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.

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. 

M.A. Arts & Culture Seminar-in-Concentration

Students in the M.A. Arts & Culture concentration develop historical knowledge, contextual understanding and nimble thinking across a range of disciplines. Through reporting and writing assignments as well as extensive reading, case studies, site visits and collaborations with scholars and artists, students examine both the emotional force of the arts as well as how they function in social and political contexts and as commodities in a global marketplace.

Respected experts from Columbia and elsewhere often participate as teaching partners. Recent guests have included Jane Ginsburg, an expert on intellectual property at Columbia Law School; Frances Negron‐Muntaner, an expert in Latin‐American culture in Columbia’s English department; Shakespearean Jean Howard; cultural anthropology professor Paige West; religion professor Josef Sorett; and essayist Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah.

M.A. Business & Economics Seminar-in-Concentration

Students in the M.A. Business concentration master the three attributes of excellent economics reporting: a firm grasp of basic economic theory and institutions; hands‐on knowledge of data for measuring economic performance and assessing the validity of economic arguments; and the ability to find and report compelling stories. They also gain the analytical skill to conceive and execute high‐level stories about the business sector.

Students learn about accounting, corporate finance, securities and portfolio management, while staying firmly rooted in the journalistic process. We teach simple, fast and effective ways to break down complicated problems, locate relevant data and compensate for inherent biases.

Recent guest lecturers have included economists Bruce Greenwald and Ed McKelvey; Disney chief operating officer Thomas Staggs; New York Times reporter Louise Story; and CNBC host Jim Cramer.

M.A. Essentials

Investigative techniques are key to 21st century journalism. Students learn the best ways to comb public records, conduct internet forensics and do thorough background searches on individuals and corporations. They gain an understanding of cutting-edge concepts in data journalism and how to employ them in coverage of their concentrations. Multiple instructors teach sections of this class. 

M.A. Evidence and Inference

This fall M.A. course teaches a disciplined “journalistic method” of testing assumptions and hypotheses, recognizing the ways that stories can distort the truth and exploring how to make sure that reporting firmly proves its points.

Students also develop useful skills for working with statistics, conducting in-depth interviews and combining anecdote and narrative with the big picture in their writing.

M.A. Politics Seminar-in-Concentration

Students in the M.A. Politics concentration develop what every groundbreaking political journalist needs: a historical context for global political systems and institutions as well as the tools to analyze and understand stories and situations they might confront on the politics beat.

In the fall term, the seminar is organized around several themes: state formation; the rise of nationalism and ethno‐religious identity and conflict; the development of protest movements; social conflict and collective action; rights; the distribution of resources; and bargaining and negotiation. In the spring term, we go deeper into political institutions that exist almost everywhere: legislatures and bureaucracies, parties and interest groups, elections and agencies.

Recent guest lecturers have included Barnard political scientist Kimberley Johnson; Cornell behavioral economist Robert Frank; political strategist Howard Wolfson; and historian Mahmood Mamdani.

M.A. Science Seminar-in-Concentration

Students in the M.A. Science concentration focus on the themes and ways of thinking that can be used to cover any scientific field, whether it’s health, technology or the hard sciences. They examine several disciplines up close – including, physics, climate science and ecology in the fall, and evolution, genetics and medicine in the spring. Students also get a landscape view, looking at history, patterns of discovery and innovation. The seminar emphasizes understanding the culture and practice of science, giving students the skills to interpret a peer‐reviewed study as well as a clear‐eyed view of the peer‐review process. It places particular emphasis on writing creatively and compellingly, whether in a short news story or in a long piece of narrative nonfiction. Many of our most successful students come to the program without prior academic or professional exposure to the sciences; deep curiosity is far more important.

Recent guest lecturers have included physicist Imre Bartos, who worked on the gravitational wave discovery; paleoclimatologist Gisela Winckler; historian of science Daniel Kevles; and sociologist Alondra Nelson, dean of social sciences at Columbia.