Classes

Please note: The classes listed here represent recent offerings at the Journalism School. All are M.S. 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 Campaign Finance

Campaign finance journalism involves much more than simply reporting how much each candidate raised. It means digging deep to find the motivations behind the individuals and organizations supporting a particular political party or candidate. It can also mean identifying candidates using campaign cash as a slush fund to enrich family members and live the high life. More broadly, it means looking beyond campaign finance filings and connecting the dots in order to uncover patterns, networks and relationships that provide insight on the influence of money on politics. This course will provide the foundation of knowledge and skills that enables students to write interesting, thoughtful and impactful stories on the money that fuels election campaigns and political life in this country. 

Covering Conflict

Conflict reporting comes with a unique set of challenges that many reporters first encounter only after they are on the scene of the conflict. Students learn to navigate the logistical, ethical and safety complexities that accompany difficult or dangerous situations, ranging from reporting on natural disasters to working in conflict zones. Coursework includes simulated reporting, a team problem-solving exercise and a variety of writing assignments, including news analysis pieces and a reporter memo that could serve as a work blueprint for parachuting into a volatile situation. Students learn how to assess risk and do responsible and in-depth reporting beyond breaking headlines. The class is dynamic, evolving with emerging news. Past classes have reported on the Boston marathon bombings in 2013, doing real-time coverage from New York and Boston, as well as 2014 reporting on the beheadings of journalists by ISIS. Guest speakers include war correspondents and editors. This course will help prepare journalists for stressful scenarios both inside and outside the U.S., allowing them to develop and hone the critical thinking that helps journalists make quick decisions in a rapidly unfolding situation.

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. This year, the seminar will focus on the diversity of religious faiths found in Italy. Thanks to a generous grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the course will include a week-long study-tour of Italy at no cost to students. The study-tour will take place over spring break. While a major focus of the semester will be on the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican, the class will also look at minority faiths in Italy, including Jews, Protestants and Muslims. In addition to writing assignments, each student will make an oral presentation in class about the coverage of his or her “faith beat.” While still in New York, students will select and begin to report on the stories that they want to cover while abroad. Upon the return from Italy, students will write and produce the stories that they worked on while traveling. Course is open to all M.S. students, both part-time and full-time and from all concentrations. 

Covering the 2016 Presidential Race

This course will follow the 2016 presidential election with a focus on reporting the issues driving the contest. Among the subjects to be explored are: 1) the changing composition of the two parties; 2) the evolution of social and cultural issues, from reproductive rights to gay marriage to the role of religion in the public square; 3) race, as the original issue driving polarization and its centrality in defining liberal and conservative ideologies; 4) the widening gulf between Democrats and Republicans, between left and right; 5) the roots of the anti-spending, anti-tax movement; 6) how demography has the potential to shape political outcomes; 7) the drive to demonize the opposition, especially the demonization of Hillary Clinton and/or the Koch brothers; 8) the nationalization of politics, the swing vote and the end of ticket splitting; 9) the fight over voting rights in the aftermath of key Supreme Court decisions; 10) the emergence of a new system of campaign finance in the wake of Citizens United and related decisions.

Underpinning the focus on issues will be an examination of what the function of political competition is: a central function is the distribution of resources – tangible or intangible. Resources can range from paving contracts (tangible); to zoning permits (tangible); to the creation of a multicultural curriculum in the public schools (intangible); to decisions about which holidays will be officially observed (intangible). The role of government in distributing these and other resources impacts every aspect of society. Resource competition can be seen in debates over taxes, school choice, bilingual education, voter ID requirements, parking regulations, architectural and engineering contracts, subway routes, construction permits, rent control guidelines, automobile emissions, immigration law and in the regulation of the use of force – domestically and internationally.

Data Visualization

This course will provide students with hands-on skills in the area of data journalism and information visualization. The class will be project-based, with students working in teams to develop data journalism stories and the accompanying information visualizations. In the process, we will cover a range of data retrieval and analysis tools, as well as current approaches to information visualization from a variety of disciplines. 

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.

Human Rights Reporting

This class immerses students in the complex field of human rights coverage and pushes them to discover, understand and expose pressing, underreported human rights issues around the world. Students are encouraged to look beyond mainstream, traditional coverage of conflict and politics and tap into areas where gross inequality and human violations are at play. The semester includes coverage of the UN’s central role in governing global human rights and will also feature lectures from human rights experts, visits from reporters and researchers from human rights organizations who are documenting abuses. Students will learn the basic tenets of human rights law and international enforcement bodies. The class will look at current crises, such as the massive migration of refugees to Europe from conflict and repression, from a human rights perspective. Student reporters will read original texts as well as five journalistic books on human rights. They will also pitch, develop and write stories on human rights issues abroad and within the United States.

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: How to Cover Armies and Spies

Armies and intelligence services are among the most powerful and secretive of institutions, in democracies and authoritarian states alike. They are monopolists of the legitimate use of force, arbiters of war and peace and outsized consumers of national budgets. Covering militaries and spies well and revealingly is hard work that requires preparation and commitment. But it is vital journalism with a public purpose. And occasionally it is journalism that changes the world, from Sy Hersh’s My Lai massacre reporting to Abu Ghraib to Edward Snowden.

This course will prepare students to cover militaries and intelligence services, whether in the United States or abroad. We will take a broad approach, understanding security issues to include human rights, migration and the environment. We will review diverse sourcing strategies, durable story genres and professional and ethical conundrums on the beat. The intention is to equip students to take on defense, intelligence and related human rights reporting as a subject area for daily reporting, longform investigation or as a recurring part of a diversified career, with the understanding that the best sourcing in this field can require years to develop.

Each student will complete a significant piece of narrative reporting accessible from the United States.

We will also undertake a class project about the war in Syria, incorporating data journalism methods and investigative reporting on public records, satellite imagery, user-generated content and confidential source development. The project should provide a strong, accessible body of collaborative work for each enrolled student to highlight in a portfolio. The class will satisfy workshop requirements for both investigative and data concentrators in the M.S. program.

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.