Classes | Columbia Journalism School


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.

Computational Journalism

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.

Covering Education & Data Reporting

The course combines diving into the rich landscape of education reporting and writing with in-depth data training in tandem with Brown Institute instructors. Each student will embed for the semester inside a New York City public middle, elementary or high school, cultivating sources, ideas, and knowledge. Seminar time will be devoted to history, ethics, ideas and debate with experts and working reporters in this expansive beat that can encompass policy, culture, inequity, youth justice and the science of learning, for starters. Students will write news, narrative features, an original long form story, as well as complete an ambitious data-focused group project on a topic to be decided. Data instructors will work directly with the class in the last half of the semester. NO PRIOR DATA KNOWLEDGE NECESSARY.

The aim is to publish on our class websites as well as with our partner news organizations: NYC Chalkbeat, the New York Daily News,and others.

Students in the course may qualify for a paid internship for the Hechinger Report. 

More Than Police & Thieves: Covering Criminal Justice in the U.S.

Despite the frequency with which it is bandied about on social media and in our news, the phrase “criminal justice system” is a misnomer. In truth, we as Americans deal with crime and its consequences through a patchwork of thousands of individual justice systems. They are archaic and opaque, difficult to navigate or even understand for direct, much less the journalists trying to cover them. By their very nature the police, courts and prisons are steeped in arcane procedures and language and locked behind closed doors. These systems resist inspection with great vigor.

And yet criminal justice — investigating crimes on behalf of victims, identifying culprits and holding them to account — is one of the very core responsibilities of any government. Its success at this task, or failure, has enormous consequences for our communities and influence on our economy. The lives of roughly 2.4 million people are managed by various arms of the justice system at any moment; they’re on probation, in our local jails or in state or federal prisons.

This class will systematically walk the students through each stage of criminal justice. Together, we will develop a holistic framework for reporting on the system as it functions and for identifying the gaps where it fails. We will explore and analyze the available data on crime, policing, courts and incarceration, and we will pursue reporting projects to start to fill some of the many holes in official data. We will look to other parts of the globe for stories that can serve as a comparison to how things operate here in the U.S.

This course aims to inspire you to go beyond the cursory coverage that crime generally receives. Over the next 15 weeks, you will sharpen your ability to obtain and critically assess public information and data from the arms of the criminal justice system. With these tools, you’ll create unique and accurate stories on critical topics of public safety and the due process of law enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Multimedia Storytelling: Data, Design and Animation

This intensive production course covers the fundamentals of using data, design and animation to tell deeply-reported, compelling stories. Students will learn how to use industry-standard multimedia production tools, as well as advanced animation storytelling techniques. Students will be taught how to source data, storyboard, design, produce, and animate journalistic stories. Several short- and long-form projects will guide students through the process of conceptualizing, visualizing and producing animated stories.

Multimedia Storytelling: Data, Design and Animation combines data sourcing, motion design and video production exploring the powerful potential of digital visualization methods for journalism. Students will be taught how to research, report, source data, storyboard, design, produce, edit and animate in-depth journalistic video content to acquire advanced industry-standard storytelling techniques.

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.