Classes | School of Journalism

Classes

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.

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. The writing and technical skills taught in 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.

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 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.

Covering Issues of Gender and Sexuality

Take a look at the homepage of any major American daily almost any day, and you’ll find headlines like: “Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination” or “#WontBeErased: Transgender People and Allies Mobilize Against Trump Administration Proposal.” We are living in times in which issues of gender and sexuality are contentious matters that need clear and sober journalistic coverage. In this course, students will examine historical and theoretical frameworks for understanding gender and sexuality and will analyze how media practices shape public perception. They will engage in discussion with journalists covering these issues. And they will learn how to become sensitive, thorough, and contextual reporters on these topics, developing skills and insights that can inform and improve coverage of any beat.

Covering Race

This course is an examination of one of the most salient themes in American life and the ways in which it informs our contemporary realities as well as its implications for media and reporting. Thus a grounding in race is a key perspective for the journalist writing in or about the United States. Objective: The student will gain greater insight into the central debates and formative influence of race in American society and its implications for reportage and media discussion of the subject.

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.

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.

 

Evidence and Inference

This fall course, taken by the entire M.A. class, teaches a disciplined “journalistic method” of testing assumptions and making sure that reporting firmly proves its points. Students develop useful skills for working with statistics, using academic research and conducting in-depth interviews. They are also taught to carefully combine anecdote and narrative with the big picture in their writing.