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.

800 Words

Newspapers may be shrinking but the most versatile, durable, readable literary form they gave us – the column – is flourishing, although it has migrated beyond the traditional borders of print and often travels under different names now. The column – 800 words of story, voice, idea and opinion, in varying proportions according to the occasion – has always been the three-minute pop song of our business, the marquee form of journalism, and it has become an essential building block of the Web: the blog, the posting, the musing, the reflection, the anecdote, the kind of brief essay that requires minimal scrolling. 

So how can we get better at this form, this length, regardless of the medium through which it reaches readers? What can we learn from the great columnists, past and present, that will bring more authority and poetry to our work, whether on the Web or in print? How can we bring more reporting, more substance, to a form that in its latest incarnation often strays too far from the ethics and practices of its roots in print? How can we shape a narrative arc in a narrow space? In a world that has come to value voice so highly, how can we make our voices more rigorous, fluent, persuasive and concise? In this class, you’ll read a wide range of work, from the earliest newspaper columnists to the latest bloggers, and you’ll write, and then rewrite, four columns of your own – four 800-word stories of varying subject, tone and purpose.

Algorithms

Machine learning and data science are integral to processing and understanding large data sets. Whether you're clustering schools or crime data, analyzing relationships between people or businesses, or searching for a needle in a haystack of documents, algorithms can help. Students will generate leads, create insights, and evaluate how to best focus their efforts with large data sets. Topics will include building and managing servers, linear regression, clustering, classification, natural language processing, and tools such as scikit-learn and Mechanical Turk.

Audio I

This course teaches fundamental and advanced techniques of field reporting and writing in audio or radio media. Emphasis is on writing clearly and conversationally, with integration of recorded voices and natural sound. Students will pitch, report, write and produce compelling, public radio style pieces, including newscasts, news stories, features and interviews. They will be trained in state-of-the-industry recording equipment and editing software. Students will receive detailed, one-on-one editing and will publish their work in on-demand digital audio formats. Writing and technical skills of this course are intended to serve students well in any medium.

This class (or Audio II for students with prior experience) is a prerequisite for those interested in pitching a full audio master’s project.

Multiple instructors teach sections of this 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.

Business and Financial News

This course will focus on covering breaking news in business, the financial markets and the economy. Students will learn the basics of business and financial news coverage, including how to make breaking news stories lively, colorful, interesting and relevant for readers. They will learn how to write clearly and accurately under deadline. They will learn how to spot the most important news in seemingly impenetrable press releases and jargon-heavy government announcements. They will learn how to anticipate news and how to include a forward spin to breaking-news stories. They will learn how to use timelines, bullet boxes and other forms of journalistic art to illustrate stories. We will be joined occasionally by journalists who will tell us how they reported and wrote major stories under deadline pressures. Time permitting, we will tour at least one major news organization where we will meet reporters and editors.

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. 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.

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.

Criticism Workshop

 From competition among tragedies in Ancient Greek festivals to flame-wars over the latest Kendrick Lamar track, works of art and entertainment seem always to live (or die) amid a public debate about their merits and flaws. Writers of serious criticism both join the fray and stay above (or get beneath) it, considering what a work does, how it does it, what it means, and why it matters. In this seminar, we bring such questions to bear as we work on writing criticism with authority and eloquence. Through extensive reading of historical and contemporary criticism, and weekly, closely edited writing assignments of various shapes and sizes-- from the 250-word blog post to the 1500-word think-piece-- students work on developing engaging and persuasive essays expressing their considered judgment. 

Data & Databases

Students will become familiar with a variety of data formats and methods for storing, accessing and processing information. Topics covered include comma-separated documents, interaction with web site APIs and JSON, raw-text document dumps, regular expressions, SQL databases, and more. Students will also tackle less accessible data by building web scrapers and converting difficult-to-use PDFs into useable information.

Data I

This course teaches students how to evaluate and analyze data for appropriateness, context and meaning. Students leave the class knowing how to apply basic statistical methods to numerical data sets. They will also learn how to obtain, clean and load various types of commonly encountered data. They will be drilled on devising interesting, thoughtful and answerable questions to ask of data sets. They will also be taught how to translate the results of their data analysis into clear and concise findings. Visualization in this course will be used primarily for data analysis and story formation, not publication.

Data II

This course is designed to give students who have taken and passed (and hopefully enjoyed) an introductory course on Statistics a more advanced treatment of the process of storytelling with data. This includes: Frameworks and tools for finding, accessing, manipulating and publishing data (APIs, various databases, and some techniques for data "cleaning"); simulation-based approaches to statistical inference when data have special designs (surveys, A/B testing); "models" for data and the stories they tell (regression, trees); and advanced tools for visualization (to explore both data, the effects of data processing, and models). Throughout we will emphasize best practices for documenting your code and analysis ("showing your work").

Data Specialization Workshop

This class is designed to provide students the foundational data and computational skills that will allow them to pursue data-driven stories. Through in-class class instruction, drills and discussion with guest speakers innovating in the field of data journalism, students can refine their skills and be inspired to develop ideas for stories that exist on the frontiers of professional journalism. The workshop will also act as a space for students to discuss and further develop their Master’s projects.

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. 

Data, Computation, Innovation Workshop I

Students will explore cutting-edge computational and data-oriented forms of storytelling. Through class discussion, guest speakers who are innovating in the field of journalism, and experimentation with novel applications and technologies, students will refine skills they have developed to produce works that exist on the frontiers of professional journalism. The workshop will also act as a space for students to discuss and further develop their final Master’s projects.

Data, Computation, Innovation Workshop II

This course builds on the material from the fall semester workshop and will proceed in similar fashion, with a focus on developing the students’ abilities to tell journalistic stories with data, computation, and new technologies. Throughout the course they will be encouraged to hone fundamental skills such as data analysis and visualization, but they will also explore the potential for emerging tools like sensors, drones, and virtual/augmented reality through workshops and guest lectures. This semester will be paced and organized differently from the fall workshop, which was largely focused on developing one substantial project. This semester, students will be expected to produce work at a faster pace, but the work will be no less rigorous and polished. 

Deadline Writing

Do you want to be a foreign correspondent? Cover the courts? Write magazine features? No matter what your aspirations, the ability to put together an accurate, clearly written story on deadline is essential to achieving your goals. Working on deadline is equal parts mindset and technique. Both can be acquired with practice and you’ll get lots of it in this class. You’ll write at least one story a week and will get detailed guidance and feedback throughout the process. Assignments will replicate the sorts of deadline stories you would be likely to cover for a mainstream media organization – live events, second-day stories and short features. You will have the opportunity to cover stories from your Reporting class beats, thus building on the sources you developed in the first half of the semester. In class, we will brainstorm story ideas and angles and discuss strategies for reporting and writing when the clock is ticking. You’ll learn to turn deadline anxiety into adrenaline, to produce standout stories – and to have fun in the process.

Documentary Specialization Seminar

This seminar has two primary objectives: to acquaint you with the aesthetics, ethics and traditions of documentaries, and to prepare you to make your own short, nonfiction film. To accomplish this, we will be studying, watching and dissecting lots of docs. And you will undertake a series of exercises and workshops on shooting, organizing, editing, budgeting, archive use and outreach.

Open only to students in the M.S. Documentary Program.

 

Feature Journalism: Writing True Stories

Journalists are, at the core, storytellers. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion once wrote. Journalists tell stories to add shape and meaning to the news, to public policy and to world events. The art and craft of writing those stories will be the focus of this class. We will work on cultivating your ideas; honing your descriptive skills; finding the right tone, the right words and the right structure. No amount of lovely writing can paper-over anemic reporting. We will learn about using interviews, observation, documents and data – all in service to the story. Finally, good writers are even better readers. So we will read everything from fiction to ethnography to some of the best non-fiction narrative journalists. Our goal will be to try and break the codes of writers like Kate Boo, Alex Kotlowitz, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Mark Twain, Carson McCullers, Isabel Wilkerson, Phillip Lopate, Sonia Nazario and William Langewiesche.

The true textbook for the course will be your work. Come prepared with a pre-approved idea or three, something you are hungry to know more about. It can be a story that jumps off the news, a story about the collision of public policy and people or an issue that can be brought to life. You will rewrite several times, submitting your drafts to editing, overhauling and polishing by your instructor and fellow classmates. By the course’s end you should emerge with a significant story of publishable quality, one that strives to mix discipline with magic.