanding time, managing transitions, providing historical context, establishing a voice. Beyond the regular readings, the main requirement is to find one good story idea and then write it and rewrite it, as a short narrative first (800 words) and then as longer one (2,500-3,000), gradually working your way deeper into the narrative form as the semester progresses.

Radio Workshop

This course is intended to provide mastery of the most important skills needed in a high-quality radio news organization. Students develop advanced radio writing and production techniques through the broadcast of a weekly radio news program, Uptown Radio News. The program is webcast live every Friday at 4 p.m. and is also available as an on-demand podcast. The class functions as a working newsroom where students learn the full range of radio reporting and writing techniques, including newscasts, spot news, feature stories, creative commentary and longer narrative pieces using documentary methods. On the production side, students rotate through roles such as executive producer, managing editor, senior producer and various technical positions to ensure a timely broadcast that offers high value to its listeners. The course develops student’s writing and reporting skills (irrespective of media) by emphasizing descriptive writing, narrative and scene-building techniques, and long-form documentary techniques. There are no prerequisites for this course.

 

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.

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.

The Narrative Journalism of Social Fault Lines

This workshop is about writing longform narrative journalism based on deep reporting on social issues – literary and "documentary" in the manner of the great nonfiction writing produced during the 1930s by James Agee, Edmund Wilson, Louis Adamic and others. Practitioners today include Joan Didion, Kate Boo, Ted Conover and Bill Vollmann. Stories must have a news hook. Students will engage in shoe leather journalism. Reporting rules apply for literary journalism and then some. If your piece is five times longer than a hard news story on a topic, it should have five times as much reporting. The result will be longform journalism that could appear in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Harper's or online sites, such as Narratively and the Big Roundtable, or in a book.