Investigative Journalism | Columbia Journalism School

Investigative

Produce watchdog journalism that makes an impact.

The Journalism School offers an exclusive track for students looking to specialize in investigative reporting. Additionally, it offers many classes that incorporate investigative skills and techniques and are open to all students.

Apply to Columbia  Investigative Journalism Program

Overview

Teaching investigative skills is a core mission of the Journalism School. All students in the M.S. and M.A. programs learn the tools and methods of investigative journalism. M.S. candidates can also apply to The Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. In addition to the regular M.S. curriculum, Stabile students take investigative reporting classes throughout the school year and are given financial and editorial support to complete ambitious projects. 

M.S. and M.A. students are required to take an investigative class in the fall (see Classes below). Those in the M.S. program can also opt to take an investigative seminar in the spring, where students work in groups, each investigating a single topic for 15 weeks. These seminars range from investigating health care to investigating armies and spies, and doing cross-border investigations with data. 

In order to graduate with a specialization in investigative journalism, students must apply to the Stabile Center as part of their application for admission to the school.

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Classes

No student graduates from J-School master's programs without a foundation in investigative journalism. M.A. students take a 15-week M.A. Essentials class that includes the basics of data and investigative reporting. A seven-week Investigative Techniques class focused on using public records and data for reporting is mandatory for M.S. students. In addition, M.S. students can choose from a menu of classes with a strong investigative element. 

The following are mandatory investigative reporting classes for master's students:

M.A. Essentials (mandatory for all M.A. students)

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. 

Professors: Justin Elliot, Tom McGinty, Olga Pierce, Chris Weaver

Investigative Techniques for Journalists (mandatory for all M.S. students)

This class aims to ground students in some of the fundamental tools of investigative reporting: How to obtain and analyze public records and data; get information about individuals and groups using a variety of sources; use social media for reporting and verification; and evaluate scholarly literature. Multiple instructors teach sections of this class.

Professors: Robert Faturechi, Kim Kleman, Kristen Lombardi, Tom McGinty, Tom Meagher, Charles Ornstein, Deborah Sontag, Chris Weaver, Tracy weber. 

 

The following are 15-week classes available to all master's students: 

Please note: The classes listed here represent recent offerings at the Journalism School. Choices vary each semester depending on faculty availability and other considerations. Except for the mandatory courses, some of these classes may change or be dropped to make room for new additions. 

How to Cover Armies and Spies

Investigating Health Care

Investigating the Failures of the Mental Health System

Investigative Project

Using Data to Investigate Across Borders

Student Work

Karsten Moran for The New York Times

The New York Yankees created a charity to distribute $40 million in cash grants, sports equipment and baseball tickets to community organizations. In a New York Times story, Micah Hauser, ’17 M.S. Stabile, revisited that agreement, and found that the charity has operated with little oversight or public accountability.

 

In a collaboration with The New Yorker, students in Prof. Sarah Stillman’s class showed how hundreds of thousands of immigrants are being deported even if they face violence and murder. As a result of these deportations, immigrants have fallen victim to kidnapping, extortion and sexual assault.

 

Man and Child atop Stairs: Image from Documented NY Story

For the Spring 2019 Gender and Migration course, Andrea Salcedo, '19 M.S. Stabile, Cristina Baussan, '19 M.S., and Theodora Yu, '19 M.S., reported on young immigrants affected by the Trump administration's change to the age limit for SIJS, or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

Woman in cubicle wearing headset: Image via Vox story

For her master's project, Francesca Regalado, '18 M.S. Stabile, looked into working conditions in the Phillippines-based call centers that service Amazon customers in the U.S. Her investigation, published on Vox, found a poorly regulated industry where employees sometimes work 24-hour shifts and face hazardous working conditions.

Faculty

Steve Coll

Dean of Columbia Journalism School; Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism

Sheila Coronel

Toni Stabile Professor of Professional Practice in Investigative Journalism; Director, Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, and Dean of Academic Affairs

Giannina Segnini

John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Professional Practice in Data Journalism