M.S. Data Journalism

Journalism in the 21st century involves finding, collecting and analyzing data for storytelling, presentation and investigative reporting.  The journalism school offers a Master of Science in Data Journalism for students interested in advanced skills. 

Who Should Apply

The M.S. in Data Journalism is a three-semester program that provides the hands-on training needed to tell deeply reported data-driven stories in the public interest.

The current era needs journalists able to extract stories and meaning from data and massive information flows. This new degree trains students to be confident about using data in furtherance of the journalistic mission. 

Applicants do not need to have experience with data or computation to enroll in this program. All students are required to attend foundational courses (see below) that allow those with no data experience to hone their skills in data acquisition, extraction and analysis. 

Students who enroll in the data journalism degree are not eligible for admission to the Stabile investigative or documentary programs. They have the option, however, to take investigative, video and other classes.

Curriculum

Data Journalism students begin their program in mid-May, taking foundational computational and data courses as well as a course on the fundamentals of reporting. In the fall, they continue honing their journalistic skills with the core course, Reporting II, along with Writing with Data, and the Data, Computation, Innovation I workshop, where they will explore cutting-edge storytelling using data and computation. In the fall, students begin work on the Master’s Project, a substantive piece of data-driven journalism that they are expected to complete in the spring. They also join the Master of Science students in taking a suite of courses called Journalism Essentials, which covers the business, historical, legal and ethical issues of the field. In the spring, they take two, 15‐week seminar and production courses with the Master of Science students. One will have a data focus and the other can be any subject/medium. They also take Data, Computation, Innovation II and finish the Master’s Project.

Semester 1 - Summer 

Foundations of Computing
The course is an introduction to the ins and outs of programming and data analysis using the Python programming language, with which students will build a foundation for future coding-intensive classes and journalistic work. After this course, students will be able to find and execute solutions to most any coding- or data-related problem they encounter in the newsroom. The course focuses on cleaning and analysis using the Python programming language, the command line, Jupyter Notebooks, and the data package pandas.

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.

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.

Reporting I
In this introductory reporting course, each student will be assigned a beat and will be expected to produce news stories on deadline. Students will learn to think like reporters and to practice the core skills of the trade: developing sources, conducting interviews, structuring a story, writing clearly, and getting the facts right. As data journalists, they will also seek out and analyze data, both to deepen their reporting and to identify promising leads. In this way, the tools and techniques learned during the summer will be immediately applicable as data students begin to develop a journalistic mindset and the capacity to find and produce journalistic stories.

Semester 2 - Fall 

Reporting II
Students will continue to will learn how to apply their data and computational skills to real-world journalism. They will hone their ability to construct a narrative from both quantitative and qualitative sources, how to think critically, how to report under deadline and how to document so that others can replicate and critique their work.

Written Word
In this class, students will produce polished reports that mix qualitative and quantitative observations and analyses and that include "backstory" pieces describing the computation they performed and the basis for the inferences they have drawn in the story.

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.

 

Semester 3 - Spring 

Students in the Data Journalism track choose from the many spring  Seminar and Production classes that are open to all students. But they are also required to take one data-focused Seminar and Production class.

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.

Data-Focused Seminar and Production Classes

  • Computational Journalism
  • Data Visualization
  • Using Data to Investigate Across Borders
  • Investigating Campaign Finance

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