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.

Covering Climate: Story & Animation

Students in this class will learn how to report on the many stories of climate change. They will learn the underlying science—gaining skills and techniques they can apply to reporting on science and environmental issues generally. And they will learn how to think about and explore the many ways climate intersects with nearly every aspect of global society, including health, psychology, immigration, and infrastructure. Students will write several stories, largely focusing on New York City and the region. At the same time, they will develop the skills needed to produce a visually compelling narrative, using Adobe software such as Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and After Effects. They will learn elements of design and visual presentation as they create an animated piece that will be the capstone of the semester. Climate change is the story of the century. This course will help students learn how to cover it correctly, comprehensively, and creatively.

Investigating Health Care

If the U.S. health care system were a patient, it would be undergoing treatment for whiplash. After years in which the number of Americans without health insurance dropped to historic lows, President Donald Trump is pledging to undo his predecessor's legacy while delivering "great health care" to the American public. Can that be done? Welcome to investigating health care.

During this class, we will explore hospitals in disarray, exploding prescription drug prices, a mental health system in crisis and consumers struggling to afford their health insurance premiums. 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 also will dissect the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and what's taken place under Trump. 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 put to use on practically any beat. Class assignments will require use of investigative skills, interviewing techniques and interaction with bureaucracies. You'll work hard in this class but may leave with clips published in major U.S. media outlets.

M.A. Science Fall Seminar

The fall semester of the M.A. Science seminar typically starts with the history of science: students look at the continuities between past events, such as the Scopes Trial, and contemporary issues. They then delve into climate science, visiting laboratories to understand contemporary research, and they examine the politics of the field. They study several exciting frontiers in physics (black holes and gravitational waves), technology (instruments and ethics), and finish the semester with sessions on ecology, focusing on current issues such as urban ecology or invasive species. Along the way, they examine scientific funding and think critically about metaphor in science writing. Recent fall lecturers have included historian of science Daniel Kevles, paleoclimatologist Gisela Winckler, mathematician Cathy O’Neil, and ecologist Matthew Palmer.


M.A. Science Spring Seminar

The spring semester focuses on evolution and genetics, neuroscience, public health and medicine. Students often travel to see fossils in situ and at the American Museum of Natural History, and they learn about mass extinction events and how the movements of the cosmos are reflected in sediments on Earth. They learn how to take apart medical studies and flex the statistics they have learned in Evidence & Inference in the fall. They also discuss some of the newest developments in epigenetics and in neuroscience. Recent spring lecturers have included paleontologist Paul Olsen, neuroscientist Stuart Firestein, animal behaviorist Diana Reiss, medical historian David Rosner and sociologist Alondra Nelson. 


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.